Chapter 21, Section 1

Hate and Bias Crimes

Abstract: Bias crimes are motivated by hatred against a victim based upon his or her race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or national origin. These hate crimes pose unique challenges for victim service providers. The victim and, indeed, the entire community are detrimentally affected by bias crimes. The special needs of bias and hate crime victims require special sensitivity from victim service, law enforcement and criminal justice professionals.

Learning Objectives: Upon completion of this chapter, students will understand the following concepts:

1. The definition of bias crime.

2. Bias crime indicators for law enforcement.

3. The unique features of bias crimes that differentiate them from other crimes.

4. The impact bias crimes have on victims, as well as the community.

Statistical Overview

(The preceding data were derived from the Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reporting Program "1992 Hate Crime Statistics," 1993, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC.)

Overview of Bias Crimes

The Federal Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990 defines bias crimes as crimes motivated by "hatred against a victim based on his or her race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or national origin." Constitutional protections are guaranteed to all in America. Yet some within our country are victimized, sometimes subtly and at other times very overtly, for no reason other than the color of their skin, the religion they profess, the heritage of their parents, or their sexual orientation. Not only is the individual who is personally touched by these offenses victimized, but the entire class of individuals residing in the community is affected. Professionals must be particularly skillful in responding in a way that does not exacerbate the trauma of the victim and the community. Victims of hate crimes often suffer serious and long-lasting traumatic stress that can be made worse by an uninterested or inappropriate responses.

Unique Challenges for Victim Service Professionals

Bias crimes:

Bias Crime Indicators

When law enforcement officials are investigating a crime, there are clues they can look for in determining if a case should be investigated as a bias crime. These clues are called bias indicators.

Ultimately, the determination that a crime is a bias crime will be based on the facts of the case. Bias indicators suggest a possibility, not a legal certainty, and can provide guidelines to shape the investigative process. Such indicators include the following:

Racial, Ethnic, Gender and Cultural Differences

Comments, Written Statements and Gestures

Drawings, Markings, Symbols and Graffiti

Organized Hate Groups

Previous Existence of Bias Crime/Incidents

Victim/witness Perception

Motive of Suspect

Lack of Other Motives

Unique Features of Bias Crimes

Bias crime is likely to be more serious, injurious or lethal than any other personal injury crime. Motivated in part by fear, it often escalates when the members of the dominant culture think they are under attack. Bias crimes have been prevalent in, at least, certain parts of America and attributed to members of particular groups, e.g. the Ku Klux Klan. The issue emerged again during the 1991 Gulf War, when some Arab-Americans were harassed or even physically abused.

Bias crimes are usually perpetrated in groups. The notable exception is found in sex offenders who commit acts of sexual assault or other abuse out of a clear hatred of their victims. Group-instigated crime has a significant impact on the victim for several reasons:

Victim and Community Impact

Bias crimes affect both individuals and communities. Each of the unique characteristics of bias crimes impact -- from the perspective of the victim and the community -- is presented below.

Victim Impact

Community Impact

(The curriculum material included above is derived from National Bias Crimes Training for Law Enforcement and Victim Assistance Professionals: A Guide for Training Instructors, published by the Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) and Massachusetts Criminal Justice Training Council under the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime (award #92DD-CX-K030) in 1994.)

Promising Practices

Roles and Responsibilities for Victim Service Providers

Because of the deep and traumatic emotional reactions that victims of hate and bias-motivated crimes experience, special services such as the following should be developed to respond to their particular needs:

  1. Let the victim express the intense feelings aroused by the hate crime.
  2. Provide information to the victim concerning the investigation and prosecution of their case, both about their case in particular and the system in general.
  3. Any hate crime victim who is reluctant or refuses to prosecute should be carefully interviewed to determine the reasons for the reluctance or refusal. In many cases, this reluctance can be overcome by a prosecutor who expresses appropriate concern for the victim, provides reassurance that the criminal justice system can serve the victim's interests, and arranges to protect the victim. Prosecutor programs can also turn to community groups as a resource to help support reluctant witnesses through the criminal justice system.
  4. Provide referrals for cross-cultural counseling for victims of hate crime.
  5. Legitimize the bias-motivated crime for what it is to the victim.
  6. Address the crisis of victimization as well as confront the obvious hate and prejudice exhibited in the crime.
  7. Assist the victim with completing and filing an application to the state's victim compensation fund, if applicable.
  8. Provide the victim with information about victim impact statements and their importance and use in the justice process; provide them with the appropriate impact form and offer whatever assistance they require in preparing their victim impact statement for court and/or for paroling authorities.
  9. If there is a conviction in the case, provide a referral for the victim to the victim liaison in the state department of corrections or the probation/parole department for a continuation of victim notification and services concerning their case and the status of the convicted defendant.
  10. If there is a conviction in the case, provide the victim with post-conviction appellate notification and services.
  11. Inform and educate the victim of hate crimes about the possibility of civil remedies for the crime committed against them. Refer them to the local Bar Association for referrals, or to any local or state nonprofit legal organizations that possibly represent hate crime victims.
  12. Be as non-judgmental as possible in dealing with the victim of hate crimes.
  13. Improve outreach into the cultural and minority communities in your jurisdiction. Let the community members know your program is willing and able to serve victims of bias crime. Members of community-based advocacy groups in these communities can be helpful in the prosecution of hate crime cases and the provision of victim services by providing the following services:
  14. If you are unfamiliar with the cultural or ethnic group of a targeted hate crime victim, contact the relevant community media outlet to obtain a competent referral for assisting with the crime victim and the case.
  15. Get in touch with the local gay and lesbian communities. Most of them will never seek your services until your program shows that it is willing and able to serve this population. Make this known on your program's informational materials. For example, you can state on your brochure that: "Our services are available to all members of the community, including young persons, the elderly, persons with disabilities, persons of color, and lesbian and gay persons."
  16. Offer to speak to different community groups that will help you advertise to the community and let every segment know what services are available for them.
  17. Adopt an official policy prohibiting discrimination in your own program.

(Focus on the Future: Effective Service Delivery to Victims of Bias Motivated Crimes; sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime, 1994.)

Self Examination Chapter 21, Section 1

Hate and Bias Crimes

1) Complete the following sentence: "Bias crimes are motivated by hatred against a victim based on his or her __________, ____________, ________ _____________, __________, or __________ ______."

2) Identify five indicators of bias crimes.

3) What is one of the effects that group-instigated crime might have on a victim or community?

4) Identify three effects bias crime has on its victims.

5) What are three of the many roles and responsibilities that victim service providers fulfill when dealing with bias crime victims?

6) Briefly describe the components of your proposed, ideal hate and bias crime victim assistance program.


National bias crimes training for law enforcement and victim assistance professionals: A guide for training instructors. (1994). Published by the Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) and Massachusetts Criminal Justice Training Council. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime (award #92DD-CX-K030).

Focus on the future: Effective service delivery to victims of bias motivated crimes. (1994). Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime.

To Chapter 21-Section 2

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