Open Access Mini Review

Historical Trauma, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder And ‘’Hate Crime Victims: A Review

Kim McGuire*

University of Central Lancashire, UK.

Corresponding Author

Received Date: April 11, 2022;  Published Date: June 13, 2022


This mini review of literature focuses on intergenerational, community and historical traumas of victims of ‘hate crime’. By focusing upon these aspects, the lived experience and psychological harm of such victimization is illuminated. Many query why certain characteristics are ‘protected’ and offences demonstrating hostility to these are punished more severely. Reviewing research on the harm caused will help to answer these queries. The review will also highlight the need for more than informal methods of help for many of these victims.


A basic definition of ‘hate crime’ is any criminal offence carried out whilst demonstrating hostility towards, or being motivated by hostility towards, a protected characteristic. In England and Wales, the current five protected characteristics are race, religion, disability, transgender identity and sexual orientation. However, what this basic definition obscures is the significant harm that such offences can cause to victims. Below will discuss trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder, particularly experienced by victims of such offences. It will also highlight the need to consider such effects when considering treatment for individuals, whose ‘harm’ extends beyond the physical.

Harm and Trauma

As Craig-Henderson and Sloan state: When individuals are targeted because of their race or ethnicity they are likely to experience a host of negative emotions that are qualitatively distinct from those experienced following nonbiased criminal victimization [1].” Other research has highlighted that all victims of ‘hate crime’ experience qualitatively different negative emotions than victims of parallel crimes, (those conducted without the addition of hostility to the victim’s characteristic.) Research has investigated the harm caused by different offences, but not always focused upon ‘Hate crime’. Shapland and Hall, for example, considered the findings of the British Crime Surveys, now the Crime Survey for England and Wales, (CSEW) carried out between 1996 and 2002/2003 [2] and concluded that among victims of burglary, vehicle-related theft and any type of violent offence, there is little variation in adverse emotional reactions to the victimization, with the most common reaction being anger and shock.

However, this conclusion is not confirmed by victims of offences perceived to have a ‘bias’ element, even using the same source of data. Indeed, research in England and Wales, again using the large random samples of crime victims from data in the (CSEW, demonstrated that hate crime victims are more likely to report post-victimization psychological trauma — even when controlling for crime type [3-9]. Work by many academics for example, Paul Iganski confirmed the greater harms caused by such bias offences, justifying longer sentencing [10,11]. As Lawrence argues “The harms most claimed concern the experience of psychological and emotional trauma by victims following a hate crime [12,13] and also trauma vicariously experienced by those who share the same identity as the primary victim. Hence, the trauma can extend beyond the individual victim. Hence, there is a need for a greater recognition of the psychological harms, and the importance of recognizing intergenerational and community trauma.

The above is not to dispute that there may well be individual differences in response to ‘hate crime’ offences. Indeed, Iganski has subsequently written on the ‘… diversity of reactions between victims [14].’ However, Iganski’s focus on diversity is not to detract from potential harm but is used by him to argue that the sentencing of offenders fails to consider variation in the harm caused in individual cases. However, this review focuses not upon the legal consideration of ‘harm’ but upon the vast amount of literature highlighting trauma in a significant number of cases, historically, intergenerationally, and within a wider community. It is argued below that there is evidence that ‘hate crime’ victims display symptoms of post traumatic disorder in many cases. Indeed, even those without first-hand experience may display similar symptoms.


Despite the inevitable differences that can occur between victims of hate crime, as with victims of all crimes, there is sufficient evidence to suggest trauma and post-traumatic stress disorders are more common in victims of the former. Legal academic work has questioned the extent of harm only in the context of considering if an increase in sentencing for perpetrators is just, or in the public interest. However, this mini review has utilized a victim centered focus and highlights the need for scholars to be mindful of the effects upon not only individuals, but upon their families and communities.

Whilst there are some practical steps that can be taken to help victims of hate crimes, none will take place unless the extent of such harms is recognized. Krupnik argues that following the victimization experience, crime victims have both psychological, physical, and legal needs. One common response among victims is to turn to others for support. Krupnik feels that friends and family members can be especially helpful to victims by providing them with positive social support. Only when hate crime victims lack informal sources of support, mental health practitioners can play an especially important role [29].

However, as has been shown above, recognizing that posttraumatic stress disorder can occur following a ‘hate crime’, and the devastating effect this can have on an individual’s family relations, and interpersonal relations in a wider context, suggests that informal methods of support may be insufficient or inaccessible.


The authors would like to thank Dr. W. Christopher Risher for his insightful suggestions during the preparation of the manuscript.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.


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