Examining the Impacts of Hate Crimes Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People

By Professor Rupert Brown, Mark Walters and Jennifer Paterson, University of Sussex

In 2015/2016 there were 7,194 recorded hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation hostility and a further 858 recorded incidents based on transgender identity hostility in England and Wales; rises of 29% and 41% from 2014/2015 respectively (Home Office, 2015/16). This may suggest improved identification or reporting of hate crime as a factor, but it is also possible that some of the increase is due to arise in actual criminal hate-based behavior. At any rate, hate crime against LGB&T people is surely an important issue that we as social psychologists and criminologists can help address, for example, by studying the causes, behaviours and motivations of perpetrators or by assessing the experiences, emotions and attitudes of victims. Examining such questions (and others) can help identify and understand effective tactics and intervention approaches, to respond to and reduce identity-based hate crime.

As part of the Sussex Hate Crime Project we examined the prevalence of anti-LGB&T hate crime and studied the negative emotional and (intended) behavioral reactions of LGB&T people to an imagined hate crime scenario, showing that trans people are more likely to experience heightened levels of threat, vulnerability and anxiety compared with non-Trans LGB people.

The study found:

  • LGB and T people experienced high levels of targeted abuse (both verbal and physical). Trans people were more likely to have experienced such abuse. For instance, we found that 29 per cent of Trans respondents had experienced a physical assault motivated by anti-LGBT hostility over the previous 3 years; this was more than twice the rate reported by LGB respondents (12 per cent).
  • LGB & T people experience hate crimes on a frequent basis. Again, Trans people experienced such abuse more frequently. For example, 54 per cent of Trans people reported more than three instances of direct verbal abuse in the past 3 years and 13.5 per cent reported more than three direct physical assaults. By comparison, 19.5 per cent and 1.5 per cent of non-trans participants experienced more than three instances of direct verbal abuse and physical assaults.
  • LGB & T people are also likely to experience indirect victimization on a frequent basis (measured by personally knowing other LGB&T people who have experienced direct victimization). 71 per cent of Trans participants reported knowing more than three victims of verbal abuse and 17 per cent knew more than three victims of physical assault, compared to 32 per cent and 9 per cent of non-Trans LGB participants, respectively.
  • Trans people are more likely to feel unsupported by family, friends and society for being LGBT, which was correlated with the frequency of direct (verbal) abuse they had previously endured.
  • Trans people felt that the police are not effective at policing anti-LGBT hate crime, and they are not respectful towards them as victims. Trans people have less confidence in the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to prosecute anti-LGBT hate crimes (the level of confidence was slightly higher when respondents had direct experience with the CPS).

Our findings support the view that all LGBT people, but particularly Trans individuals, continue to be denied equal participation in society due to individual, social and structural experiences of prejudice. We argue for a renewed policy focus, which addresses hate crimes against LGB&T people as a public health problem.  In attempting to address this problem more effectively, we recommend, in the first instance, that justice agencies produce a separate partnership plan that aims to engage specifically with Trans communities with the objective of:

  1. Improving awareness about the complexities of Trans identities and gender expression, including appropriate language.
  2. To better determine the needs of Trans people who have been victimized.
  3. To communicate (interactively) with Trans communities that the police and other justice agencies are taking anti-Trans hate crime seriously and that agencies are dedicated to offering support by trained officers.
  4. To ensure that policing strategies and policies on hate crime are based on evidence relating to the nature, extent and impacts of anti-Trans hate and hostility. 

A full version of our findings will be published shortly: Walters, M., Paterson, J., Brown, R. & McDonnell, E. (in press) Hate crimes against trans people: assessing emotions, behaviors and attitudes towards criminal justice agencies. Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

NB: A version of this blog article was first published on SPSSi UK

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