This week is Glasgow’s 6th annual Hate Crime Awareness Week, focussed on the theme of disability Hate Crime – and with GDA’s leading role in Glasgow’s Hate Crime Working Group it was fitting for us to launch the event with powerful new material performed by our Purple Poncho Players based on real life experiences – and our Chief Executive Tressa Burke joining Cabinet Secretary Humza Yusaf, and Bailie Marie Garrity as keynote speakers.
Disability Hate Crime is by no means new – GDA has supported members to stand up to Hate Crime since our foundation 20 years ago – and there are long histories of disabled people being othered, blamed, marginalised and victimised in our society.
Hostility and harassment towards disabled people has been rising throughout the past 10 years of austerity, and unfortunately COVID-19 has fanned the flames. The pandemic has exacerbated many of the challenges disabled people face in navigating public space and interactions, increasing the risk of misunderstandings and aggression when things go wrong: from disabled people being harassed for simply being out in public or sitting on benches during the earlier months of lockdown, to increasing reports of aggression towards those unable to wear face coverings, queue for shops or social distance. Where tensions exist with neighbours, ‘Stay at home’ restrictions have added pressure and disabled people often find ourselves targeted in or near our own homes, with huge repercussions for our sense of safety and wellbeing. And much of these challenges are increasing at a time when supports we rely on such as social care or mental health supports have been reduced or withdrawn.
GDA members have shared many experiences of increased harassment and hate crime during the pandemic and this is confirmed by recent Police Scotland figures showing nearly double the number of disability hate crime reports in July 2020 compared with the previous year. Procurator Fiscal (COPFS) data shows disability aggravated charges increased by 29% to 387 in the year 2019 -20 from the previous year – and we know disability hate crime remains hugely under-reported, so these figures show only the tip of the iceberg.
A key reason behind under-reporting is that, for many disabled people, harassment, bullying and Hate Crime becomes a ‘normal part of everyday life’. A fear of repercussions, lack of trust or other negative experiences with the police, criminal justice system and other services erodes confidence to report Hate Crimes and seek support. As a Third Party Reporting centre, GDA strives to raise awareness that Hate Crime does not have to be tolerated – our staff are trained to support victims to identify and report harassment and Hate Crime, and seek wider support for justice and protection.
We also put disabled people in the lead of raising wider public awareness that Scotland and Glasgow are #NoPlaceForHate. We ask anyone witnessing harassment or Hate Crime to step up by supporting the victim – stand near them to help them feel safe – ask if they are OK, let them know they are not alone and can report the incident. You can also report any incident you have witnessed – help us identify and eliminate Hate Crime in Scotland.
Many people feel unable to report direct to the Police – as part of the Third Party Reporting scheme – GDA are committed to helping victims and witnesses to speak out about Hate Crime. We can make a report on your behalf, and can provide ongoing support after the report has been made. If you have experienced or witnessed a Hate Crime, Don’t stay silent – Report it online, or through Third Party Reporting: contact GDA on 0800 432 0422 text 07958 299 496 or via Contact Scotland BSL