How to act?

On this page, you will find simple explanations about how to recognise hate speech and hate crimes, and what to do when you have experienced or witnessed something like this. In addition to the written text, you will find a short explanatory video under every topic. A hate-free society is a society safe for everyone – don’t look away from unjust behaviour.

The texts and videos are part of the project “Police and NGO cooperation to combat hate crime in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania”, which was co-funded by the European Union’s Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (2014–2020).

What is hate crime?

A tagged car, a broken store window or a stolen cane may at first all seem like random acts of violence until we look at the motivation behind them. The car that was tagged, belonged to a lesbian couple known in the neighbourhood; the store is owned by a black man and is a meeting place for the city’s international students; and the cane was taken from a blind person to have a little laugh over his confusion.

All these acts have something in common: they are motivated by prejudice, bias and hostility against a certain group of people. They are acts that attack one’s core identity – something that they can’t necessarily change or hide. Parts of core identity are for example skin colour, ethnic origin, nationality, language, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability or age.

When these kinds of acts constitute a crime, they are called hate crimes, but more broadly, we can refer to them as bias motivated incidents. These incidents have a deep impact on the survivors, as their core identity is attacked. You can replace your stolen wallet with a new one, but you cannot alter who you are – and why should you do that in the first place? This is why hate crime needs special attention.

Incidents motivated by homophobia, racism, xenophobia, religious intolerance or other prejudice happen more frequently than we realise. For example, in Europe, as many as 1 out of 4 LGBT people say they have been attacked or threatened with violence in the past five years, while almost 30% of Jewish people feel they have been harassed.

Imagine having to fear for your safety or the safety of your loved ones every time you step outside…

And bias motivated incidents also affect society as a whole. The more we look away, the more we normalise prejudiced and hateful behaviour. Without condemnation and real consequences, what begins with an angry slur, can escalate into acts that are much worse – property damage or even physical attacks. Hostile attitudes destabilise society and make it more unsafe for everyone.

So next time you see or experience something that you think might be a hate crime or a bias motivated incident, let someone know. Report it to the police or notify Estonian Human Rights Centre.

Because if you don’t, perpetrators will walk away with a little bit of extra assurance that they can carry on like that.

Watch a short video about hate crime. You can choose English subtitles from the settings.

What is hate speech?

Have you noticed statements in the media, from your friends or on social media, that say something like that:

  • “XXX are filthy animals, it’s only good they were killed”
  • “We don’t need more of these XXX rats in our country”
  • “XXX have lower IQ, they’re like monkeys and should be treated as such”
  • “These XXX shouldn’t be allowed to show themselves in public”

This is hate speech. Rooting itself into our society to the point it may go unnoticed or even be confused with freedom of speech.

But this freedom cannot be used to undermine other human rights, as hate speech humiliates and degrades people for who they are. For their skin colour, ethnic origin, nationality, language, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability or age.

And hate speech can appear everywhere. On the streets or online. It can be anonymous, expressed by someone you know or even promoted by politicians.

The worst thing is that hate speech incites hostility and violence, creating a climate in which targeted groups are more likely to face discrimination, aggression and abuse, even if the call for violence is not explicitly made.

If hate speech is not tackled in the society, it can escalate into acts that are much worse – property damage or even physical attacks.

So next time you witness hate speech, take action! If you have noticed hate speech on the Internet – report it to the administration of the website. Most of the websites and social networks have terms of service prohibiting incitement to hatred and special reporting tools. You can use these tools or report hate speech directly to the website’s administrator. Estonian Human Rights Centre can also help you with reporting online hate speech. You can also inform the police about incitement to hatred or calls to violence.

If no action is taken, oppressors will walk away with a little bit of extra assurance that they can carry on like that.

Watch a short video about hate speech. You can choose English subtitles from the settings.

What to do if you are attacked?

If you or someone you know experience a hate incident or hate crime, you can find help and support in various different places.

If you have experienced something like this, you should report it to the police. If you don’t feel like doing it in person or over the phone, you can start online at www.politsei.ee.

You can always contact the national victim support services called Ohvriabi at www.palunabi.ee as well. Even if you don’t want to submit a report to the police, Ohvriabi is there for you. Their helpline is free and available 24/7. Just call 116 006. They speak Estonian and Russian, as well as English.

They’ll provide counselling, necessary information and help you communicate with other institutions, if needed.

There are also NGOs like Estonian LGBT Association, Estonian Chamber of Disabled People, Estonian Refugee Council, Women’s Shelters and Estonian Human Rights Centre there for you.

When in need of fast emotional or psychological support, you can also call “Lifeline” on 655 8088.

Just let someone know. You don’t have to be in this alone.

And remember: you’re not a victim, you are a survivor.

Watch a short video of where to turn for help after the attack. You can choose English subtitles from the settings.

What to do if you witness a hate crime?

Hate crimes are appalling, but each and every one of us who witnessed hate crime can help. So what can you do?

  • First, make sure you are safe. Don’t rush into a situation you cannot control.
  • If you don’t feel comfortable taking action alone, find other witnesses to come to your aid.
  • Immediately call 112, so help can get there in time.
  • You can also make noise to scare off the attacker or give the victim time to escape.
  • To help catch the criminals, try to memorise as much information as you can. Take notes or photos if possible: the time, the place, a license plate number or an outfit can all be important.
  • Also you can gather names and phone numbers of other witnesses to help the police later. Testimony, even if anonymous, can be very helpful.
  • Most importantly, be there for the victim, if you can. If needed, speak to them calmly and provide assistance so you can decide on the appropriate next steps together.

No one deserves to feel unsafe, especially just for being who they are. Help notice and report hate crime.

Watch a short video of what to do if you witness a hate crime. You can choose English subtitles from the settings.

 

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