Hate crimes and how they affect all of us

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Hate crimes are criminal acts perpetrated against people, organizations or property because of the group to which the victim is perceived to belong.  This group is usually defined by race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation but can also include  disability, ethnicity, age or polititical affiliation.

On October 28, 2009, President Obama expanded the federal hate crimes law by signing a law that makes it a federal crime to assault an individual because of sexual orientation or gender identity.  More than 77,000 hate-crime incidents were reported between 1998-2007, according to the FBI.  While hate crimes are prosecuted at the federal level, many experts believe that other crimes prosecuted at the state level may involve hate crime components. Cases of rape, assault or harassment may not meet the federal standards of hate crimes but may have overtones of hatred.

Indeed, many instances of bullying have their roots in the victim being perceived as “different” – perhaps the victim is gay or has gay parents or is a minority. A great deal of bullying occurs in the school setting – to some of our most defenseless society members – children.  As the news has shown us, the trend of bullying has increased to include harassment via the internet as well.

Again, while these cases may not meet federal hate crime standards, their impact on individuals and society as a whole is dramatic. Most everyone knows someone who has been the victim of an agressor – even if just from what seems like old childhood harmless “pranks”.

Searching court records can highlight the pervasiveness of such crimes. Federal court cases may be searched at PACER, the federal judiciary’s centralized court system. This site does require registration and is a pay for use site. State and county  court cases must be searched at the state and county level.  Many states and counties have their court cases onlines and vary in their fee policies.  Try using  CourtReference to locate state and county courts and court cases.

As a society, we need to endeavor to come together as a whole and stop the divisiveness that causes so much pain.

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