A hate crime is a criminal act of abuse, violence, threat, or intimidation used against someone motivated (influenced) by hostility or prejudice against someone’s personal characteristics, such as their ethnicity, nationality, religion, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age.
A hate incident involves actions which are not technically a crime, but which are perceived (seen) by the victim, or anybody else, to be motivated (influenced) by hostility or prejudice against someone’s personal characteristics – as listed above.
Hate crimes and incidents not only harm their victims, but they also harm their families, whānau, friends, and communities. They can happen to anyone anywhere, including in a workplace, in school, on public transport, on the street, in social situations, or online.
A hate crime or incident is never the fault of those it is aimed at.
Hate incidents and crimes can take many forms, including:
- physical assault
- verbal insults or abuse
- abusive gestures, such as hand signals
- intimidating or threatening behaviour
- damage to property
- offensive graffiti
- offensive messages or letters
- abusive telephone calls
- malicious complaints made against someone
- offensive leaflets and posters distributed
- bullying, for example at school, training centres, or in the workplace.
Many victims say they experience a wide range for strong reactions to what happened to them. They often lose their sense of safety in their community. They can also become more concerned and anxious for the safety of family, whānau, and friends – especially for children and teens they know. For a time, a victim’s confidence and self-esteem can be knocked back. People from groups that are more often affected by hostility and prejudice report that being the victim of a hate crime or incident can further increase their feelings of social isolation. It can be a very lonely time.
Sometimes victims feel that they can’t tell anyone about what happened to them, but it helps when hate crimes or incidents are reported to police. Reporting it means you can get the support you need and future crimes against you or others can be more effectively prevented. The police are committed to tackling hate crime. It is never right or lawful to harmfully target individuals because of their identity.
Taking some positive steps and having some ongoing, caring support can help people affected by hate crimes and incidents feel less isolated, positively affirmed, more encouraged, and empowered.
If you or others are in danger of immediate harm or a hate crime is happening now, call 111.
Get medical help, if you or others have been hurt.
Keep a record of the crime or incident.
Write down all the important details you can remember about what happened, to have ready to give to Police. Include the date and time, and descriptions of the location and any people involved. If a vehicle was involved, note down the type, model, colour or registration number if possible.
Try to record a video or audio clip if you can. This can assist police with their enquiries.
If there is anyone around who saw what happened ask them if they would give their contact details, in case there is an investigation.
Report what happened to police
Reporting helps to make a positive difference. Reporting hate crime when it happens to you can help stop it happening to someone else. The information assists police to better understand hate crime happening in the community, and who it is most affecting. This helps them improve how they can better prevent it and respond to it.
By reporting hate crime or incidents you can help:
- stop it getting worse
- stop it happening to others
- identify the perpetrators
- make your community a safer place to live in..
Police take hate crime or incidents extremely seriously and can assist victims be safe and feel safe. The incidents are not usually a one-off and providing police with information about what happened can help them find the perpetrators and prevent this happening to others. The more information police are given, the more effectively they can tackle hate crime.
Report a hate crime or incident by phoning the non-emergency number 105. Or you can use this 105 online form . In your report include information like the time, location and what happened. Include, if possible, the perpetrator[s] gender, age, height, race, weight, clothes and other distinguishing characteristics. If any threats or prejudiced comments were made, include these.
NOTE: After experiencing a traumatic incident like this, it’s normal to forget some of the details. Just recall what you can and write down any details that come back to you later on. You can share this information with police then.
Making a Victim Impact Statement
As part of a hate crime investigation police can also take a victim impact statement from you. In this you can describe honestly how the crime has affected you, or others. This is voluntary and would be used in court proceedings. Read more about Victim Impact Statements here.
If you feel unable to report the incident to police
- Speak to someone you trust for advice e.g. community leader, cultural leader, teacher, youth worker, mental health worker, etc.
- Use Crime stoppers NZ, who help people anonymously report information about a hate crime to police by using their anonymous online form.
Seek the support of those you consider your community
Reach out to groups or services you feel connected with, or that you think will best understand the distress you are feeling after what has happened. It could be a cultural or faith group, a group that relates to your sexual identity or orientation, a service that assists those with health or disability conditions, or that supports senior members of our community. Your Victim Support Worker can help you connect with those who might best respond to your situation. (Please call us 24/7 on 0800 842 846 to be connected with a Support Worker). Or you can use this national directory for contacts in your community.
If what happened is attracting media attention
See our helpful guidelines here.
Make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission
The Human Rights Commission offers a free, informal enquiries and complaints service to deal with unlawful discrimination and racial and sexual harassment issues.
If you think you have faced discrimination due to hate crimes or incidents, you can make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission. They can help with advice and information and, if necessary, mediating your complaint. See more about their service and help here.
If you witness a hate crime or incident
It can be very distressing to witness such an event, especially if you know the person/people being targeted. In the moment it can be difficult to know what to do, and possibly dangerous for you also.
- Call 111 immediately if someone is in danger of being harmed.
- Support the victim as best you can. Make sure they’re safe and kept away from the perpetrator/s if possible. Let them know you are with them and they’re not alone. Keep calm and avoid aggravating the perpetrator/s further.
- Alert the nearest available authority or responsible person – such as a bus driver, security guard, or store manager.
- Record a video or audio of the incident if possible.
- Write down details of the time, location and anything about the event you haven’t been able to record. Give the victim your contact details, in case a statement from you could help an investigation.
- You don’t have to report what happened to the police, but it can help police prevent future similar hate-based attacks. Report a hate crime or incident by phoning the non-emergency number 105. Or you can use this 105 online form .
- As a witness, it can be helpful to get some support and talk to someone about what you have seen and heard. See Coping with Reactions and How Victim Support Can Help below.
If you see offensive online content promoting hate
- Report it by phoning the non-emergency number 105. Or you can use this 105 online form .
- You can also notify Netsafe and the New Zealand Human Rights Commission about it.
- Find out more about keeping safe online here.
Keeping yourself safe
See our tips for personal and community safety here.
Being a victim of any form of hate crime feels very personal. It can be very frightening and traumatic being targeted because of who you are, or who the perpetrator thinks you are.
Everyone is different and will react in their own way. Many victims experience a wide range of strong reactions and, whatever it is that you are feeling, you have a right to feel like that. There may also be physical injuries that need medical help and time to heal.
You may be surprised at how emotional you feel, and how intense your emotions are for a time. Common emotional reactions include shock, disbelief, denial, fear, helplessness, resentment, frustration, increased worry and anxiety, self-blame (if only I had or hadn’t…), and sadness. Some people feel embarrassment and humiliation, due to what the perpetrator said or did. Anger is an especially common response to being mocked, attacked, or treated unfairly because it is never right or lawful for anyone to be to harmfully targeted because of their identity. Angry feelings can feel unpredictable and at times may be explosive, or they can be constantly simmering in the background. Experiencing any ongoing strong emotions can be exhausting.
Naturally, many victims of hate crime report feeling more vulnerable and unsafe than before. You may be worried that you (or others you care about) might face such a situation again. The increased anxiety can mean that you lose confidence in doing things you previously enjoyed and felt safe doing. You may start to make choices that can help you avoid being a victim in the future, as much as possible.
Common physical reactions include having difficulty sleeping or appetite changes. Other body symptoms can include being shaky, tight chest, a racing heart, tearfulness, difficulty breathing, body aches, nausea, upset stomach, or headaches. Existing health conditions may get worse because of the stress.
You may find yourself preoccupied by what happened. You may find it more difficult to concentrate on things or remember things. There may be disturbing memories, nightmares, or flashbacks, as if it were happening again. Victims will often try hard to avoid anything that brings back such bad memories.
These kinds of reactions are all normal, but they might affect you more, and for longer, than you expect. See some tips below for coping with them.
Looking after yourself is very important
Encourage others who have been affected to do the same. Eat healthy food. Drink enough water. Keep up routines and get good rest and sleep, as best you can. Do some simple exercise. Take some slow, deep breaths. Spend time with people you can relax with, or with a pet. Spend time in nature. If you find keeping busy helps, find useful tasks to do. Think about what positive things have helped you before in stressful times and do those. See a doctor if you’re unwell, extremely anxious, or are having difficulty sleeping. Draw on any cultural or spiritual beliefs you may have. Reach out for support from trusted family, whānau, and friends. Accept caring offers from others if that would help.
A flashback feels as though you’re back in the middle of your traumatic experience or reliving some aspect of it. This can be in vivid detail and during a flashback it can be difficult and confusing to connect back to the present and to what is real. To better understand flashbacks and ways to manage them, download a copy of our information sheet Dealing with Flashbacks.
Talk about what happened
When you’re ready, talk to someone you trust about what happened, such as a trusted family or whānau member, a close friend, your doctor, a counsellor, a psychologist, a respected elder, rangatira, or a Victim Support Worker. If any aspects of your story are particularly disturbing, speak to a professional. Talking honestly about how things are can help release the stress and emotional tension inside.
More tips for coping with your reactions
To understand more about trauma and grief, and to learn ways to manage your reactions see our information sheets below.
Your reactions are normal responses to a traumatic, frightening event
Even though it may not feel like it now, they will gradually lessen in the weeks and months to come. If they don’t lessen or they get worse and disrupt your daily life and work, it is best to seek the help of a professional who has experience supporting people after trauma. Some people may, develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you have concerns, see your doctor, a counsellor, a psychologist, or ask your Support Worker about help that is available to you.
If your reactions trouble you
- Visit your doctor. They can do a health check and support you with any ongoing issues, such as sleeplessness, anxiety, flashbacks, or depression.
- Talk with a counsellor or psychologist. They can help you work through your reactions and the consequences the crime has had.
- Find a doctor, counsellor, or psychologist here
Supporting children and young people affected
If a child or young person has been affected by hate crime, or its consequences, they are also likely to find their reactions difficult to cope with. They will probably need ongoing attention, reassurance, and support. Reassure them that it’s normal to have strong thoughts and feelings after such a terrible event. Talk about helpful ways to manage them - taking some slow, deep breaths if they’re getting anxious, crying if they want to, or talking with someone they trust when they’re really sad.
For information for parents and caregivers on helping children and young people see our information sheet Supporting your child or young person after a crime or traumatic event.
Use books for children about dealing with difficult times. Contact Skylight on 0800 299 100 for available children’s books after a traumatic event or ask your local library – e.g. A Terrible Thing Happened (Margaret Holmes), or Something Has Happened or When Tough Stuff Happens, both by Skylight.
We are here for you 24/7. Our Support Workers are available to support you personally, or as a family or whānau, for as long as you need us. Please call us 24/7 on 0800 842 846 to be connected with a Support Worker.
Our support is completely free and confidential, and available throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.
What we can offer
Our Support Workers can provide you with:
- someone to listen, talk with, and support you (and your family and whānau) to cope with this traumatic experience and its consequences
- help to understand your rights and make informed choices
- information and help to answer any questions
- help to access local support services and counselling to suit your situation
- someone to assist and support you at court trials, hearings, and dealing with police and other government agencies (if a criminal charge is laid)
- help to prepare Victim Impact Statements and attend family group or restorative justice conferences (if a criminal charge is laid)
- financial assistance for victims of serious crime (if a criminal charge is laid).
We are committed to providing quality support to strengthen the mana and well-being of all those affected by hate crimes or hate incidents.
If English is your second language
If you require support in your first language, Victim Support can use Ezispeak to connect with an interpreter over the phone. Call us on 0800 842 846 and let us know. We will try to match you to a Support Worker who speaks your language.