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Three victims of Hate Crime speak out to urge others to report abuse

19th October 2018

‘Do not suffer in silence,’ – that’s the message from three brave victims of transgender, disability and racially motivated hate crimes, who decided to share their stories as part of National Hate Crime Awareness Week.

Despite coming from different backgrounds, Rosie, 21, Stephen, 55, and Ejaz, have all been victims of very similar crimes – they were persecuted because they were different.

This week all three said they felt empowered by speaking out and raising awareness of what hate crime is, and why it should not be tolerated.

Rosie said: “I was 14 when I told my mam I identified as trans. She was fully accepting and said she would help tell my dad when I turned 15. But sadly she passed away before we could. I told my dad and he was very accepting but he didn’t want me to tell people because he was worried about peoples’ reactions and the house being targeted.”

In 2012, shortly after moving schools so she could be herself, Rosie found herself being targeted by her former schoolmates who would call her names, shout verbal abuse and even attack her in the street.

It wasn’t until Rosie met an officer from Northumbria Police at a transgender support group that she realised how much help was on hand.

She said: “I felt trapped, isolated and I couldn’t live the life I wanted to live like other people my age. I was scared of leaving the house; I was depressed, had anxiety and started drinking too much.

“I knew I needed a fresh start and I had so much support to get it, I just needed to speak up and ask for it. Now I feel free to live as a woman which is all I have ever wanted. I think trans people don’t report what happens to them because they’re embarrassed but don’t be. The police will listen, they won’t judge you and you will get help.”

Several years ago Ejaz and his family fled persecution in their home country of Pakistan, and sought asylum in the UK. During his time in Newcastle, he was spat on, verbally abused and had a brick thrown through his window. The father-of-two said he suffered in silence until he began to fear for his children’s safety.

“I thought I would ignore it and it would go away, but when it started affecting my family I called the police,” he said.

“They came to my house straight away and they listened and they accepted us. Straight away I felt happier and I was relieved someone was listening to me.

“I would say to anyone going through this, tell someone what is happening because there are many people who can help you.

Ejaz was supported by Northumbria Police and Victims First and helped to relocate to Sheffield.

Stephen, who has learning difficulties, believes it was his vulnerability which made him a target of hate crime – he found himself being exploited by his neighbours who asked him to be friends. Shortly after introducing themselves, they forced their way into his Gateshead flat where they took food from his cupboards and smashed his cash box, taking £200 of his savings.

The pair were arrested after they were intercepted by police at the bank, after staff concerned for Stephen’s welfare raised the alarm.

He said: “I loved my flat and the independence it gave me but these issues caused me stress and made me really upset. I didn’t know what to do next. I didn’t want to be in the flat in case they came around but also didn’t want to go out in case they saw me outside. I lost my confidence and no longer felt able to live alone so I gave up the flat and moved back in with my Mam.

“The response from the Police was excellent and I am so pleased the bank noticed what the man and woman were doing to me. I was scared when I spoke to the police but I knew they were listening to me and I was treated really well.

“My advice to other people who might be a victim of mate crime is make sure you know who is a good and bad person and report any problems to someone as soon as possible. Speak to someone you trust.”

Northumbria Police’s hate crime lead, Superintendent Nicola Musgrove, said: “It is absolutely unacceptable to abuse someone because of who they are and we will stand together to stop this sort of prejudice.

“We have worked extremely hard to give victims the confidence to come forward. We have also seen improvements in how we record hate crime and developed a better understanding among officers about what constitutes a hate crime.

“We know that not everyone feels comfortable in calling 101 and reporting these types of crimes to the police but there are a number of other ways you can report hate crime. We have Safe Reporting Centres across the force area as well as through third sector agencies like True Vision and Tell Mamma.

“If you have been a victim of hate crime we would urge you to come forward. Even if this does not result in a criminal prosecution, you will be supported by our specialist officers.”

Dame Vera Baird QC, Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, has further assured the public that hate crime is a top priority.

Dame Vera has funded a number of dedicated hate crime advocates to support communities across the region. She also organises advisory panels with representatives from communities who have been targeted to highlight areas of best practice and provide input on where improvements could be made.

She said: “I want to make it absolutely clear – there is no place whatsoever for hate crime in society.

“It’s important that all victims feel safe and supported enough to report these type of offences. There should never be a situation where someone suffers in silence and I want to ensure everyone has a voice.

“I am pleased that here in Northumbria we have specially-trained officers and staff in place to offer all the support that is needed to victims and I would encourage anyone who feels they are being targeted for who they to come forward and work with us.”