Victims of Crime Research Digest, Issue No. 4

Understanding the Community Impact of Hate Crimes: A Case Study

  • Sidikat Fashola, Researcher
    Research and Statistics Division, Department of Justice Canada

Introduction

The commission of a hate crime is against not only the individual but the entire community. As David Matas notes, “People live in community. Rights are exercised in community” (Matas 2000). With victims of hate crime, it is important to consider that the impact on the community is particularly devastating, as hate crimes are “message crimes in that the perpetrator is sending a message to the members of a certain group that they are despised, devalued, or unwelcome in a particular neighbourhood, community, school, or workplace” (AmericanPsychological Association 1998). As well, it is important to consider that the impact on the individual victim may result in the victim rejecting “the aspect of themselves that was the target of the attack or associating a core part of their identity with fear, loss, and vulnerability” (Cogan 2002, 178).

A 2007 Department of Justice Canada research report (McDonald and Hogue 2007) identified that there was a lack of empirical research, Canadian or otherwise, on the impact hate crimes have on different communities. The purpose of the present study is to empirically measure the community impact of hate-motivated crimes. This article summarizes some of the findings from this study.

Methodology

A case study design was employed for this study.Footnote 1 It involved the collection of data on the emotional, psychological, and economic impact of hate crimes on two types of communities: the geographic community (i.e., individuals living in proximity to where the hate crime occurred) and the ethnic/racial identity community who were targeted by the hate crime perpetrators (i.e., individuals who self-identify as a member of the victim's ethnic/racial community because of like characteristics).

The study focused on two specific incidents that had been classified as hate crimes by the police and were widely reported as hate crimes in the media. The first incident was a violent attack on a Sudanese refugee at Victoria Park in Kitchener, Ontario, in 2006. Kitchener is a mid-size urban centre located in the Region of Waterloo, a region with a population of about 500,000. Kitchener is quickly growing in ethnic diversity, with 25% of its total population of about 200,000 made up of immigrants (Statistics Canada 2006). The second incident was one of a series of attacks against Asian anglers (fishermen) on Lake Simcoe in Georgina, Ontario, near Toronto. Georgina is a small rural community with a population of about 42,000 (Statistics Canada 2006). The majority of Asian anglers who fish in Lake Simcoe come from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

Data collection was carried out by the Centre for Community Based Research (CCBR).Footnote 2 A mixed methods approach was used to collect data for the study. The qualitative component consisted of four focus groups at the two sites that gathered data on the impact of the incidents on the communities identified. Additionally, a media search was conducted for articles on the two incidents to establish the extent to which they were reported as hate crimes. The quantitative component consisted of a survey of individuals drawn from the two postal code areas where the reference incidents occurred and individuals from the victims' ethnic or identity communities. The survey findings from the Kitchener-Waterloo case study are the focus of this article.

Two different sampling methods were utilized to recruit survey participants. These were respondent-driven samplingFootnote 3 and stratified random sampling.

Overall, 607 adults aged 18 to 60 years and over participated in the survey.

The survey consisted of three modules. The first module contained items for assessing personal impact of the reference incident on individual members of each community using questions from the Horowitz “Impact of Event Scale” (Horowitz et al. 1979). The second module consisted of items for assessing perceived impact of the incident on the community (identity or geographic) as a whole. The third module contained items for gathering demographic information about participants.

Summary of Survey Findings

The Kitchener Case Study

There was a total of 196 survey respondents from the Kitchener African Identity Community (KAIC) and a total of 411 survey respondents from the Kitchener Geographic Community (KGC).

A comparison between survey respondents from the KAIC and survey respondents from the KGC on selected demographic indicators was conducted. When compared to the KGC sample, the KAIC sample had a greater proportion of males, of people who were married, and of people who had immigrated to Canada, and on average, the respondents in the sample were younger, had a lower household income, were slightly less educated, had lived fewer years in Canada and fewer years in Kitchener.

Table 1: Selected Demographic Indicators by Community
Kitchener African Identity Community (N=196) Kitchener Geographic Community (N=411)
Sex (Male) 65% 45%
Marital Status (Legally Married and Not Separated) 60% 38%
Median Age Range 30 to 39 40 to 49
Median Annual Household Income Range $20, 000 - $29,999 $50,000 - $59,999
Highest Level of Education (Post-Secondary) 58% 64%
Not Born in Canada 99% 17%
Years in Canada (Median) 5 to 9 years 20 years or more
Years in Kitchener (Median) 3 to 5 years 10 years or more

Survey respondents were asked a series of questions that were intended to capture the extent to which they personally had experienced hate crime victimization. Close to three-quarters (74%) of respondents from the KAIC sample reported that during the preceding five years, they had experienced discrimination or had been treated unfairly because of a personal attribute, compared to 43% of respondents from the KGC. The most commonly reported grounds for discrimination identified by the KAIC sample were race (63%), language or accent (55%), and/or ethnicity or culture (16%).Footnote 4 The most commonly reported grounds for discrimination identified by the KGC sample were sex/gender (21%), age (18%), and/or ethnicity or culture (11%).Footnote 5

Over one-fifth (21%) of respondents from the KAIC reported that they believed that they had been the victim of a hate crime in the preceding five years, compared with 5% of respondents from the KGC. Slightly more than half (57%) of all respondents from the KAIC also indicated that they had known a close friend or family member who had been the victim of a hate crime during the preceding five years, compared to one-fifth (19%) of respondents from the KGC.

In the first module of the survey, respondents were asked a series of questions derived from the Horowitz Impact of Event Scale (IES). The IES is a validated tool for diagnosing clinical levels of stress and is often used to study the impact of traumatic events and to diagnose post-traumatic stress (1979). The scale consists of 15 subjective statements intended to measure intrusive experiences and the avoidance of thoughts and images associated with an event. The score on the entire scale can range from 0 to 75 (Marren 2005). (See Table 2 for test score interpretation).

Table 2: Horowitz Impact of Event Scale
Score Range Interpretation
0-8 Sub-clinical - No noticeable clinical symptoms of post-traumatic stress
9-25 Mild Range - Mild clinical symptoms of post-traumatic stress
26-43 Moderate Range - Moderate clinical symptoms of post-traumatic stress
44+ Severe Range - Severe clinical symptoms of post-traumatic stress

When IES scores from the survey were compared, those surveyed in the KAIC experienced, on average, severe clinical symptoms of post-traumatic stress from the hate crime incident, scoring an average of 47 out of 75 on the IES, whereas those surveyed in the KGC experienced mild clinical symptoms (an average of 16 out of 75 on the IES) of post-traumatic stress.

A review of the literature on hate crime (Badets et al. 2003, Chui et. al 2008; Dauvergne and Walsh 2009; Dauvergne et. al 2008; Edgar 2002; Janhevich et. al 2008; Janhevich 2001; Jedwab 2005; Perreault 2008) suggests that there may be certain risk factors that could be related to score severity on the IES. A multiple regression analysis of these risk factors showed that having immigrant status, having a lower annual household income, being a visible minority, having known a close friend or family member who had been the victim of a hate crime during the preceding five years, and having experienced discrimination or being treated unfairly because of a personal attribute during the preceding five years were all significantly associated with a higher score on the IES.

Survey respondents were asked about the measures they had implemented to protect themselves and their family in reaction to the hate crime incident. The highest proportion of respondents from both community samples reported that they did not go to certain areas of Kitchener, they avoided going out alone, they avoided going out at night, and/or they went out less. Moreover, respondents from the KAIC were more likely than respondents from the KGC to go to such lengths to protect themselves and their family. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1: Measures Taken by respondents to Protect Themselves/Family after the Incident

Figure 1: A chart representing the distribution of various types of measures respondents took to protect themselves / family after the incident by community type.

Figure 1 - Text equivalent

A horizontal bar chart illustrates the distribution of various types of measures respondents took to protect themselves/ family after the hate crime incident by community type. Underneath the X-axis there is a legend describing that the KAIC is represented in grey on the horizontal bar chart and that the KGC is represented in black on the horizontal bar chart. The X axis is measured in percentages and increases in increments of ten from 0 to 100. The Y axis is divided into four protective measures. The Y axis lists the following protective measures from top to bottom: Go out less, Avoid going out at night, Avoid going out alone, Not go to certain areas of town. Of the respondents from the KAIC 46% go out less, 48% avoid going out at night, 54% avoid going out alone, 75% not go to certain areas of town. Of the respondents from the KGC 5% go out less, 22% avoid going out at night, 17% avoid going out alone, 17% not go to certain areas of town.

A gender-based analysis on this question was also conducted because previous findings in studies on neighbourhood fear of crime found that, on average, women report higher levels of fear in their local communities and are more likely to express feeling unsafe in their neighbourhood when compared to men (Fitzgerald 2008). Past research indicates that the gender difference also appears to persist even when income, education, or personal experiences of victimization are taken into account (Fitzgerald 2008). A comparison across all protective measures (as listed in Figure 1) indicated that females were significantly more likely than males to report that they avoided going out alone as a result of the hate crime incident (32% vs. 16%, respectively).

Survey respondents were also asked about the extent to which their sense of personal safety and the safety of their family had been changed by the hate crime incident. Prior to the hate crime incident, the majority of respondents from both community samples reported having very little fear for their personal safety and for the safety of their family. Subsequent to the hate crime, over four-fifths (82%) of respondents from the KAIC reported that fear for their personal safety and for the safety of their family had increased compared to just under one-third (31%) of respondents from the KGC.

With respect to how the hate crime incident affected levels of civic participation in both groups, the survey revealed that many respondents in the sample did not become more engaged in civic activities as a result of the hate crime. Among those who did, the highest proportions joined a group, volunteered for a community organization, participated in a special event, ceremony, or ritual, contacted or worked with the media, became involved in politics or advocacy, displayed their identity more obviously, and/or contacted or worked with the police (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Civic Participation after the Hate Crime

Figure 2: A chart representing the distribution of various forms of civic participation respondents engaged in after the incident by community type.

Figure 2 - Text equivalent

A horizontal bar chart illustrates the distribution of various forms of civic participation respondents engaged in after the hate crime incident by community type. Underneath the X-axis there is a legend describing that the KAIC is represented in grey on the horizontal bar chart and that the KGC is represented in black on the horizontal bar chart. The X axis is measured in percentages and increases in increments of ten from 0 to 100. The Y axis is divided into six forms of civic participation. The Y axis lists the following forms of civic participation from top to bottom: Contact/ work with police, display your identity more obviously, become involved in politics/ advocacy, contact/ work with the media, participate in a special event, ritual or ceremony, volunteer for a community organization, join a group. Of the respondents from the KAIC 0% contacted/ worked with police, 1% displayed their identity more obviously, 2% became involved in politics/ advocacy, 3% contacted/ worked with the media, 5% participated in a special event, ritual or ceremony, 8% volunteered for a community organization, 10% joined a group. Of the respondents from the KGC 1% contacted/ worked with police, 2% displayed their identity more obviously, 4% became involved in politics/ advocacy, 1% contacted/ worked with the media, 2% participated in a special event, ritual or ceremony, 3% volunteered for a community organization, 5% joined a group.

Another finding from the survey was that the highest proportion of respondents from both groups tended to rely primarily on their “natural” support networks such as family and friends for support in dealing with their reaction to the incident. Moreover, the KAIC was more likely than the KGC to seek help from friends or family and more likely to report that they needed support but did not seek any support (see Figure 3). There are resources in the area. The Policy Centre for Victim Issues of the Department of Justice Canada and the Ontario Victims Services Secretariat of the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General both have a Victim Services directory to help service providers, victims, and individuals locate services for victims of crime across Canada and in Ontario, respectively. Both directories include listings of services that are offered to individuals living in Kitchener who have experienced a hate crime.Footnote 6

Figure 3: The Support Networks Respondents Utilized to Deal with the Hate Crime Incident

Figure 3: A chart representing the distribution of various forms of support respondents utilized to help them deal with the hate crime incident by community type.

Figure 3 - Text equivalent

A horizontal bar chart illustrates the distribution of various forms of support respondents utilized to deal with the hate crime incidentby community type. Underneath the X-axis there is a legend describing that the KAIC is represented in grey on the horizontal bar chart and that the KGC is represented in black on the horizontal bar chart. The X axis is measured in percentages and increases in increments of ten from 0 to 100. The Y axis is divided into three forms of support. The Y axis lists the following forms of support from top to bottom: I needed but did not seek any support, family, friends. Of the respondents from the KAIC 25% needed but did not seek any support, 66% sought support from family, 72% sought support from friends. Of the respondents from the KGC 0% needed but did not seek any support, 12% sought support from family, 10% sought support from friends.

When support was sought, the most common motivation for both samples was that they wanted emotional or moral support (76% of the KAIC sample and 65% of the KGC sample).

Another research objective was to assess the extent to which the hate crime incident had affected the relationship between members of our respondents' ethnic/cultural community and members of other ethnic/cultural communities.

Half (51%) of the respondents from the KAIC reported that the relationship between members of their ethnic/cultural community and members of other ethnic/cultural communities had strengthened, compared to slightly less than one-fifth (17%) of respondents from the KGC.

Conclusion

To summarize, people experienced clinical levels of post-traumatic stress from hate crimes that took place in their community. Members of the targeted ethnic identity community (KAIC) experienced more post-traumatic stress than members of the geographic community (KGC) where the crime took place. Furthermore, it was also observed that there were certain risk factors that were related to a higher score on the Impact of Event Scale, including being an immigrant and having personally experienced victimization.

The data also showed that after the hate crime incident, many people experienced increased levels of fear for their personal safety and for the safety of their family, especially members of the KAIC. As a result, many community members took measures to protect themselves and their family, especially members of the targeted ethnic identity community.

For members of the KAIC sample, the hate crime had a positive impact in one regard: half reported that the incident strengthened their relationship with other ethnic/cultural communities.

Findings from this study also point to several interesting additional research questions. For example, with the exception of people in their social network, why do targeted identity communities underutilize existing resources and networks for support? Is there a difference between the impacts hate crimes have on rural communities and the impacts they have on urban communities?

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