It was October 6, 1998 when he was lured from the bar that cold, fateful night. His skull was smashed with a pistol butt as he was lashed to a fence, left for dead in near freezing temperatures. Nearly eighteen hours later he was found by passersby and taken to a hospital where he remained in a coma for several days until slowly slipping away. At his funeral, picketers carried signs saying, "God Hates Fags" and "Fags Deserve to Die."
Matthew Sheppard is one of the thousands of victims who have suffered from the form of violence known as hate crimes.
Someone commits a hate crime every hour. In the most recent data collection, 2014, a reported 17, 876 hate crimes were committed. This is a national crisis that we cannot allow to continue.
Today we will discuss the problems associated with this horrendous crime, causes for it, and finally steps we can take to prevent it.
The current laws in effect regarding hate crimes are limited. Additionally, victims who experience a hate crime suffer much more traumatically than victims of other crimes do. Hate Crimes not only affect the individual, but their entire community as well.
According to religioustolerance.org, last updated November 2, 2014, "The current law does not protect three groups that are particularly vulnerable to physical attack: women, the disabled, and homosexuals."
In New Jersey, one man with a disability, Eric age 24, was bound to a chair while several people allegedly burned him with cigarettes, choked and beat him and abandoned him in a forest. He was forced to drink urine and was warned that if he told police about the incident, his parents' home would be burned down.
While it is extremely disturbing that these groups are not protected, even the groups who are, cannot escape the pain and suffering caused by these horrendous acts.
In an excerpt from Hate Crimes Are a Serious Problem by Karen McGill Lawson and Wade Henderson found in the book Hate Groups: Opposing Viewpoints, the authors state, "Because the intention is to hurt, maim, or kill, hate-motivated crimes are five times as likely as other crimes to involve assault. And these assaults are twice as likely as other assaults to cause injury and to result in hospitalization." According to FightForYourRights.nitv.com, accessed June 10, 2014, the individual victim of a hate crime is more likely to be severely injured ...
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...an see, through awareness, tolerance and support of current legislation, there are a number of ways to get involved.
The last figures of studies show a reported 17, 876 hate crimes. While these statistics are alarming, they are only a numerical representation and cannot ever convey the fear, sorrow, and torment suffered by the human beings and communities against whom the crimes were committed.
This is a serious issue that effects us all. Living in the most diverse society on earth makes each of us members of one or another minority, either racial, religious, ethnic, cultural, national origin, sexual. We are all vulnerable to this type of attack
Today we have looked at the problem known as hate crimes and the varied causes which keep it in existence. We have also discussed some solutions to this act of hate.
Daily throughout the world people like Matthew Shepard are tortured, brutalized and murdered simply because of their beliefs, their race, their physical state or their sexuality. Equally guilty as the people who commit these crimes are those who remain silent. It is up to each of us to take a stand before you or someone you know falls victim to one of these crimes.
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