There’s a common misperception that hate crimes affect only members of certain groups—groups targeted for their ethnicity, sexuality, or physical appearance, for example. But the fact is, anyone can be a victim of hate-based threats, assaults, murders, desecration, or vandalism because hate crimes are motivated by both real and presumed identity.
That’s why it’s up to all of us to combat this problem. Hate crime perpetrators often start with smaller, less obvious acts of prejudice, such as bullying or name-calling. When treated as acceptable or normal, such behaviors can escalate and proliferate, eventually aimed at communities as a whole. It is the acceptance of hate-based actions that can ultimately lead to the mass targeting of entire populations.
Since many victims are afraid to be exposed, hate crimes are underreported, which diminishes our opportunity to understand how to prevent them. But we all have the responsibility and power to change this. By standing in solidarity with victims, we can encourage reporting and raise visibility. We all have the potential to make our families, co-workers, and social media networks aware of this phenomenon.
A European civil society initiative called Facing Facts! is working towards this goal, raising awareness of the devastating effects of hate crimes on victims and communities—especially when those crimes go unrecognized or systematically ignored. In partnership with NGOs across Europe, the initiative aims to boost cooperation among civil society, governments, and international organizations to combat hate crimes in Europe. Since 2009, Facing Facts! has significantly improved hate crime monitoring through mapping studies and resource publications, and has facilitated conferences among civil society, law enforcement, and public authorities.