A hate crime is a traditional criminal offense, like murder, arson, or vandalism, but with an added element of bigotry.
The F.B.I. has defined a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”
What to do if you're a victim of a hate crime
The Human Rights Campaign offers a number of recommendations for victims of hate crimes.
- First seek medical help, if necessary.
- Then, write down all details of the crime as soon as possible, including the perpetrator’s gender, race, clothing and approximate age, height, and weight, as well as any comments that were made.
- Then, you should file a police report, and take note of the responding officer’s name and badge number, as well as the incident report form and case number. If a police report is not taken at the time of your report, make sure you get your own copy later. (To call your local police department, dial 911 in most communities in the United States.)
- If you believe the incident was bias-motivated, urge the officer to note that on the police report.
- You should also file a report with the F.B.I.
- Share your story with Documenting Hate, a national database of hate and bias incidents.
If you're undocumented
Undocumented victims of hate crimes may be eligible for a U nonimmigrant visa, commonly referred to as a “ U Visa,” which grants temporary legal status to certain undocumented immigrant crime victims.
The U Visa allows such immigrants to obtain employment authorization, help family members obtain immigration status, and eventually apply for permanent resident status.
To be eligible for a U Visa, an immigrant victim of a qualifying crime must have “assisted or be likely to assist law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of that crime.”
How prevalent are hate crimes?
The week after the election, the F.B.I. reported that hate crimes rose by 7 percent in 2015 compared to the year before. In its Hate Crime Statistics report, the F.B.I. cataloged a total of 5,818 hate crimes in 2015, including assault, bombings, threats, burglary, arson and murder against minorities, women, the LGBT community and others.
Among the victims of hate crimes motivated by race, ethnicity, or ancestry (a total of 4,216 victims), 52.2 percent were victims of anti-black bias, 18.7 percent anti-white, and 9.3 percent anti-Hispanic or Latino.
Over 21 percent of hate crimes were prompted by religious bias, and 18.1 percent resulted from sexual-orientation bias.
Law enforcement officials acknowledge that the number of hate crimes may be much higher, because many local agencies do not report. (State and local authorities handle the vast majority of hate crime cases throughout the country.)
A 2013 study by the Department of Justice found that only about one in three hate crimes are ever reported to law enforcement officials.
Victims may also be hesitant to report, says Yolanda Rondon, a Staff Attorney for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, due to a number of reasons.
Victims may believe the police can’t or won’t help, or they may not want to deal with police. They may be concerned about being deported.
“Hate crimes are drastically unreported in communities of color,” Rondon says. “We know there are a lot more hate crimes that we don’t know about.”
Attacks against Muslim Americans saw the biggest surge in 2015, with a 67 percent increase in anti-Muslim assaults, attacks on mosques and other hate crimes over the year before. It was the highest total since 2001, when the aftermath of Sept. 11 saw 480 attacks, according to analyses of F.B.I. data.