Imagine, if you will, that people with blue eyes are disliked, or even hated, in some social circles. That sounds crazy, right? Why on earth should someone hate you over something you have no control over? You didn’t get to choose your eye color, you were born that way! Sure, you can try to hide the fact that you have blue eyes, but that isn’t really fair, is it? How could it possibly be fair to be expected to hide a part of who you are because there are other people out there who hate you solely based on this part of you? Imagine further, that in some of these aforementioned social circles, it is considered acceptable to be violent toward people with blue eyes. In this context, such an act could be considered a bias-motivated crime, or hate crime.
A hate crime is a criminal act that is committed based on the personal prejudices of the perpetrator (or perpetrators), directed at the victim based on their perceived race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religion, or disability. Per Colorado law (CRS 18-9-121), hate crimes are defined as when:
A person commits a bias-motivated crime if, with the intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, physical or mental disability, or sexual orientation, he or she:
(a) Knowingly causes bodily injury to another person; or
(b) By words or conduct, knowingly places another person in fear of imminent lawless action directed at that person or that person’s property and such words or conduct are likely to produce bodily injury to that person or damage to that person’s property; or
(c) Knowingly causes damage to or destruction of the property of another person.
Alarmingly, according to the FBI’s Unified Crime Report (UCR), hate crimes have increased by 17% in 2017. Per the UCR for 2017, 7,175 hate crimes were reported nationally, which included 8,437 separate offenses (meaning that one report could include more than one offense). More concerning, is that according to the National Criminal Victimization Survey (NCVS), from 2011-2015, 54% of hate crimes were not reported to police, and arrests were only made in 4% of those cases that were reported during that time. Considering that reporting for the UCR is not mandatory, it can be inferred that, per these two sets of data from the UCR and NCVS, there are quite a few more hate crimes that may have occurred in 2017 that simply were not identified or reported.
Racially and ethnically-motivated hate crimes make up the majority of hate crimes reported, totaling 58.1% of the hate crimes reported in 2017; religious-motivated hate crimes totaled 22%, followed by sexual orientation at 15.9%. Anti-black hate crimes alone increased by 16% from 2016 to 2017, with 1,739 reports in 2016 and 2,013 reports in 2017. Those hate crimes against Black victims totals 28% of all the reported hate crimes in 2017. Regarding 22% of religious bias motivated crimes, the Jewish and Muslim communities are most commonly targeted. From 2016 to 2017, there was a 23% increase in these attacks; the majority of these crimes were made up by the 37% of anti-Jewish hate crimes. These acts include crimes against persons, property, and society.
Of the hate crimes reported in 2017, 1,130 were committed based on perceived sexual orientation, and 119 were committed based on perceived gender-identity. One of the most recognizable names related LGBTQ hate crimes is that of Matthew Shepard, who was tortured on October 6th, 1998, later dying of his injuries on October 12th. His mother, Judy Shepard, became a defining voice for hate crime law reform, helping see the pass of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which was signed into law by President Obama on October 28th, 2009, over 10 years after Matthew’s death. The Act expanded on the existing federal hate crimes law, from 1969, to include crimes based on perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and disability.
Unfortunately, even with this expansion to hate crime law, the number of reports still climb, and individuals and groups are still being terrorized. On April 28th, 2019, Amber Nicole, a 23 year old transgender woman and Colorado resident, was assaulted by unknown assailants, resulting in multiple injuries, including her jaw being dislocated and having to be wired shut. Amber Nicole was on her way home after a night on the town with her friends. As of May 8th, Amber Nicole disclosed to reporters that it would be at least 8 weeks before she can have the wires removed from her jaw. It could take years for her to recover from the trauma of someone attacking her so viciously, simply because they didn’t like an aspect of her as a person.
Hate crimes can occur anywhere, including in or near the home, on the street, schools and colleges, churches, and parking lots; only 11.5% of the locations of reported incidents in 2017 were marked as “unknown”. With that knowledge, it is that much more imperative that communities come together and unite against hate crimes. Support and information are readily available, as are the staff of Arkansas Valley Resource Center. Feel free to reach out at anytime. An advocate is available 24/7!
415 Colorado Avenue
La Junta, CO 81050
24 Hour Hotline: (719) 384-7764
TTY: (719) 384-1938
After Hours Colorado Relay dial 711 or 1-800-659-2656
Statistics provided by:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Unified Crime Report (2017)
The Office for Victims of Crime
Graphics provided by:
2017 Hate Crime Statistics Report
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL)
AVRC is non-discriminatory agency regarding race, religion, color, gender, country of national origin, sexual orientation, mental health status, substance use or economic condition.