Changing perceptions

The fourth episode of the YDRF podcast centres the experiences of Astrid. Olivia and Astrid discuss the matter of perception in disability hate crime, the complex relationship between disability hate and the pandemic, and the value of disabled people sharing their experiences when they are ready to do so. 

“If a hate crime has been perpetrated, it has been perpetrated,” Astrid states. While such a statement may seem fairly simple, what Astrid is calling attention to in saying this is the problem with perception.

Disability hate crime is defined by the CPS as:

any incident/crime which is perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by hostility or prejudice, based on a person’s disability or perceived disability.

This definition is just as complicated as its implications. As Astrid reminds us, focusing on the perception of an action can take away from the reality of the situation. In her own words, she states:

“Sometimes using words in which the meaning of them is open to interpretation, or perception and judgement can leave a lot of room – it can be inclusive, but conversely, it can be exclusive as well… When there is a breadth of interpretation of a word, it’s often used to exclude people rather than bring people in.”

This discussion of the nature and definition of a hate crime, also brings attention to what is called the intersectionality of identity. Intersectionality is a term used to describe how our identities are actually made up of things about us that overlap – for example, being a woman and Black, disabled, gay and/or living in poverty. 

Although we focus in our podcasts on hate crimes and incidents that have been committed against disabled people in particular, Astrid reminds us that at times, disabled identities may not be separated from the other identities we hold – in Astrid’s case, being a woman. 

In her reflections on the ‘personal responsibility narrative’ – which explicitly or implicitly places the blame on the victim instead of the perpetrator – Astrid sees how these ideas affect her both as a woman and as a disabled person. She suggests that instead of asking the persons perpetrated upon what they could have done differently, we should be talking about perpetrators and their behaviour, and asking ourselves what sorts of conversations we need to have to make a change. 

“I would hate for there to be another generation of women to have guilt and shame because of what someone else did to them. It makes me sad that that might continue.”

The matter of perception is also brought up in Olivia and Astrid’s discussion of how the pandemic has affected disability hate crime. From a local perspective, Astrid mentions that throughout the pandemic, she has seen people beginning to care about others more, contributing to what she calls a wider ‘generosity of spirit.’ However, she also found that instances of reported hate crime had actually gone up – some because of people spending more time online and being more susceptible to misinformation or ‘attacks’.

Despite this, Astrid remains hopeful about the potentially positive impacts of the pandemic. She reflects,

 “I think this generosity of spirit has been innate within people – perhaps for some people who maybe didn’t have an experience of being disabled – whether mentally or physically – perhaps the pandemic was a new experience of anxiety or fear… maybe people started to understand some of this language and what others were feeling and realising the value of this connection.”

 Finally, Astrid shares how over time, she has seen the value in talking about her experiences and how liberating it has been; not only therapeutically for herself, but also by potentially encouraging others to talk to others about their experiences too. 

“But you have to allow people time to heal and to be ready to share these experiences,” she advises us. “You can’t expect people to have free-flowing dialogue about things that are extremely traumatic for them. When that person is ready, talking about it can be of immense help.”

Astrid has reminded us of the value of what exactly it is we are doing. And she has done so exceptionally well – there is immense value in opening up and sharing our experiences while inviting others to listen and share as well. 

 We are incredibly grateful to Astrid for the reflections and insights she has shared with us. The vulnerability and openness that is brought to these conversations do not go unnoticed. And thank you, for reading and listening as well. 

Astrid contributed to Homeless Bound, a project which brought together 20 people with direct experience of homelessness to collaboratively create content for a book uncovering how public misconceptions of homelessness continue to shape public attitudes.

If you or anyone you know has been targeted with disability hate, please know that there are several resources available to you.

  • For information about reporting or support following an incident, please visit our disability hate webpage.
  • York Ending Stigma aims to get people share experiences of mental health to help end mental health stigma and discrimination in York.

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