Sunday, February 15, 2015

Chapel Hill Shooter and Hate Crimes: How to respond if you're a victim

I've been anxious and unsettled since the news of the Chapel Hill shooting involving three Muslim young adults broke over the weekend. It unnerved me and hit too close to home as a woman and a Muslim. Two of the victims, Yusor Abu-Salah, 21, and Razan Abu-Salah, 19, were women targeted because of their religion since they ostensibly wore the traditional head covering. The third victim was a male, Deah Barakat, 23, and also a Muslim. While their murders were initially introduced as an argument over a parking space, later reports revealed an angry and troubled shooter who had issues with religion and the religious.

This incident was later followed by reports of a burned Mosque in Austin and a father who was beaten to the pulp while grocery shopping in Dearborn, Michigan, in front of his young children. Similar to many other crimes and harassments of the same magnitude, it was a while before anyone responded to any of these cases. Whether we are targeted for our gender, race or religion, the crimes in each case is brutal and frightening. A 2013 report released by the FBI found that a majority of hate crimes reported were due to a victim's race, sexual orientation, ethnicity or religion. While we can't always predict who is going to erupt and react as viciously as the Chapel Hill victims' shooter did, we can take the following steps to hold the criminals accountable after a crime:

1. If you're a victim of a crime, or a witness to one, first step is to try and contact the local police. Write down as much of the details of the crime and the attackers as possible. Include what you remember of the attacker, such as height, weight, clothing, or any other identifying details that will help police catch the attacker.

2. Get immediate medical help.  Medical staff will know what evidence to collect to help identify the attackers. If you're a witness, help the victim by calling an ambulance and wait until they arrive.

3. File a police report and make sure the police assign you a case number. If a report is not filed on the scene, go to your nearest police station as soon as you can and file one. Be sure the police checks the "hate/bias motivation" or "hate crime incident" on the report. Ask for a personal copy and keep it in a safe place for future reference.

4. File a report with the FBI. To find a local office, visit or file one electronically at

5. Contact your local state and local agencies and report the crime

6. Get support from family members, respective religious institutions, and friends. Allow them to help you through the daunting process of identifying the attackers and bringing them to justice.

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