No one should worry about being attacked or harassed because of who they are, but hate crimes are a frightening reality today. Hate crimes are motivated by prejudice and can take many forms, including physical violence, property damage, and verbal or written threats.
According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, about 26 percent of hate crime victims in the United States are targeted because of their race, and another 21 percent are targeted because of their sexual orientation. This leaves a lot of people feeling vulnerable and at risk.
While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how to stay safe from hate crimes, everyone can take some general steps to reduce their risk. Here are a few tips.
1. Be aware of your surroundings and who is around you.
If you feel you are being followed or someone is making you uncomfortable, trust your instincts and get to a safe place as soon as possible. Many hate crimes are opportunistic, so the best thing you can do is not give anyone the opportunity to attack you.
An excellent way to be aware of your surroundings is to download a personal safety app that allows you to share your location with trusted contacts and send out an alert if you feel like you are in danger. You can also keep an eye out for public places with security cameras, which can deter potential attackers and help identify them if a crime occurs.
2. Keep your home secure.
Even if you don’t live in a high-crime area, it’s essential to take steps to secure your home. This includes keeping your doors and windows locked and installing a security system if possible. If you have a garage, make sure the garage doors are always closed and locked.
If you live in an apartment or condo, get to know your neighbors and tell them if you’ll be out of town so they can keep an eye on your place. It’s also a good idea to let your building manager or security guard know if you’re expecting any visitors so they can be on the lookout for anyone suspicious. Do not hesitate to call the police if you see anything or anyone suspicious around your home.
3. Be cautious when using social media.
Hate speech and cyberbullying are severe social media problems and can lead to real-world violence. If you are the target of online harassment, do not engage with the person or people attacking you. Instead, block and report them to the platform where they are posting. Doing this will help to protect you and others from further abuse.
It’s also important to be careful about what you share on social media. Avoid posting personal information that criminals could use to locate or target you, such as your home address or schedule. And if you see something hateful online, don’t hesitate to report it. You could be saving someone’s life.
4. Get involved in your community.
One of the best ways to prevent hate crimes is to build a solid and supportive community. Get to know your neighbors and look out for each other. If you see someone being harassed or attacked, don’t be a bystander—speak up and defend the targeted person.
Hate crimes are often motivated by ignorance and fear, so it’s essential to educate yourself and others about the targeted groups. Attend community events, such as festivals or parades, that celebrate diversity. And if you see someone spreading hate speech, challenge them instead of remaining silent. But always do so safely and respectfully.
5. Know your rights.
It’s essential to know your rights in case you are the victim of a hate crime. If you are attacked or harassed, try to get to a safe place as quickly as possible and call the police. If you can, take photos or videos of the attacker and the attack. These can be helpful evidence if you decide to press charges.
It’s also important to know that you have the right to remain silent when questioned by the police. You should only give them your name and address. Do not answer questions or make any statements until a lawyer is present. You have the right to request a free lawyer if you cannot afford one.
If you are the victim of a hate crime, you are not alone. Many organizations can help you, including the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. These organizations can provide you with support and resources and help you take legal action if necessary.
No one deserves to be the victim of a hate crime. By following these tips, you can help to keep yourself and your community safe. Always remember that you have rights, and you are not alone. Many people and organizations can help you if you need it.