OVC ArchiveOVC
This file is provided for reference purposes only. It was current when produced, but is no longer maintained and may now be outdated. Please select www.ovc.gov to access current information.

horizontal line break

Chapter 22 Special Topics

Section 1, Hate and Bias Crime


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

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this section, students will understand the following concepts:

  • The definition of hate/bias crime and the government's policy in addressing hate/bias crime.

  • Types of hate/bias crime offenders.

  • The impact of hate/bias crimes on victims and the community.

  • Hate/bias crime indicators for law enforcement.

  • The unique features of hate/bias crimes that differentiate them from other crimes.

  • Meeting the needs of hate/bias crime victims.

  • Promising practices and recommendations that improve the response to hate/bias crimes.

Statistical Overview

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that 7,755 hate crime incidents were reported to law enforcement agencies nationwide in 1998. The 7,755 incidents involved 9,235 separate offenses, 9,722 victims, and 7,489 known offenders (FBI 17 October 1999, 58).

  • In 1998, racial bias represented the largest percentage of bias-motivated offenses. Of the 9,235 reported offenses, 5,360 were motivated by racial bias (Ibid.).

  • Crimes against persons accounted for over 68% of hate crime offenses reported. Crimes against property accounted for over 31%, and fewer than 1% were crimes against society (Ibid., 60).

  • Of the hate crimes against persons, intimidation accounted for 55%, while simple assault and aggravated assault represented 27% and 17%, respectively (Ibid.).

  • Of the 7,755 hate crime incidents reported, 4,321 were motivated by racial bias; 1,390 by religious bias; 1,260 by sexual orientation bias; 754 by ethnicity/national origin bias; 25 by disability bias; and 5 by multiple biases (Ibid., 58).

  • In 1998, 65% of the 9,722 victims were targets of crimes against persons, as opposed to property or society. Nearly six of every ten victims were attacked because of their race, with bias against blacks counting for 38% of the total (Ibid., 60).

  • Of those offenses motivated by bias by ethnicity/national origin, over half of the incidents were reported as anti-Hispanic (Ibid., 58).

  • Of those offense motivated by bias against religious orientation, over three-fourths were based upon anti-Jewish bias (Ibid.).

  • Fifteen percent of all victims of hate/bias crimes were victims of crimes motivated by bias against sexual orientation; 67% of these were victims of specifically anti-male homosexual bias, and 18% specifically anti-female homosexual bias (Ibid.).

  • In terms of incidents in 1998, 2,901 were anti-black, 792 were anti-white, 1,081 were anti-Jewish, 293 were anti-Asian/Pacific Islander, 52 were anti-American Indian/Alaskan native, 850 were anti-gay men, and 223 were anti-gay women. (There were no Hispanic numbers in this year's report.) (Ibid.).

  • Of the known offenders, 66% were white and 17% black (Ibid.).

  • Law enforcement agencies reported 7,489 known offenders associated with the 7,755 incidents recorded in 1998. Of the known offenders, 6,474 were connected with crimes against persons, and 1,376 were associated with crimes against property (Ibid., 60).

  • Thirty-five percent of the 7,489 known offenders were involved with the offense of intimidation (Ibid.).

  • A February 1999 Gallup poll reported that one in four nonwhites are concerned about being the victim of a hate crime, while one in eight of all Americans polled believe they could be the victim of a hate crime. Seventy percent of those polled favor state hate crimes legislation that provides for harsher penalties for crimes motivated by hatred of certain groups than for the same crime not motivated by hatred. Seventy-five percent believe that hate crime laws should be expanded to include racial minorities, religious and ethnic minorities, women, and homosexuals (Gallup Poll 1999).


Hate/bias attacks on targeted minorities are not new to American culture, but the dominant adult majority has had, until recently, only limited direct exposure to its negative effects. Many find themselves both dumbfounded and often incapacitated by the intensely destructive nature of these crimes that wreak considerable havoc in this country. What has stunned society, however, is the random objectification and subsequent persecution of individuals, such that in the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, a Caucasian star athlete, an African-American computer whiz, and a devout Christian were equally vulnerableto attack. All evoked the hatred of two teenage killers. As the cultural plane subject to hate/bias attack continues to expand, social psychologists have intensified their investigations of its recent origins and the motivations of its perpetrators.

Caricatures like the card-carrying Klan member who attacks African-Americans and the skinheads who prey on gays do little to explain the complex social, economic, and psychological characteristics that have given rise to hate/bias abuse. While it is clear that some individuals and groups who victimize people and destroy property act out of a perverse sense of entitlement and superiority, many others are obsessed by their fear, insecurity, and limited ability to provide for their families, combined with an overwhelming urge to hurt those whom they have designated as scapegoats to explain their own powerlessness or failures. A deeper understanding of the wide-ranging origins, motivations, and psychoses that generate hate/bias crime can help law enforcement professionals better identify offenders and protect the communities that potential offenders have targeted for attack.

More importantly, researchers of hate/bias violence have turned their attention to the special needs of hate/bias crime victims who experience not only physical injuries and/or property damage, but also are faced with their inevitable vulnerability as members of a targeted group and the often associated social and psychological consequences. It is this vulnerability due to membership in a specific population or targeted group that can lead to a sense of helplessness or even hopelessness for victims of hate/bias crime. In many instances, the group membership that is targeted by racists is an inherent characteristic of the victim, i.e., one that cannot be changed. To be targeted because of one's ethnicity, religion, gender--personal characteristics that should inspire only pride and should offer an individual a sense of affiliation, belonging, and support--is nothing less than an assassination of own's own sense of self. This sense of vulnerability can lead to pervasive fear that can also prevent victims of hate/bias crime from associating with other members of the targeted group for fear of increasing their odds of being victimized.

Today, policymakers, law enforcement, criminal justice, and victim assistance professionals are reviewing their protocols in dealing with the unique needs of victims of hate/bias crime and forming multi-agency task forces that can respond sensitively to the victimization, investigate quickly and thoroughly, and prevent repetition of these assaults. Victim advocates and allied professionals are beginning to understand the devastating impact of hate crime in targeted communities. By analyzing and coming to terms with their own inherent biases, they are learning to communicate more effectively with the hate crime victim population. Advocates should make every effort to assist victims of hate/bias crime to obtain the services they need but to which they have often had little or no access.

Hate/Bias Crimes: Government Policy and Practice


The Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990 defines that hate/bias crimes "manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, including where appropriatethe crimes of murder, non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, aggravated assault, simple assault, intimidation, arson, and destruction, damage, or vandalism of property." According to A Policymaker's Guide to Hate Crimes (BJA 1997), fewer than half of the states have adopted the federal definition while some have added other victim categories such as physical disability, color, creed, ancestry, mental disability, and gender.

It is important to note that Massachusetts, one of the earliest states to tackle the hate crime issue, defined hate crimes as "criminal acts that are motivated in part or whole by bias or bigotry directed at a victim due to that victim's race/ethnicity/national origin/religion/ sexual orientation or handicapped status."

Universally there are distinctions made regarding bias motivated crimes and bias motivated incidents (noncriminal acts). In spite of federal and state laws that have since been enacted, there is still confusion over the definition of hate and bias crime victims. The definition of hate and bias crime in the Federal Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990 should provide direction to the field on what constitutes hate/bias crimes. The Act states that hate/bias crimes are crimes motivated by "hatred against a victim based on his or her race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or national origin."


In March of 1997, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) of the U.S. Department of Justice, released a national report entitled A Policymaker's Guide to Hate Crimes. The report was in response to a request from Attorney General Janet Reno to conduct an assessment of laws and strategies designed to fight, gauge, and prevent bias-motivated offenses. Several important initiatives addressing hate and bias crimes are addressed in the report. The monograph examines the significant strides made by the federal government in creating a baseline of raw data on hate crimes and the problems that impede the reporting of hate crime incidents. In addition, the report summarizes current state laws and U.S. Supreme Court decisions regarding hate crimes. Initiatives that have been undertaken in the private sector, such as by civil rights groups, are also highlighted. Finally, the report discusses preventive measures and strategies for dealing with hate crime offenders that have been undertaken in some communities across the nation.

The major legislative and public policy initiatives on the federal, state, and local levels between 1992-1997 are summarized below (BJA 1997):

  • As of 1995, thirty-nine states had enacted laws that address hate/bias-motivated violence and intimidation, many of them based on a model law developed by the Anti-Defamation League.

  • Also by 1995, nineteen states had statutes mandating the collection of hate/bias crime data.

  • In addition, dozens of law enforcement agencies across the nation promulgated new policies and procedures addressing hate/bias crimes. Many of these were based on model policies developed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.

The report also summarized important initiatives that have been undertaken on the federal level. Congress and the U.S. Department of Justice have taken the following major steps towards combating hate crimes:

  • The 1992 reauthorization of the Juvenile and Delinquency Prevention Act, as amended, required that each state's juvenile delinquency prevention plan include a component designed to combat hate/bias crimes.

  • The Act also required the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to conduct a national assessment of youth that commit hate/bias crimes. As a result, OJJDP funded a national study in 1993 entitled the Juvenile Hate Crime Study. The study found that at that time, only six states and seven major cities within those states collected offense data that specified the age of hate/bias crime offenders. However, from the data collected, BJS estimated that 17 to 26 percent of all hate/bias crime incidents recorded by law enforcement could be attributed to juveniles.

  • OJJDP also supported the development of a school-based curriculum to address prevention and treatment of hate/bias crimes by juveniles. The report entitled Healing the Hate: A National Crime Prevention Curriculum for Middle Schools was developed by the Educational Development Center Inc. (EDC) and released in January of 1997.

  • The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Title IV of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Assistance Act of 1994, allows victims of gender-based crimes to sue the perpetrator in either federal or state court for money damages and/or for injunctive relief. The constitutionality of this provision is being challenged through the courts (1999).

  • In addition, the Hate Crime Sentencing Act (HCSA) (another provision of the 1994 Crime Bill) requires the U.S. Sentencing Commission to increase penalties for perpetrators of hate crimes.

  • According to the report, under a proposed research project, the FBI and Northeastern University in Massachusetts will collaborate to develop strategies to increase the collection of hate/bias crime statistical data by state and local law enforcement agencies.

The U.S. Department of Education has also supported key initiatives in response to hate/bias crimes. For example, in 1996, under the Department of Education's Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Federal Activities Grants Program, $2 million was made available to public agencies and private nonprofit organizations for developing and implementing innovative strategies designed to prevent and reduce the incidence of hate crimes in communities.

In 1996, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), within the U.S. Department of Justice, supported the development of a national training and technical project that produced A Training Curriculum to Improve the Treatment of Victims of Bias Crimes by the Educational Development Center in Boston, Massachusetts. The project offers training for law enforcement and victim assistance professionals. Project materials emphasize that while hate/bias crimes are similar to other crimes, they present uniquechallenges to victim-serving professionals because of the often-devastating psychological impact on the victim and the victim's community. The training curriculum is available through OVC's Resource Center.


(Portions of the following section are summarized from Addressing Hate Crimes: Six Initiatives That Are Enhancing the Efforts of Criminal Justice Practitioners, Bureau of Justice Assistance, February 2000, Washington, DC, NCJ 179559.)

The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has developed four pilot programs to enhance the ability of law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies to recognize, respond to, investigate, prosecute, and prevent hate crimes. Each program includes material to assist in the development of victim sensitive hate crime scene response, and victims' assistance and support throughout the criminal justice process.

National hate crime training initiative. A working group of prosecutors, law enforcement, victim services, and training agencies brought together by the Department of Justice has developed four training curricula on hate crimes, each designed for a different level of law enforcement: patrol and responding officers, investigators and detectives, supervisors and command officers, and an audience of all levels of law enforcement professionals. Each curriculum provides trainers with lesson plans and training materials for an eight-hour course that covers the following topics:

  • History of hate crimes.

  • Identifying hate crimes: definitions, bias crime indicators, and offender typology.

  • Legal issues.

  • Guidelines for an effective response.

  • Investigative strategies and guidelines for collection and preservation of evidence.

  • Victim trauma.

  • Community strategies and relationships.

  • Case studies.

A national initiative has been developed and implemented to train teams of trainers who commit to conducting a minimum of four hate crime training events within their states. In total, seventy-eight teams were selected from fifty states and the District of Columbia; this has resulted in the training of more than 4,000 law enforcement and other criminal justice professionals.

In an effort to address the training needs of officers who do not receive the eight-hour training on hate crime investigation, BJA developed two other resources for learning the basics of hate crime response: BJA's Roll Call Video and the International Association of Chiefs of Police(IACP) publication, Responding to Hate Crimes: A Police Officer's Guide to Investigation and Prevention, which was funded by BJA and OVC (see below).

Roll Call Video: Responding to Hate Crimes. This twenty-minute film covers major areas of hate crime investigation and response, including training on the identification of bias indicators; appropriate first responses to potential hate crimes; investigative procedures for potential hate crimes; evidence collection and presentation; understanding and responding appropriately to victim trauma; maintaining positive community relations when responding to hate crimes; and resources available to officers. Every state, county, and municipal law enforcement agency in the nation will receive a copy of the video, along with an instructor's handbook that provides answers to frequently asked questions about hate crimes.

Responding to Hate Crimes: A Police Officer's Guide to Investigation and Prevention. This IACP publication consists of two training tools: a twelve-page in-depth guidebook that covers major components of an effective response to and investigation of hate crimes, and a pocket guide on investigative procedures. The guidebook has a written checklist that covers the essential components of an effective response to hate crimes, including a definition of hate crimes; an explanation of the difference between hate crimes and bias incidents; key indicators of bias motivation; steps to take at the scene of a possible hate crime; sensitive, effective approaches to assisting victims of hate crimes; and strategies that police departments and officers can take in their communities to prevent hate crimes. The pocket guide addresses the key issues an officer faces at the scene of a hate crime, e.g., effective hate crime response, actions to be taken at the crime scene, key indicators of hate crimes, and ways to meet the needs of hate crime victims. The IACP, with funding from BJA and OVC, will print and distribute 450,000 copies of the publication to police departments and victim advocates across the nation.

Resource Guide for Prosecutors. Currently in development, the American Prosecutors Research Institute's (APRI) Resource Guide for Prosecutors will provide prosecuting offices with a comprehensive resource guide for responding to hate crimes. It will also highlight model protocols and procedures from around the nation to help prosecutors' offices develop policies and procedures relevant to handling hate crime investigations and prosecutions. The material covers issues that arise during hate crime prosecutions, including procedures for working with outside agencies and organizations; case screening, investigation, assignment and preparation; victim and witness impact and support; trial preparation; sentencing alternatives; and prevention efforts. APRI will distribute a copy of the resource guide to all 3,100 local and state prosecutors' offices in the country.

Hate/Bias Crime Offenders

In their report to the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence (NCCPV) entitled Violence in America: Historical and Comparative Perspectives, Hugh Davisand Ted Gurr (1969) proposed an interesting, albeit dated, claim that violence in the United States is rooted in six historical events that are deeply imbedded in our national character:

  1. Revolutionary doctrine in the Declaration of Independence.

  2. A prolonged frontier experience that tended to legitimize violence and vigilante justice.

  3. A competitive hierarchy of immigrants conducive to violence.

  4. Pervasive fear of government power and regulations.

  5. Industrial Revolution that produced massive migration to big cities thereby causing widespread dislocation.

  6. Unmatched prosperity combined with unequal distribution of opportunity, rising class revolution, frustration, and violence.

The current spate of hate/bias-related violence on school campuses in America and the atrocities heaped on innocent victims on other continents have prompted researchers to revisit these events and the societal changes they launched to better understand the rationales behind the individual and group violence that is wreaking havoc on the lives of targeted peoples and communities. What kinds of people commit hate/bias crimes, what are their motivations, and what are the proactive measures that can be taken to prevent this violence that pervades our society?

Although hate/bias offenders do not necessarily fit neatly into definitional categories, Levin and McDermitt of Northeastern University (1993) have identified three general types of hate/bias offenders: thrill-seeking offenders, reactive offenders, and mission offenders.

  • Thrill-seeking offenders are groups of teenagers who go outside their "turf" and spontaneously vandalize property or attack members of groups they consider to be inferior to them (as well as vulnerable). These offenders are not typically associated with a hate group and their manifested hatred of the victim is superficial. Such offenders may often be deterred from repeating the crimes if the community responds with a strong condemnation of their actions.

  • Reactive offenders have a sense of entitlement with regards to their rights and privileges that does not extend to their victims. They victimize individuals or groups of individuals on their own "turf" whom they consider to be a threat to their way of life, community, place of work, or privilege and then apply the rationale that their aggression is a justifiable defensive action. Rarely are they affiliated with an organized hate group although they may approach such a group for assistance in mitigating the perceived threat. If the perceived threat subsides, the criminal behavior generally subsides.

  • Mission offenders are often psychotic and suffer from mental illnesses that cause them to hallucinate and that impair their ability to reason. They typically perceive their victim groups as evil or sub-human, believe that they have been empowered by a higher force to rid the world of evil, and feel intense paranoia and a sense of urgency that they carry out their mission. Generally operating alone, their crimes are violent in nature and may be carried out indiscriminately against any member of the target group in the community.


Hate/bias groups typically develop during a period of intense immigration, such as the 1920s; periods when disenfranchised groups try to increase their political and economic power, such as the Civil Rights Movement; and periods of economic instability during which people seek scapegoats to blame for high unemployment, such as the recession of the late 1980s. Although hate/bias groups have, at times, been powerful forces in American political life--generally through violence and intimidation--they have a tendency to fragment because of internal dissension. Explicitly racist, traditional white supremacist groups consider all people of color to be subhuman (although homophobia has been added to their agenda). They blame the federal government, communism, and international conspiracies for the nation's problems.

While hate/bias crimes have predominately been directed at African Americans, hate/bias crimes committed by African Americans have been "escalating at an alarming rate," according to Klanwatch, a Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center. From 1991 to the end of 1993, 46 percent of all racially motivated homicides tracked by Klanwatch were committed by African Americans on white, Asian, or Hispanic victims (Kapler 1993, 3). Statistics that would demonstrate that African American hate/bias crime offenders operate in organized groups like their Caucasian counterparts are not available; however, it is clear that in the incident-provoked Los Angeles riots of 1992 and the attacks on Hasidic Jews in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, racially-motivated groups were responsible for the violent attacks on Caucasians and other minorities.

In 1995, it was estimated that there were no fewer than 20,000 and possibly no more than 50,000 members of white supremacist groups in the United States who fell into the over-lapping categories of Ku Klux Klan groups, neo-Nazi groups, Christian identity groups, and skinheads. Among the white teenagers and young adults called "skinheads," Wooden found that they could be divided into two groups: racist skinheads, who were considered bullies in grammar school, abused as children, and favored violence in the lyrics of their music, and teenage Satanists, who were products of strict religious upbringing. Only 15 percent of bias crimes are committed by organized hate groups, but most of this can be attributed to skinheads who used self-identity tactics such as their fists, boots, bats, and knives. While their attacks appear to be spontaneous, law enforcement agencies have recently implicated skinheads in organized violence involving firearms and bombs against selected targets.

Members of white supremacist groups tend to employ melodramatic iconography to identify their activities. Ritual items, such as white hoods, burning crosses, pendragons, gothic symbols, and burnings/hangings in effigy, represent the work of organized hate/bias groups and are often found at the site of a ceremony or an act of violence. Furthermore, youths tend to be obvious when they are cruising for victims. For example, a large roving group of teenagers with shaved heads carrying baseball bats wandering aimlessly in the aftermath of a major racial incident or court trial may indicate a hate/bias crime in the offing.

The overlaps between hate crimes and racially-motivated gang attacks and increased acts of domestic terrorism have led some researchers and political leaders to call for a new definition of hate/bias crimes, one that might include crimes motivated by a hatred of people, not because of their race, national origin, sex, sexual preference, and religion but because of their affiliations or occupation. A 1997 BJA monograph on hate/bias crimes reports on a planning meeting at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC, where researchers, academicians, and federal experts in the fields of hate crimes and terrorism "struggled to identify the connections between hate crimes and terrorism and to develop a definition of bias-motivated activity that might embrace the concepts of both." They concluded, however that even though hate crimes and terrorism share "overlapping pathology and actors," it was more important to concentrate their efforts on the identification of the differences between a hate group follower and someone who commits bias-motivated violence, and what actions might be taken to prompt them to reject racist, anti-Semitic, or antigovernment ideologies. "We must try to understand what leads people in, what they do when they're in, and what leads people out," said Jerrold Post of George Washington University (BJA 1997).

(Portions of the preceding section are excerpted from National Bias Crime Training: For Law Enforcement and Victim Assistance Professionals, Office for Victims of Crime, 1995.)

The Impact of Hate/Bias Crime on Victims and the Community

The results of hate/bias crimes can be devastating to cultures for generations to come. Hitler's attempt to exterminate the Jews is firmly linked to the psyche of all Jews conscious of their heritage and history. The courage of the Jewish people to survive has inspired other groups to unite in a harmonious movement toward peace. The memory of the Holocaust will never subside; the pain, indelibly stamped on the wrists of many of the survivors, is a reminder of their victimization and clear cry of "Never again."

The results of slavery--man's inhumanity to man at its worst--resound throughout America, Africa, and Spain. The antebellum plantations belonging to the great-grandparents of today's baby boomers remain wonderful places to visit replete with rich cultural histories that nevertheless omit most references to the lash, the rapes, and the hangings. As Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King so aptly explained, "The chains of slavery have been removed from our wrists and ankles 300 years ago, but the chains of slavery are still on our minds." Much is said about the progress of African-American people in America, yet for many of them this so-called progress is considered a lie. Obviously, much work remains to be done.

The treachery of racial bias continues in some urban police forces today. In 1999, for example, four elite New York City police officers shot and killed Amadu Diallo, an unarmed African street vendor (who was not a suspect) at the door of his apartment building. The officers fired forty-one bullets at Mr. Diallo, hitting him nineteen times. While the police have stated that their actions were the result of a mistaken identity and a belief that he was armed, many have argued that Mr. Diallo's tragic death was a result of racial prejudice.

At the same time, law enforcement has made great strides forward in the creation of infrastructures for interagency collaboration that can quickly diagnose hate/bias crime, and effectively investigate and bring alleged offenders to trial. In October 1993, through an anonymous telephone call, a member of the Aryan Liberation Front claimed responsibility for setting fire to the offices of the Japanese-American Citizens League, the home of an Asian-American city councilman, and the State Office of Fair Employment and Housing in Sacramento, CA. He had also attempted to commit arson at a Jewish temple and to burn the offices of the local NAACP. With the help of informants, a tape recording of his telephone call, and a computerized database of white supremacists in the area, a task force from the Sacramento Police Department identified and arrested an eighteen-year-old white male within a month. He was later convicted of all counts of hate-motivated arson.

To expedite the solving of this white supremacist crime, both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms made significant contributions to the investigation. The FBI canvassed the crime scene for witnesses, conducted in-state and out-of-state interviews on white supremacists, and provided technical assistance in tracing telephone calls and analyzing physical evidence at the FBI Laboratory. The BATF contributed expert arson investigators to the task force who examined the arson scenes, collected evidence, and conducted "state-of-the-art" laboratory analysis. As an example of the effectiveness of a multi-agency collaboration to bring hate/bias activity under control and arrest the offender, Sacramento's hate/bias task force serves as a model for other communities (BJA Clearinghouse 1997).


Not only are bias crimes more likely than any other kind of personal attack to be seriously injurious or lethal, these crimes have many psychological and social repercussions that are extremely destructive to the victim, the victim's family, and the victim's community.

First, from the victim's point of view, the purpose of hate/bias crimes adds the extra dimensions of fear and devaluation to the victimization. Someone has been targeted due to a core characteristic of his or her identity that cannot be changed. If membership in a target group is readily visible, the victim may feel particularly vulnerable to a repeat attack that can result in a feeling of hopelessness. The fears are also exacerbated because society has been slower to respond to hate/bias crimes than to random "stranger" crimes. The victim may then become afraid to associate with other members of the group who have been targeted or may resist seeking needed services, believing that these actions will increase his or her vulnerability.

Second, from a cultural point of view, hate/bias crimes, also motivated in part by fear, escalate when members of the dominant culture think that they are under attack and they justify their violent acts as courageous efforts taken to protect their life style, their country, or their white heritage. The group mentality, under the guise of "bravery," supports increasingly vicious acts of violence, for which responsibility is inevitably diffused and further relieves any single individual of taking the blame for the group action (Young 1993).

Third, hate/bias crime offenders often target places of worship. These attacks on sacred spiritual symbols affect individual victims more profoundly than other acts of vandalism.


(Portions of the following section are excerpted from National Bias Crime Training: For Law Enforcement and Victim Assistance Professionals, Office for Victims of Crime, 1995.)

Bias crime victims experience many of the same difficulties and traumas as victims of other crimes, but hate/bias crimes create a secondary long-term crisis that profoundly alters victims' relationships to their communities. Victims of hate/bias crime may experience physical injuries, financial losses, and psychological traumas in response to the initial crisis as well as long-term reactions to stress.

A secondary injury is the victim's perceived rejection by and lack of expected support from the community. Many victims experience secondary injury as they attempt to deal with the systems that provide physical or mental health care, process insurance claims to recover loss, or prosecute offenders. Often professionals who work within the system that serves the victim have the same prejudices and bias as the rest of society and may minimize the impact of the crime on the individual. Hate/bias crime victims feel betrayed and hopeless when they confront institutional prejudice.

Professionals must be particularly skillful at recognizing the needs of those who are on the periphery, yet traumatized. Services and resources should be established and in place so that the healing process can be a holistic one. The concept of support can happen more easily if the community joins in the process with the victim(s). The scope of hate/bias crime is such that many of these tragic occurrences can happen simultaneously. Under such circumstances, the trauma can escalate out of control, and victim service professionals may be challenged in their efforts to advocate and assist effectively. Therefore it is necessary to develop adequate and updated resources and services, with an emphasis on sensitive delivery of such services.

Victim Assistance Professionals: Counseling and Advocacy

To adequately meet the needs of victims of hate/bias crime, the victim assistance professional must understand the cultural factors that affect the behavior of victims within their communities. They must frankly come to terms with their personal obstacles or inherent biases (if any) towards the targeted group and acknowledge that uncertainty about cultural considerations is widespread among professionals and often compounded by the lack of agency support for working in the community.

In first dealing with victims of hate/bias crime, the victim advocate should--

  • Let victims express their intense feelings aroused by the hate/bias crime.

  • Address the crisis of victimization and confront the obvious hate and prejudice exhibited in the crime.

  • Provide appropriate referral or assistance with protective orders or other immediate safety concerns experienced by the victims.

  • Be as nonjudgmental as possible in dealing with victims of hate/bias crimes. Although this may appear to be a logical step for an advocate or even an obvious recommendation, it is in fact the most difficult to achieve. Due to the collective psyche of the American society, which is deeply rooted in racist beliefs and practices, people's "judgment" is continually affected by both their conscious and unconscious "baggage." It is of critical importance that victim service providers examine their personal thoughts, reactions, and feelings as they relate to both victims and survivors.

  • Assist victims with completing and filing an application to the state's victim compensation program, if applicable.

  • Provide or refer victims to cross-cultural counseling as needed.

  • Inform and educate victims of hate/bias crimes about the possibility of civil remedies for the crime committed against them. Refer them to the local Bar Association for assistance or to any local or state nonprofit legal organization that represents hate crime victims.

  • Carefully interview any hate crime/bias victim who is reluctant or refuses to cooperate to determine the reasons for 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 or juvenile justice system can serve the victim's interest, and arranges to protect the victim. Prosecutor programs can also turn to community groups as a resource to help support reluctant witnesses throughout the criminal or juvenile justice system process.

If the victim of hate/bias crime enters the criminal or juvenile justice system, the victims assistance professional's job is to intervene in the following ways on the victim's behalf with the various agencies:

  • Provide information to victims concerning the investigation and prosecution of their case, both about their case in particular and the system in general.

  • Provide the victim with information about victim impact statements stressing their importance and use in the justice process, provide the appropriate impact form, and offer whatever assistance they require in preparing the victim impact statement for court and/or parole release hearing authorities.

  • If there is a conviction or finding in the case, provide a referral for the victim to the victim liaison in the state department of corrections, youth authority, or the probation/parole department for a continuation of victim notification and services concerning their case and the status of the convicted offender.

  • If there is a conviction in the case, provide the victim with post-conviction appellate notification and services.

Working constructively with the targeted community and the law enforcement agencies after hate/bias crime incidents is essential to rebuilding trust, reducing fear, stemming possibleretaliation, and preventing additional bias crimes. Victim assistance professionals should work to--

  • Improve outreach into the cultural and so-called minority communities in the jurisdiction. By developing a level of trust with victims and urging them to come forward, well-trained and compassionate members of community-based advocacy groups can become helpful in the prosecution of hate/bias crime cases and with the provision of victim services.

  • Set up a speaker's bureau that can provide presentations to schools, community centers, and places of worship.

  • Develop solid links with law enforcement or community police.

  • Create multilingual written materials for distribution in accordance with the language(s) spoken in the community.

(Portions of this section are excerpted from National Bias Crime Training: For Law Enforcement and Victim Assistance Professionals, Office for Victims of Crime, 1995.)

Promising Practices

  • The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is a human relations organization with thirty-one regional offices across the country. ADL is dedicated to promoting intergroup cooperation and interfaith understanding. Over the past decade, ADL has become a leading resource in crafting responses to hate violence, including model hate crime legislation, a seventeen-minute hate crime training video, a handbook of existing hate crime policies and procedures at both large and small police departments, and a general human relations training program for law enforcement that is designed to examine the impact of discrimination, while promoting better cultural awareness and increased appreciation of diversity.

  • Americans Citizens for Justice, Inc., based in Southfield, Michigan seeks to eradicate racism, harassment, and discrimination against Asian Pacific Americans and other minority and ethnic groups through legal consultation, monitoring anti-Asian violence, advocacy, and community education.

  • The Washington, DC-based American-Arab Anti-discrimination Committee (ADC) is a nonsectarian, nonpartisan service organization committed to defending the rights and promoting the heritage of Arab-Americans. ADC offers advocacy in cases of defamation, legal action in cases of discrimination, and counseling in matters of immigration. In addition, the ADC has published a series of reports on anti-Arab hate crimes.

  • The Center for Democratic Renewal (CDR) is a national clearinghouse of information about the white supremacist movement. CDR provides training to law enforcement agencies, schools, churches, and community organizations. Over forty publications are available from CDR, including the resource manual "When Hate Groups Come to Town."

  • Klanwatch, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, monitors hate crimes and hate groups throughout the nation. Klanwatch publishes "The Intelligence Report," a bimonthlyreview of hate crimes and activities of white supremacist groups for law enforcement officials, and provides training for law enforcement agencies and seminars for community organizations.

  • The Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission, one of the oldest and largest Human Relations Commissions, addresses hate crimes by responding directly to them, disseminating information to law enforcement agencies, the media, community-based and governmental organizations, supporting efforts on hate crime reporting, and helping to produce a Hate Crime Victims' Rights videotape. Hate crimes are surveyed in Los Angeles County schools, and hate crime statistics are gathered and combined into a yearly report to the Board of Supervisors.

  • The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) is a civil rights organization dedicated to building a movement to promote freedom and equality for all lesbians and gay men. Its Anti-violence Project was initiated to promote an appropriate response to anti-gay violence, improve the treatment of lesbians and gay men by the criminal justice system, and assist local communities in organizing against prejudice and violence. NGLTF reports annually on anti-gay/lesbian violence, victimization and defamation.

  • The California Association of Official Human Relations Agencies, based in San Francisco, is in the process of developing regional hate violence response networks in 10 regions in California. The network is arranged like a wheel with many spokes. At the hub is a human rights commission or other appropriate public agency or nonprofit organization that acts as a fiscal agent and/or designates staff to coordinate the project. A series of committees constitute the "spokes" of the network structure, each representing and named after a different focus area, such as community activities, criminal justice, schools, the media, and youth. A community committee's members might include religious institutions, conflict resolution providers, civil rights organizations, neighborhood associations, or private sector representatives. A criminal justice committee's membership might include representatives of the police, district attorney, city attorney, attorney general, civil rights organizations, attorneys, and victims support groups (BJA 1997).

  • Considered a model state for bias crime reporting and enforcement, New Jersey takes a two-pronged approach to identifying bias-motivated crimes and enforcing bias crime statutes. The New Jersey Uniform Crime Reporting Unit of the state police has, since 1988, collected county-by-county data on hate crime statistics from all police agencies in the State and published an annual bias incident report. Agency reporting is mandated by State law. The State's Office of Bias Crime and Community Relations, part of the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety, Division of Criminal Justice, assists law enforcement agencies in the investigation and prosecution of bias-motivated incidents; facilitates educational and training programs that aid law enforcement agencies in the investigation and prevention of hate crimes; and facilitates community relations, conflict resolution, and cultural diversity.

  • The Montgomery County Human Relations Commission (HRC) is a fifteen-member board charged with researching, assembling, analyzing, and disseminating pertinent data and educational materials that support activities and programs designed to help eliminate prejudice, intolerance, bigotry, and discrimination. HRC also institutes and conducts educational and other programs, meetings, and conferences to promote equal rights andinitiates, receives, investigates, and seeks conciliation of discrimination complaints from residents. Among the programs operated by HRC are the Network of Neighbors and Network of Teens, which recruit and train citizens to provide peer support to victims of hate or violence in their communities and schools. Staff members provide support, refer victims to support and counseling services, provide translation services, and accompany victims to court. HRC also conducts a program to educate juveniles who have committed acts of hate or violence.

  • The Horizons Anti-Violence Project has been serving Chicago's gay, lesbian, and bisexual community since 1988. The group runs a twenty-four-hour crisis line and refers victims to attorneys, counselors, and therapists. The project also provides court advocates for victims who press criminal charges. To prevent future crimes from occurring, the Horizons project sponsors community forums instructing residents how to protect themselves from violence and avoid conflicts. Horizons also provides training sessions through the police department on how to respond to hate crime incidents and works with the State's attorney's office to draft hate crime laws.

  • The Massachusetts Student Civil Rights Project is a model program initiated by the Governor's Task Force on Hate Crimes in April 1998. The focus of the project is to research, develop and coordinate solutions to combat prejudice and hate motivated violence in Massachusetts schools. This program is a long-term solution that builds on community resources by strengthening communication and partnership between schools, law enforcement, and community based organizations. This past summer a diverse group of high school and college students from across Massachusetts came together to identify, explore, review and design curricula and resources that school communities can use to combat violence and hatred.

  • Members of the Massachusetts Student Civil Rights Project designed this Web site for students in high schools, colleges, and communities as an educational and reporting resource. Students and student victims can report (anonymously if they choose) hate crimes and bias-motivated incidents directly through the Web site. There is also resource, historical, and creative content. In the "Youth Voices" section, students can share information about hate crimes, civil rights, and diversity issues. "Creative Change" is a page that allows students to express themselves through poetry and art on the subject of race and bias. "Heritage" offers an introduction to civil rights history in the U.S., with links to other sites for those who want to learn more. Opportunities for involvement are offered through listings of internships, jobs, and volunteer possibilities. There is also a resource database of organizations doing anti-bias work. The Student Civil Rights Project is a model program initiated by the Massachusetts Governor's Task Force on Hate Crimes in April 1998. The Student Civil Rights Project consists of a diverse group of high school and college students from across Massachusetts who came together to identify, explore, review, and design curricula and resources that school communities can use to combat violence and hatred. Governor's Task Force on Hate Crimes, c/o Executive Office of Public Safety, Programs Division, 1 Ashburton Place, Suite 2110, Boston, MA 02108 (617-727-6300).

  • "Hateful Acts Hurt Kids." The U.S. Department of Justice KidsPage has an interactive Web site called "Hateful Acts Hurt Kids," that teaches children from kindergarten throughfifth grade about hate and bias crimes. The Web site aims to promote discussion among children, parents, and teachers about prejudice, discrimination, and related issues; sensitize elementary school-age children to the unfairness and pain of prejudice; give children who may be victims of prejudice problem-solving skills; and show children what they can do when they find themselves in the role of bystanders to help prevent or de-escalate hurtful acts based on prejudice. Children read about other children who have experienced prejudice in a variety of familiar settings: homes, schools, lunchrooms, playgrounds, and neighborhoods.

Hate and Bias Crime Self-Examination

1. Discuss some of the unique needs that victims of hate/bias crime may have.


2. List two major governmental initiatives in combating hate/bias crime.


3. Name two "types" of hate/bias offenders and give examples of each.


4. What kind of impact can hate/bias crime have upon a community?


5. What are some of the effects that hate/bias crime can have upon a victim?


Previous Contents Next

Chapter 22 Special Topics June 2002
Archive iconThe information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.