A disability campaigner has told police forces they should “do more” to combat a rise in hate crimes targeting people with disfigurements.
It comes after “sobering” research shows 33% of people with visible differences or disfigurements said they had experienced a hate crime – compared with 28% in 2019.
The Changing Faces survey also suggests 49% have endured hostile behaviour such as staring, comments and intimidation – up from 34% in 2019 and 43% in 2021.
Meanwhile, 23% said they did not report their hate crime for fears they would not be taken seriously, while 12% believed that hate crimes are “just part of life with a visible difference”.
Changing Faces chief Heather Blake said the survey has highlighted the “shocking prejudice” faced by people with visible differences.
Actor, presenter and campaigner Adam Pearson has urged police forces to “do more”, saying: “Hate crimes, whoever they target, are despicable and not to be tolerated.
“Seeing the steady increases in those with a visible difference or disfigurement experiencing hate crimes is frightening. We can’t wait for a tragedy to happen before action is taken.
“Police forces across the UK need to do more to encourage people with visible differences to report what’s happening to them and reassure them that they will be taken seriously.”
Some respondents shared other experiences, which included threats of violence in the street and death threats online.
Isobel Cameron, who was born with a cleft lip and palate, said she had rocks thrown at her home when she was younger, and still finds it difficult to leave her house.
She said: “This abuse made it difficult for me to go out in public. I was very aware of the stares I received from people, and I was always waiting to see if they would go further.
“Sometimes they did. At 15 years old, a grown woman was walking in front of me and my friend, and she kept turning around to look at me. At first my friend didn’t seem to notice, but then the woman started to shout abuse at me, calling me ‘fish face’.”
Ms Blake added: “We know that behind each of these statistics is a person who is directly impacted by the shocking prejudice, and in some instances criminal actions, of others.
“No one should be a target for abuse or discrimination because of how they look.
“First and foremost, we want anyone with a visible difference or disfigurement to know that we are here for them. This isn’t something you should just have to put up with. Let’s call it what it is, it’s hate, and it’s wrong.”