An Exploration of the Needs of Victims of Hate Crimes

3. Review of Research and Data

3. Review of Research and Data

The purpose of this research was to answer the following questions:

  1. What are the needs of victims of hate crimes? Are they different from needs of victims of other crimes, and if so, how? What needs are similar? How do their needs differ depending on the nature of the crime, ie. Violent personal injury vs. non-violent crimes (such as vandalism)?
  2. To what extent are traditional victim service providers able to respond to the needs of these victims?
  3. What are some possible options for providing a better response to the needs of victims of hate crimes?

In order to do this, the authors undertook a review of literature about victims of hate crimes and their needs, focusing on published research in academic journals. As very little Canadian research was identified, the search was expanded to include research from the United States and other countries. This review also includes the Canadian legislation and Canadian statistical data available to date.

3.1 Available Data

Data on hate crimes in Canada are limited. It is known that from 1994/5 to 2003/2004 there have been a total of twelve prosecutions and six convictions under s.318 of the Criminal Code (advocating genocide). Two of the sentences were for prison and four were for probation. Under s.319 (incitement to hatred), from 1994/95 to 2003/2004 there have been a total of 93 prosecutions and 32 convictions. Twenty-seven of the sentences were for prison and 5 were conditional sentences. No charges have been recorded under s. 430.4.1 (mischief relating to religious property) in this same time period. A review of published case law indicates that between 1996 and 2006 at least 23 cases have applied hate as an aggravating factor in sentencing (hate as an aggravating factor in sentencing (s.719.2(a)(i)).[9]

Data on victims of hate crimes in Canada are also limited to, and at this time are based on: victimization surveys (GSS 2004), a pilot survey and a report by Statistics Canada (Janevich 2002; Silver, Mihorean and Taylor-Butts 2004) and the Ethnic Diversity Survey (2003). This data is complemented by individual studies and initiatives, such as the B’nai Brith annual audit of anti-Semitic hate crime which is described in the following pages.

The 2004 General Social Survey (Ganon and Mihorean 2005) (GSS) on criminal victimization includes comparison with data from previous similar surveys in 1999, 1993 and 1988. The survey uses a random sample of 24,000 Canadians aged 15 and older. In contrast to statistics based on police reporting, the GSS selects a random sample of respondents from the population and asks whether they were victimized or not. Victimization surveys, such as this one, are essential as they provide a more complete picture of victimization in Canada to inform our law, policy and program responses.

In general, most incidents of victimization are not reported to the police. Only one third (34%) of victimizations were reported to the police in 2004. This is a slight decrease from 37% for 1999. An estimated 88% of sexual assaults are not reported to police. Roberts (1995, 15), extrapolating from data in other jurisdictions, suggests that only one in ten hate crimes are reported to police in Canada. Those who did not report to the police were also asked their reasons for not doing so. These reasons included (reasons were provided to respondents):

Victims also chose not to report both out of belief that the police wouldn’t help and the fear of reprisal by the offender(s).

In 2004, a vast majority of victims of crime (90%) turned to informal support for help – a friend, neighbour, or family. As well, victims sought assistance from a formal help agency (victim services, crisis centres, help lines, health or social services) in only 9% of incidents.

Overall, the percentage of incidents that victims felt were hate-motivated was 4% in 2004, unchanged from the 1999 victimization survey (Ganon and Mihorean 2005, 7). Race or ethnicity was the dominant reason behind hate motivated crime in 65% of hate crimes, gender in 26% of hate crimes, and religion and sexual orientation accounted for 14% and 12% of hate crimes, respectively.[10] The authors note that hate-motivated crime creates both primary and secondary victims, as it is targeted at not only the individual but "what the individual represents" (2005, 7).

In 2001 and 2002, a pilot survey of hate crime was conducted involving twelve major Canadian police forces over a period of two years (Janhevich 2004). In that period of time, 928 hate crime incidents were reported. The results, released in June 2004, found that the motivation behind these crimes was predominantly race or ethnicity, accounting for 57% of cases, followed closely by religion, which accounted for 43% of cases. Sexual orientation accounted for approximately 10% of cases.[11] The most incidents reported were from Jewish people (25%), followed by Black people (17%), Muslim people (11%), South Asian people (10%), Gay and Lesbian people, Multi-ethnic/racial people, and east and southeast Asian people (each accounting for 9%) and Arab/West Asian people (8%). The crimes were considered violent hate crimes in 49% of cases, accounting for 447 of the reported incidents. Threats and physical force accounted for the majority of violent crime. Further, those targeted as a result of their sexual orientation were more likely than others to be violently victimized, and in these cases an accused was identified and charged in approximately 48% of all incidents (Janhevich 2004).

Some facets of hate crime, such as fear of becoming a victim of an ethno-culturally motivated hate crime, were measured by the Ethnic Diversity Survey (EDS), which looked at the impact on the visible minority population and various religious faiths. The Ethnic Diversity Study found that in 2002, 5% of Canadians aged 15 and over were worried about being the victim of an ethno-cultural hate crime (Statistics Canada 2003). It was found that immigrants, in particular, feared hate crimes more than Canadian-born minorities; those born outside of Canada were more likely to respond that they were worried or very worried, when asked how worried they were about hate crimes. The same question, broken down by geographic location, also indicated that immigrants in large cities fear hate crimes more often or to a higher degree than those in smaller towns in Canada. More than one in ten religious minorities responded that they were very concerned about hate crimes, with Hindus, Jews and Muslims indicating the strongest fears. The EDS also reported that immigrants in Toronto are more likely to report being the target or victim of discrimination, whereas in smaller cities they tend to report fewer cases of discrimination. Across Canada, the Black population is most likely to report being the victim of discrimination "often" at 7.4% and "sometimes" at 23.5%.

B’nai Brith’s League for Human Rights compiles data on reported anti-Semitic crimes into an annual audit. These audits began in 1982, when B’nai Brith released the Review of Anti-Semitism in Canada annually through 1987, and then began releasing annual audits beginning in 1988 entitled the Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents in Canada. The annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents provides information on crimes which may not have reached police based hate crime units through self-reporting. As Karen Mock notes, "… the League’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents serves as a barometer of racism in Canada" (Mock 1996, 3). The League uses a 24 hour Anti-Hate phone line and its online hate crime reporting tool to access both reported and unreported hate crimes. In 2003, 584 incidents were reported to B’nai Brith, which represents a 27.2% increase in reporting over the previous year. Over the course of 2001-2003, the number of reported incidents has doubled. The cases reported were classified as harassment (66.6%), vandalism (32.2%), and violence (2.6%) (The League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada 2003).

3.2 Challenges to Data Collection

The few hate crime statistics available are hindered by chronic underreporting of these crimes by victims. In fact, "of all forms of criminality, hate crimes are likely to be among the most unreported of offences" (Roberts 1995). There have been several documented reasons behind this trend of underreporting, primarily, the victim is afraid of reprisal. Like non-hate crime victims, victims of hate crime are generally found to express fear over the potential of a reprisal attack. Unlike non-hate motivated crime victims, however, it is the identity of the victim which is attacked by a hate crime, and the fear of losing one’s identity can generate stronger feelings of fear and anxiety. Victims may also be frightened to face the offender, and they fear future contact with the perpetrators within the justice system (Janoff 2005; Herek et al. 1999; Janevich 2001).

There is also often a cultural or linguistic barrier between the victim and police and victim services, further compounding the underreporting of hate crimes. Immigrants from countries where the police and state may act in an oppressive fashion may not feel comfortable or safe going to the police to report a hate crime incident. In viewing police as a source of oppression or victimization, victims of hate crime may fear the police as they fear the perpetrator. Other factors that may account for underreporting include: a fear of secondary victimization by the criminal justice system; a strongly held belief that their victimization would not be taken seriously; and a belief that reporting an incident would not result in any action or help (see Roberts 1995).

Douglas Janoff, the author of a recent Canadian study on homophobic violence, makes note of data collection challenges. He found that "queers who are closeted - or in their early stages of coming out - will have less "resilience and support" and may be afraid of "double disclosure" - not only of the attack, but also of their own sexual orientation" (Janoff 2005, 67). Gregory Herek, an American academic, also found that there is a possibility of secondary victimization by identifying one’s self with a targeted group. This is particularly the case when dealing with hate crimes based upon the victim’s sexual orientation, or at least the perception of a specific sexual orientation (Herek 1992). A member of the gay and lesbian community may not be prepared to reveal their sexual orientation, or may want to avoid the victimization that they may encounter from revealing their sexual orientation. Special care must be taken by services to avoid secondary victimization and to provide hate crime specific support to victims.

In addition to the victims’ reluctance to report a hate crime, the reporting of hate crime can vary from one region to another. As a result, it is very difficult to estimate prevalence nationally, or even provincially or territorially. Derek Janhevich, of the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistic at Statistics Canada, notes that there is little consistency in the collection of hate crime statistics (Janhevich 2001, 11). There is little agreement on the best methods to collect data, and this, along with the very real and understandable fears of victims, makes underreporting a troublesome reality in terms of understanding the nature of hate crime and the needs of the victims of hate crime.

3.3 Alternative Data Collection Methods

Roberts and Janoff, as well as several other Canadian researchers, utilize a variety of methods to gather information on hate crime, including the use of official national statistics, as well as personal interviews and contacts with victim services agencies, police forces and community organizations which often deal with victims of hate crime in order to compile a more accurate idea of the reactions and needs of victims of hate crime. It is important to recognize the availability and need for various sources of information to achieve a better idea of the needs of victims of hate crime.

3.4 Needs of Victims of Hate Crimes

3.4.1 Research from Canada

This section focuses specifically on literature on the needs of victims of hate crimes. Some of the literature describes empirical research and in these cases, detail of the methodology is provided. Other articles examine theoretical or policy questions regarding hate crime victimization.

In a study funded by the Policy Centre for Victim Issues of the Department of Justice Canada, Dr. James Hill summarizes the literature on cognitive changes in victims of crime (Hill 2003). He notes that the process of victimization does not end with the crime. Trauma associated with criminal behaviour can affect how victims view themselves, their world and their relationships. Trauma and loss have the potential to threaten one's sense of meaning in life. Furthermore, the psychological effects of trauma can be longstanding and potentially debilitating.

Victims of crime in general often experience a wide variety of emotions following victimization including shock, disbelief, denial, anger, fear, frustration, confusion, guilt, shame, or grief, according to the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime. There are physical, financial, and psychological repercussions of crime on victims and on their families, friends, and communities. There is also the risk of secondary victimization not through the criminal act itself, but rather through the reactions of services providers and individuals to the victim (Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime 2005), particularly if that victim is a member of a minority group.

Pink Blood:Homophobic Violence in Canada, by Douglas Janoff, was published in June 2005. It is the first Canadian book to be published on the topic. The author spent nine years collecting Canadian cases, finding 120 homophobic-related homicides and more than 350 assaults that occurred between 1990 and 2004. Janoff looks at types of victims throughout his research, including youth, students, prostitutes, prisoners, refugees, etc. He found that half of all attacks in his data occurred in "queer identified spaces" and "40 percent involved multiple perpetrators" (Janoff 2005, 104). He found that many hate motivated killings were those of victims perceived to be queer (Janoff 2005, 156), and occurred in every province save Newfoundland, and while the majority took place in urban centres, they were also found in a variety of settings: "farms, small towns, and isolated areas" (Janoff 2005, 157). Through the examination of Canadian data and experiences, Janoff sheds light on the Canadian problem of homophobia, and more broadly on hate crime and its effects on its victims.

Hate crime victimization is not limited to the individual to which the event occurs. Victimization as a result of hate crime has a profound ability to affect the community or the group with which the individual identifies. A Jewish man, for example, may encounter hate crime in the form of vandalism to his home, but the community in which he lives, the synagogue in which he practices his faith, the schools which his children attend, all can be affected by the incident. Hate crime attacks both the individual and the community, often serving as a public reminder of inequality and fear.

Mock, in reference to the study of six racial and religious minority communities in Toronto over six weeks, entitled Victim Impact of Racially Motivated Crime, notes that racially motivated crime "inflicts a great amount of pain which crosses community boundaries" and "increases the isolation of minority communities" (Mock 1993, 1).

While there are some police-based, court based, and community based services which seek to aid all victims of crime, it is likely that victims of hate crime require additional services and specialized support which recognizes their status as a victim of a crime which was motivated by hate. While existing victim services may be able to effectively support a victim of hate crime, victims may not have contact with police-based services, as they may turn to others for support and help. Many victims are unaware of the services that exist to help them, or may be unable to reach services for a variety of reasons.

Mock argues that there is a general lack of awareness of victim services, and even when there is awareness "accessibility does not always follow" (Mock 1993). She argues that victim services and programs are needed to reach racial and ethno-cultural minority communities. She outlines that the basic needs for this goal to be achieved would be the ability to provide multilingual outreach and interpretation and multicultural representation within the services (Mock 1993). Mock also states that tools such as education and a "coordinated community response [have] proved effective in fighting racism" (Mock 2000, 10) and would provide the ideal space in which to aid victims of hate crime.