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Research expands understanding of hate crime

2018-06-04

Studies that look at hate crime victimisation quickly become ‘field truths’ that are taken for granted. Researchers at Malmö University are challenging some of these assumptions.

Mika Andersson has looked into the experiences of students subjected to hate crimes. The study, conducted together with colleagues Anna-Karin Ivert and Caroline Mellgren, shows that the effects of hate crimes are complex and that the term itself needs to be more inclusive.

Andersson will be defending their research in the thesis titled Hate crime victimisation: consequences and interpretations. The study is based on survey data and interviews conducted with Malmö University students.  

“Although research shows that universities, as predominantly white and straight institutions, are strongholds for hate crime, we found that most incidents actually take place outside the campus, and that participants described Malmö University as a safe and open-minded place.”

Violence against women should be considered a hate crime

Of the victim groups included in the study, women were by far the largest. Although gender is not currently recognised under Swedish hate crime legislation, Andersson decided to include this category.

“Especially after MeToo, I think people are acknowledging women’s experiences. Violence against women is often understood within the framework of partner abuse, but the more I studied victims’ reactions, the more I realised they were very similar to the reactions of those who experienced hate crime. In fact, the effects were often more pronounced,” Andersson explains.

They add that another argument for seeing gender-based violence as hate crime is that women and those targeted for their gender identity often experience abuse from strangers and their peripheral network, rather than intimate partners. 

Placing the blame where it belongs

Andersson hopes that expanding the term hate crime to include gender will have some tangible legal effects. More importantly, however, they believe that understanding certain crimes as motivated by prejudice or hate has symbolic value.

“Although hate crime legislation is rarely implemented, it still has an impact in terms of acknowledgment. Many people who work with victims agree that an important part of healing trauma is to place the blame where it belongs.

“We find that people often tried to hide their group belonging by changing their body language, clothes, or way of speaking. However, when people start to use disidentification as a tool in this way, they internalise the violence that has been done to them rather than holding the perpetrator accountable. That’s why it’s important that society officially acknowledges that ‘this is not because of you’.”

Text: Maya Acharya

Last updated by Maya Acharya