National Hate Crime Awareness Week: Using RJ to address hate crime

Published: Friday, October 14th, 2022


This blog is written by our Restorative Justice Development Officer (Youth Justice), Leah Robinson. 

At Why me? we know that Restorative Justice has the power and potential of creating a safe and enabling space in which victims of hate can begin to heal. During this Hate Crime Awareness Week, we highlighted how Restorative Justice helps victims of hate crime and raises awareness to ensure that people are aware of their right to access it under the Victims’ Code of Practice. 

Hate Crime Awareness Week comes as the Home Office released the statistics for recorded hate crimes in England and Wales showing a 26% increase in reported hate crime in the year ending March 2022. A total of 155,841 offences were recorded. The increases are broken down as follows: 

  • 19% rise in racially motivated hate crimes
  • 37% rise in religious hate crimes 
  • 41% rise in sexual orientation hate crimes
  • 43% rise in disability hate crimes
  • 56% rise in transgender identity hate crimes

Leading hate crime organisations such as Galop have suggested that the latest statistics indicate an increase in the number of incidents of hate crime, rather than an increase in the number of people reporting instances of hate crime.

Restorative Justice (RJ) offers a way of repairing the harm that is caused by hate crimes or incidents, even when the person harmed does not want to report what happened to the police. Why me? works to raise awareness of the use of Restorative Justice for hate crimes or incidents. This week, we held a Restorative Justice Forum to mark National HCAW. The forum focused on intersectional needs with regards to hate crime, highlighting the importance of working with people as a whole, taking into account every aspect of their identity. Discussions focussed on two key questions:

 

1. If someone is targeted through a hate crime and therefore one specific aspect of their identity, how can we ensure we are being mindful of their intersectional needs?

This raised a further question of how we, as restorative practitioners, can make participants feel comfortable to disclose their needs with regards to their identity. We identified several factors through this discussion, including: 

  • Not assuming we know what the issue is before the participant tells us themselves
  • Ensuring we ask open questions, as someone who initially presents with certain needs may self-present with other needs
  • Confirming confidentiality and safeguarding from the outset to provide reassurance
  • Self-awareness of your own identity and how you present in order to understand how the participant(s) may feel
  • Not being tokenistic and ensuring anything done is embedded within practice

 

2. How can we cater a restorative intervention based on hate crime to take account of someone’s intersectional needs and what do we need in order to do so?

It can be incredibly traumatic to be harmed by someone simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, when someone is targeted because of their identity, it often exacerbates feelings of anxiety. Furthermore, incidents of hate crime can trigger other traumatic events a person may have experienced, either in relation to the same identity factor or another. 

Therefore, it is crucial to support past issues and possible future issues when working with someone who has been affected by hate crime. Through doing this, restorative practitioners must take account of each person as a whole and acknowledge their intersectional needs, rather than focusing primarily on one aspect or factor. 

Understanding the needs of each individual will take time, beginning with rapport building. Through using open questions and reframing techniques, practitioners can ensure they have the correct understanding of what the person is saying and what they need. This can result in a long process of preparation and highlights the importance of managing the expectations of participants at every stage of a restorative intervention. Furthermore, as always, it is also important to understand each individual’s motivations for engaging in a restorative process, especially when someone has been harmed by a hate crime or incident. Talking through with the victim of crime whether they are trying to transform the views of the perpetrator or simply want their voice to be heard is essential to the preparation stage of a restorative process for hate crime. 

The participants discussed the importance of thorough, continuous, and appropriate training, both in terms of restorative training and additional training such as unconscious bias, as well as sharing good practice and challenges amongst practitioners. 

It is important to practise restoratively while taking account of each person as a whole individual, in line with trauma-informed practices. Ensuring that a person feels comfortable to disclose needs in relation to their identity is crucial, along with taking those needs into account. Intersectionality has a huge part to play with regards to those who are impacted by hate crimes or incidents and we, as restorative practitioners, must do our best to enable those affected to move forward by repairing the harm caused. 

For more information about the work Why me? is doing on hate crime, please visit our project pages at https://why-me.org/our-work/our-projects/.

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