New service for hate crime victims

A NEW service for victims and witnesses of hate crime launches in Huntingdonshire and Fenland today (Friday July 1).

The Open Out scheme is a confidential service for people to report incidents and get support and advice.

Hate crime is when someone is targeted because of their race, faith, gender, sexuality, age or disability. It can include verbal or physical abuse, bullying or damaging property.

Karolina Bober, Huntingdonshire Open Out co-ordinator, said: “Hate crime can often have a devastating effect on victims, leaving them feeling isolated and sometimes too embarrassed to talk to anyone.

“The Open Out scheme offers victims confidential support and advice. There is no pressure to report the incident to police, however this is an option and the Open Out co-ordinator can support victims through the process.

“Research suggests that as many as 95 per cent of hate crimes go unreported. This can be because the victim doesn’t feel comfortable reporting the crime or may not realise it is a crime.

“I would urge anyone who thinks they have been a victim of a hate crime to report it to police or call the confidential Open Out service.”

Open Out co-ordinators work closely with local charities and organisations to address issues that can develop from hate crime such as emotional distress, housing and healthcare needs.

Molly Blackburn, from Open Out, said: “The Open Out scheme has been operating in Cambridge since 2001 and we have successfully managed to assist a number of victims.

“For some victims that original call to Open Out has now resolved the situation, or led them to getting support from counselling services and assistance with moving through the housing association.”

To report a hate crime to Open Out, or for more information call 01223-823552 or visit www.openoutcambs.org

Victims and witnesses of hate crime can also report incidents to police online – www.cambs.police.uk.

Superintendent Gary Ridgway said: “The force takes all reports of hate crime extremely seriously and we want people to report all incidents.

“All forms of hate crimes are completely unacceptable and we will deal robustly with offenders.

“Victims of hate crime can often feel isolated and may not want to talk to the police in the first instance, but still want to report incidents which the Open Out scheme allows.”