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5 Things Social Workers Need to Understand About Hate Crimes

5 Things Social Workers Need to Understand About Hate Crimes

Though many people consider “hate crimes” to be relatively new phenomena thanks, in part, to tougher laws being enacted around the country, the truth is this: Hate crimes in America are as old as the country itself. Crimes have been committed against individuals and groups based on race, gender, religious preference, sexual orientation and cultural background for centuries. If social workers hope to help people dealing with hate crimes, a deeper understanding must be had. Here are five things that social workers need to understand about this brand of crime:

1.Diversity Education

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One of the ways to prevent children from turning into perpetrators of hate crimes is to teach them about acceptance at an early age. Social workers can work in conjunction with teachers and families to ensure that young, elementary-aged children learn to respect each other’s differences, celebrating them rather than berating them. The NCPC has excellent lessons for children in grades one through five that center around diversity.

2.What Constitutes a Hate Crime?

Most of us are aware that a crime committed against a person because of their race or sexual orientation is considered a hate crime. But what else may constitute a hate crime? This information is important for every social worker to have. A victim of a hate crime is singled out because of perception. The perpetrator holds a certain perception about the proposed victim’s race, color, national origin, religion, age, sex, physical handicap, mental disability, marital status, personal appearance, family responsibility, political affiliation or matriculation.

Austin March Against Hate - Stop Hate Crimes - Take A Stand

Hate crimes do not have to be violent. Examples of non-violent hate crimes include verbal abuse, telephone harassment, the painting of swastikas or other hate symbols, the use of racial slurs and cemetery desecration. A hate crime need not be violent to have a profound effect on the victim and friends and family of the victim.

3.Victim Responses

Just as with reactions to illness, death and other devastating events, people respond differently when they, or the ones they love, become victims of a hate crime. Victims of hate crimes typically report feelings of anger couples with feelings of betrayal. There can be an overwhelming sense of powerlessness, resentment, isolation and sadness. Victims of hate crimes may also have an aroused, even paranoid, sense of suspicion. Victims of hate crimes report drastic changes in lifestyle as a result of their attack, whether mental or physical. As a social worker, it’s important to sit back and listen to the victim, gaining an understanding of just what effect the crime has had in order to provide the best therapy.

4.The Right Not to Report

Much like a victim of rape has the choice whether or not to report the crime, regardless of the seeking of treatment, a victim of a hate crime is not required to file a report with law enforcement. Regardless of personal beliefs, social workers must support whichever choice the victim makes. In some cases, medical personnel may be required to report the attack, however, it is still the victim’s right to not pursue hate-crime related charges.

5.Victim Assistance

Social workers should seek out resources of assistance within their local communities for victims of hate crime. Having this information on hand and immediately available will make the therapeutic process less stressful for the victim. Beyond local resources, social workers should know about national programs such as Network of Victim Assistance, National Center for Victims of Crime and the American Civil Liberties Union.

For social workers, understanding hate crimes is an important facet of the profession. Along with understanding what constitutes a hate crime, social workers must understand their impact and the resources available for victims and their families. For more information on hate crimes, be sure to visit NOVA, an all-encompassing site for victim assistance.

Robert Neff is a writer who brings awareness to world events such as hate crimes. Social workers help victims of the crimes. If you are interested in a career as a social worker check out Case Western’s online MSW degree.


A Closer Look at a Strange Anti-Condom Rule


A Closer Look at a Strange Anti-Condom Rule

Normally, college campuses work hard to give students tools to have sex safely, whether that means education outreach efforts, free STD screenings or confidential hotlines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that there are about 19 million new sexually-transmitted diseases in the United States each year, and about half of those affect people who are aged 15 to 24, so building awareness seems appropriate. However, Boston College, a Catholic Jesuit University in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts has taken a different tact altogether by seemingly wanting students to practice abstinence or be unsafe in the bedroom. What’s the method? Banning condoms.

Why Free Condoms Are a No-Go

Recently, a campus organization called Boston College Students for Sexual Health came under fire for attempting to freely distribute condoms across campus. Beyond giving students information about being smart in the bedroom, the USA Today newspaper mentioned that the organization operates a series of 18 “Safe Sites,” spread throughout dorm rooms where students can get items such as condoms and lubricants.

Coverage on the website notes that the student organization is not one that’s recognized by Boston College, yet the organization has received a joint letter from the college’s dean of students and the director of residence life, cautioning that if the distribution of condoms continued, anyone responsible would be subject to disciplinary action. The school asserts that such practices are against policy, because of the religious background of the institution. Although the letter did venture towards giving benefit of the doubt by mentioning that perhaps the students were unaware of such a policy, it leaves no doubt about the prohibition of further action.

The Backlash

It didn’t take long for the story to gain national attention, with many people coming out in support of the students instead of the college. New York Magazine reports that other Catholic universities including Georgetown, Holy Cross and Notre Dame stand behind the Boston College students, and an attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union mentions that if the issue isn’t dropped, the college will be subject to a lawsuit.

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Box of Condoms

An Odd Decision

Over the years, condoms have been banned in parts of Africa, and there has been debate about doing the same in the Philippines but nothing of that extent in America. During the 2012 presidential race, the Huffington Post reported that Republican candidate Rick Santorum did not want to ban condoms or birth control pills at the federal level, but felt that states should have the power to do so if desired. Even that possibility stirred up a flurry of negative comments across the country. Also, in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI admitted that although abstinence is preferred, condoms are a “real and moral solution,” especially in preventing the spread of AIDS. There’s even an organization called Condoms 4 Life that’s specifically geared towards people who follow the Catholic faith and want to practice sex responsibly.

The fact that these resources and opinions exist in the religious world seems to weaken the Boston College argument of the condom ban being based in religion, and suggest that perhaps there is a need to revisit college policy. Last year, the Lifestyles Condoms brand conducted a survey which found that one third of college students reported having sex multiple times per week, and 12% said they did it several times per day. As this data shows, college students are having sex, and making it harder for them to do it safely isn’t likely to change the trends.

Karen Alton writes for health blogs. If you’re sexually active in Denver, get lab work for std risk in Denver.