Hate Crimes on Campus: What to Do If You're a Target
On March 16, 2012, Dharun Ravi, a college student who spied on his gay roommate during a romantic tryst, was sentenced to thirty days in jail. Ravi was convicted of bias intimidation as a hate crime, as well as tampering with evidence by changing tweets he made earlier to encourage others to watch the webcam he’d set up in the bedroom. Ravi’s roommate, Tyler Clementi, committed suicide shortly after discovering that Ravi had made his romantic encounter public.
Hate crimes, sometimes referred to as “bias-motivated” crimes, are defined as crimes committed against a person or group of people for belonging to a certain social group. That group could be defined by race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, or a variety of other factors. A hate crime could be anything from spray-painting discriminatory words and phrases on a building to assault or murder.
Hate crimes are, unfortunately, on the rise on college campuses. If you are the victim of a hate crime, here are some of the steps you should take.
Get medical attention immediately, if necessary
If you have been the victim of a hate crime, be sure to report it to the proper authorities immediately—and be sure to get the support you need from mental health professionals, friends, and family.
Write it down
Sometimes memory can be undependable, especially if you let some time lapse between the crime and when you recount the story. Be sure to write down all the details you remember as soon after the crime as you can. Relevant details include the perpetrator’s appearance, height and weight, other distinguishing characteristics, and what he or she wore; words that were said; time of day; and other relevant factors.
Report the incident
Go to your local police station to report the crime as soon as possible. Write down the badge number of the officer who takes the report, and be sure a case number is assigned. Always ask for a copy of the report, even if it’s preliminary. In addition, report the crime to the FBI—as hate crimes are a federal crime. You can do this in person at an FBI field office* or online.
More: Online Criminal Justice Degree, Degrees in Justice Administration
Present the evidence
If the crime involves graffiti, take pictures. If it involves a threatening phone message or email, save the message. Be sure to include any evidence you have when reporting the crime to the police. Providing evidence will make it much easier for law enforcement to investigate these crimes and bring their perpetrators to justice.
Talk to your college
If your perpetrator was the person you live with or someone who lives near you, talk to your university immediately to request a transfer. Report any hate crime activity to the appropriate college department to ensure your living conditions are safe. However, don’t depend on your college to get the police involved for you. While some colleges provide excellent support to students in times like these, others have been averse to generating negative media attention and may go so far as to encourage students not to report crimes to outside agencies.
Most colleges, including distance education universities, offer counseling services, and some offer services specifically geared toward the LGBT community, minorities, and other groups that can be the target of hate crimes. It’s important to get the social support you need after a hate crime occurs—the crime can have a lasting psychological effect, even if it was not a violent crime.
Even more mild hate crimes—such as graffiti—can create a threatening environment for their targets on campus, and should never be tolerated. In addition, tolerance of more mild forms of hate crimes can often lead to more serious crimes later. If you have been the victim of a hate crime, be sure to report it to the proper authorities immediately—and be sure to get the support you need from mental health professionals, friends, and family.
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