Crime Victims Center shares insight at the Lakeview library on hate crimes in the U.S.

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To raise awareness about hate crimes, the Crime Victims Center held a public forum at the Lakeview Public Library last Saturday. During the forum, CVC advocate Diana Shuffler shared insight into the psyche of hate crime victims and perpetrators, and ways for victims to seek help.

“Victims of any crime, in general, experience significant trauma that affects them emotionally, physically and every other part of their lives,” Shuffler said. “There’s many services that are available to them to help them heal . . . but unfortunately, they’re not aware of the services that are out there.”

Shuffler said that the CVC could direct victims to local services on its 24-hour hate crime hotline, (631) 626-3156.

The CVC, a nonprofit organization serving all of Long Island, defines a hate crime as any violation of the law committed against individuals or property based on a belief or perception arising from their race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, age, disability or sexual orientation.

Shuffler added that whenever a hate crime occurs, it not only affects the victims, but also the community as a whole. “Their families and friends suffer as well,” she said. “Victims fear for their safety, and the safety of their families. One of the biggest feelings that victims of hate crimes experience is that they lose faith in the criminal justice system because, oftentimes, nothing changes.”

The CVC provides service referrals for support and assistance to victims of hate crime for people of all ages. The center regularly visits local libraries, schools, churches and public venues to share insight into how to prevent such crimes.

A prejudiced mindset, Shuffler said, is one of the main contributors to hate crimes. “It’s not something that you’re born with; it’s something that you learn as [you] grow old,” she said. “Hate is carefully taught.”

“It’s just really sad that this keeps going on and on, and it just keeps being perpetuated,” said Jacinta Bowman, the Lakeview library’s senior clerk.

The last reported hate crime in Lakeview occurred in 2009, when three men assaulted two others because one of the victims was dressed in women’s clothing. But Bowman thought that residents should still be aware of the issue.

Mary Hilery, from the Bronx — a friend of Bowman’s — said she didn’t know that organizations such as the CVC existed. “I do think that these types of behaviors are taught,” she said, “but when there’s an accountability aspect to it, people may start to think differently.”

A community’s strength, Shuffler explained, comes from residents’ understanding that everyone is different, and that they should respect their differences.

“If we’re teaching our kids to love each other, then they will teach their kids to love each other and the chain will just continue.” she said.

For more information, visit the Crime Victims Center’s website.

Have an opinion on hate crimes in your community? Send your letter to the editor to ngrant@liherald.com.