Disability hate crime


by Rumbold
14th March, 2010 at 9:01 pm    

Tom Shakespeare in the Guardian highlights the disgraceful abuse of the disabled in today’s society:

Later, I asked several colleagues who work as advocates and supporters of people with intellectual disability about what they knew. They confirmed immediately that harassment was a constant feature of the lives of every person they worked with. They told me about conferences and gatherings where people had shared horrific experiences, which to them were commonplace. People being sellotaped to trees while people laughed, people being urinated on, people who had dog faeces put through their letter boxes, people who were beaten up. Faced with this constant exposure to the risk of abuse and violence, people with intellectual disability remained stoical and uncomplaining. Sometimes they were unable to make a complaint. Often, they were disbelieved, or were not taken seriously as witnesses. In most cases, the police were unwilling or unable to take effective action.

Is this a new phenomenon? Sadly not. For some, people with disabilities, whether mental ones, physical ones or a combination of both, have long been an easy target. That is not to say that everyone with disabilities is weak and incapable of defending themselves. That would be a gross generalisation and patronising. Millions of Britons have some sort of disability, ranging from mild to severe ones.

But some of those with very visible and/or severe disabilities, particularly learning ones, are at great risk. Bullies like to target those they believe are the weakest, and they know the victim could be less likely to come forward for support, whether because they lack a support network or don’t know how to access it.

(Hat-tip: KJB)


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  1. pickles

    Blog post:: Disability hate crime http://bit.ly/bVX6Nu


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  3. Jon Beech

    About time: 1 day 'retard' will be as unacceptable as 'nigger' RT @pickledpolitics: : Disability hate crime http://bit.ly/bVX6Nu


  4. earwicga

    RT @pickledpolitics: Blog post:: Disability hate crime http://bit.ly/bVX6Nu


  5. British blogger wonders about hate crimes « Gospel of Weakness

    [...] via Pickled Politics » Disability hate crime. [...]




  1. MiriamBinder — on 14th March, 2010 at 9:32 pm  

    It is an unfortunate but very real aspect of life for many. Anyone who is perceived as different and vulnerable is likely to experience low level bullying at best and serial victimisation at worse; which is not unheard of only too frequently.

    For isolated individuals this can be extremely debilitating. There is also the fact that, as in all instances of anti-social behaviour, logbooks need to be kept for a considerable period of time, showing a consistency of incidents; which may well be beyond the capacity for some especially immediately following an incident …

  2. earwicga — on 14th March, 2010 at 9:40 pm  

    Thanks for highlighting Tom Shakespeare’s article.

    You are right in saying it is bullying and I tend to think it is human nature to do so and any of us are more or less capable of being a bully. It is the bystander role that disturbs me most. This is something that rape prevention campaigners are starting to take on but there is a long long way to go. Tom Shakespeare doesn’t mention it but disability also raises the likelihood of sexual assualt for both men and women.

  3. MiriamBinder — on 14th March, 2010 at 9:48 pm  

    The silent bystander can be seen as facilitating especially where the bullying is serial …

  4. Yakoub — on 14th March, 2010 at 9:49 pm  

    Excellent coverage was given to this issue on Radio 4′s “Broadcasting House”, Sunday 14th March 9:00am. Includes interviews with learning disabled people.

    Listen from 0.07.00:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00r8h95/Broadcasting_House_14_03_2010/

    This is a VERY VERY important issue. Bullying of LD adults in public is commonplace in Britain today. It’s time such abuse became as unacceptable as racism.

  5. earwicga — on 14th March, 2010 at 10:08 pm  

    Indeed Miriam and the ‘silent bystander’ role is increasingly being rewarded with criminal convictions.

  6. TM — on 14th March, 2010 at 10:49 pm  

    Way to miss the point once again, you pale ginger idiot.

  7. halima — on 15th March, 2010 at 9:23 am  

    hate crime isn’t something I’ve come across in this context. Should I have? Is this something that the various bodies working on disability matters support thinking around – the proposal that such violence is a hate-crime?

  8. douglas clark — on 15th March, 2010 at 9:32 am  

    TM @ 6,

    Who is a pale ginger idiot? And what point has been missed, amongst the sensible opinion piece up above and the comments down below.

    I think we ought to be told….

    Else we might take you for the idiot, pale or ginger notwithstanding…..

  9. MiriamBinder — on 15th March, 2010 at 9:42 am  

    I think the issue is that all incidents that involve harassment to whichever degree on perceived differences are being categorised as ‘Hate Crimes’ …

    Whether this is indeed appropriate I am not quite convinced of. However the category itself will, theoretically at least, ensure a more rapid response.

  10. MiriamBinder — on 15th March, 2010 at 12:30 pm  

    I think there is a general tendency to view all harassment and intimidation incidents, unless they are directly related to other matters (loan sharks, obstreperous landlords/tenants etcetera)as ‘Hate Crimes’ … I think a lot of that has to do with the perception that if it is a ‘Hate Crime’ that it will be dealt with more efficiently.

  11. sarah — on 15th March, 2010 at 1:51 pm  

    Thanks for highlighting this Rumbold.

  12. Dan Vander Plaats — on 15th March, 2010 at 2:03 pm  

    Rumbold – thank you for the post today. I actually just blogged about this very same article (but a lot later, since I am on the other side of the Atlantic), and used the same pullquote. Please know that the afflictions you experience are also experienced on this side of the ocean, and often to the same extreme. My blog is focused on changing this by changing how people (and especially people in the Christian community) look at people with disabilities.

  13. Sam London — on 15th March, 2010 at 5:05 pm  

    Question from a journalist: Does the generic term “learning difficulties” make it harder to appreciate and report the gravity of the abuse and the vulnerability of the victims? Am not advocating a return to the upsetting jargon of “retarded” etc. but Dominic Lawson once said, in connection with his Downs syndrome-affected daughter’s educational needs, that PC terminology made it harder to convey the seriousness of some conditions over others like mild dyslexia.

  14. MiriamBinder — on 15th March, 2010 at 5:21 pm  

    Learning Difficulties is a category designating a type of disability, not a diagnosed specific condition. Apply that and the issue of addressing differing needs should be less of a mine field.

  15. KJB — on 15th March, 2010 at 10:55 pm  

    Thank you, Rumbold, for flagging this up, but I was also hoping you might mention the Panorama episode from a few weeks ago, which I watched and downloaded as well, on BBC iPlayer. It was called ‘Why Do You Hate Me?’ and looked at disability hatred. Apparently it is still available!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00qykm2/Panorama_Why_Do_You_Hate_Me/

    I recommend it to everyone, only 30 minutes long. I did cry though – one never fails to be astounded at how wantonly vindictive people can become when they have no proper occupation. I will certainly check out Yakoub’s link.

    Re: Sam London – I fail to see why ‘learning difficulties’ is problematic. Why should disabled people or those close to them have to specify what the disability is unless they want to?

    What Dominic Lawson apparently described is exactly what I see as, in a way, useful. It means that if you are able-bodied and you want to know what ‘learning difficulties’ means, you have to do a little bit of homework. The burden does not fall on the disabled person/their carers or nearest and dearest to try to make others understand their situation. No bad thing in my view, but I am speaking only for myself as an able-bodied person, and disabled Picklers are free to disagree. :-)

  16. MiriamBinder — on 16th March, 2010 at 7:58 am  

    In all fairness, I think Sam London was asking regarding the provision of services rather then as a way of introduction.

    I am disabled and though I may mention that I am disabled on introduction, I will only clarify the specific disability when I am discussing the type of access or support I require when talking to someone who is in a position to address said access or support.

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