Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is a hate crime?
A hate crime is committed when someone vandalizes your property, uses violence against you, harasses or threatens you because of your actual or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability or gender. For an incident to be considered a hate crime under the law, there must be a crime – harassment, assault, homicide, robbery, arson, for example – and something that demonstrates hatred or bias as a motivating factor.
- Involve the use of language or symbols such as slurs or swastikas;
- Involve the use of objects - such as a burning cross - which have historically symbolized hatred.
- Occur in a place where members of a particular group are believed to gather, such as a synagogue, mosque, during an event such as a gay pride parade, or coincide with a religious or cultural holiday such as Yom Kippur.
Q. What exactly is discrimination?
Discrimination involves differential treatment based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, familial status, marital status, or disability. Local, state and federal laws prohibit discrimination on these as well as other reasons in employment, housing, education, public accommodations and the extension of credit. Laws vary by state and by county and in some instances, discrimination on the basis of military status, prior arrest and conviction records, and predisposing genetic characteristics is also illegal. If you believe you’ve been discriminated against, please call us at 1-877-END-BIAS. We can review your case and if appropriate, refer you to the proper law enforcement agency and/or an attorney.
Q. How are hate crimes different from discrimination?
Hate crimes are, by their very nature, discriminatory. After all, victims of such offenses are selected because of who they are, or who they are perceived to be. But not all forms of discrimination are hate crimes. Refusing to rent an apartment to someone, for example, or firing them from their job because of their race, religion or a disability may be considered unlawful discrimination, but neither act is a hate crime. Hate crimes are acts or threats of physical violence committed against a person or their property.
Q. How are hate crimes different from other crimes?
Crimes of all kinds can be traumatic, and sometimes life-changing. Offenses motivated by bias, bigotry and hatred can be particularly brutal and often have serious physical and psychological consequences. Hate crimes strike at the very heart of a person’s identity and can cause emotional injuries that can be as debilitating, if not more so than the physical harm. Fear, anger, depression, isolation, and an increased sense of vulnerability are all common psychological reactions to bias incidents. These feelings often extend to the victim’s family and to the surrounding community of individuals who may have personal characteristics in common with the victim.
Q. What is bullying?
Bullying is the act of intentionally injuring or causing discomfort in others, through verbal harassment, physical assault, or other more subtle methods such as spreading rumors, excluding others from groups or encouraging others to shun or gang-up on a victim. Bullying happens in schools, workplaces, communities and anywhere that people interact. Almost 30% of youth in the United States (or over 5.7 million) are estimated to be involved in bullying as either a bully, a target of bullying, or both. Kids who are bullied often suffer from depression, anxiety, and social withdrawal. Drop-out rates, drug/alcohol addiction and eating disorders are dramatically higher among young people who are victimized.
As young people spend more time online, technobullying/cyberbullying has become prevalent and can be as hurtful as bullying that happens in the classroom. Cyberbullying can involve: sending mean, vulgar or threatening messages or images; posting sensitive or damaging private information or misinformation about another person in a public forum; or pretending to be someone else in order to make that person look bad. Children and youth can cyberbully each other through e-mails, instant messages, text or photo messages sent via cell phones, on web pages, blogs, and in chatrooms.
Q. What should you do if you are the victim of harassment or violence?
Though every situation is different, here are some basic steps you should follow if you are victimized:
- If you are in danger, call 911 immediately.
- If you are injured, or think you might be, get medical attention as soon as possible.
- Document the incident. Ask someone to photograph your injuries and write down as many details as you can. If you receive harassing notes via e-mail, instant messages or messages on your answering machine, save them. If someone is harassing you via phone, keep a log of the calls.
- If the harassment or violence is ongoing, talk to someone you trust about what’s happening. A friend, relative, co-worker, clergyperson or counselor can give you guidance, feedback and help finding a solution that will work best for you. Consider reporting threats or acts of violence to the police. Most police departments – including those in Nassau and Suffolk – have dedicated units with specially trained officers who can handle your case with sensitivity and professionalism.
- Psychological reactions to victimization are common and can take many different forms. You may feel scared, worried, helpless, angry or depressed. Though violence is solely the responsibility and choice of the perpetrator, it’s easy to second-guess and blame yourself. Successfully making the transition from victim to survivor might mean getting counseling or joining a support, both of which, we can help you find.
- If you have uncovered medical expenses, have lost time from work or suffered some other financial loss due to a crime, you may be eligible for help from the NYS Crime Victims Compensation Board.