Navigating the Impact of Hate Incidents and Hate Crimes on Clients and Direct Service Staff

Hate incidents and hate crimes can have a negative impact on newcomers’ sense of safety and well-being and can erode their feelings of belonging in their new community. This blog post aims to support direct service staff who may be working with clients impacted by hate incidents and hate crimes. It also provides resources for staff well-being and avenues of support.  

The IRC received competitive funding through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Grant #90RB0052 and Grant #90RB0053. The project is 100% financed by federal funds. The contents of this document are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. Nothing in this document is intended to constitute legal advice. For information about your rights and legal options, consult an attorney or other qualified legal professional. 

What are Hate Incidents and Hate Crimes?

Hate incidents and hate crimes occur when people take actions that are motivated by an intense dislike, negative beliefs, or irrational fear based on someone’s real or perceived religion, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, political affiliation, and/or age.  

Hate incidents are acts motivated by hate that are non-criminal in nature, such as hate speech, marches, and rallies by hate groups, and leaflets and flyers that promote hate.  

Hate crimes are criminal acts against a person, group, or property motivated by hate, such as harassment, vandalism, assault, murder, arson, or threats to commit such crimes.  

The number of hate incidents and hate crimes often rises before and after national elections and in response to global events, including war, conflict, and acts of terrorism. Hate incidents and hate crimes can target individuals or communities, including community or religious centers. People can directly experience hate incidents or hate crimes, witness them, or become aware of them through the media.  

Most states and U.S. territories have laws against hate crimes. This means that in addition to regular criminal penalties, there may be further penalties if a crime is found to be motivated by hate. However, hate crime laws vary by jurisdiction.
Regardless of local laws, hate crimes can always be reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which works with state, local, tribal, and federal law enforcement officers to investigate and track hate crimes. Knowing patterns and prevalence of hate crimes also helps the FBI raise awareness and prevent hate crimes through public awareness campaigns, law enforcement training, and partnerships with community groups.

Supporting Clients

In your role as a case manager or other service provider, you are often the primary contact for recently arrived newcomers who are seeking help understanding their rights, connecting to services and support, and navigating difficult situations. Clients may disclose to you that they have directly experienced, have witnessed, or fear hate incidents and hate crimes. You may also become aware of increased hate incidents and hate crimes in a client’s community. Below are practical steps that you and your agency can take to support clients and help them stay safe during these challenging times. 

  1. Prepare

Your agency should have a safety and security plan specific to your working environment, and staff should be trained in this plan at onboarding and annually. The plan should be revisited and staff should be re-trained in response to specific hate crimes and hate incidents. 

Agencies should also consider taking the following actions: 

  • Map local resources like hotlines, local advocacy groups, and support services, including: 
    • FBI Hate Crimes at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324), or submit a tip to 
    • Bias or hate resource hotlines: Many states have hotlines that provide supportive listening and resources.
    • Victims Connect Resource Center at 855-484-2846 or 
    • State and local civil rights agencies and coalitions that advocate against hate crimes 
    • Local immigration attorneys and legal advocacy groups that can provide advice and support
    • Mental health and psychosocial support resources that provide assistance ranging from specialized services to social connection and community support, catering to the diverse needs of individuals seeking help. 


  • Have/offer linguistically accessible materials for clients that explain their rights in the U.S., what they can do if they feel their rights have been violated, and how to report a crime.  


  • Join community efforts to prevent and respond to increased hate incidents and hate crimes. For example, have a designated point person attend community meetings or liaise with law enforcement as part of a coordinated community response. 



  1. Respond

If a client reports experiencing or witnessing a hate incident or hate crime, you should:  


  • Ensure the client is safe. Encourage the client to: 
    • Immediately leave any area that is unsafe  
    • Call 9-1-1 as needed 
    • Seek medical attention if necessary 


  • Practice empathic communication. Witnessing or being the victim of acts motivated by hate can be deeply distressing. People may feel and need to express anger, helplessness, fear, and other emotions. Allow clients to express themselves while empathetically listening and providing validating responses such as, “I am so sorry that happened,” and “That sounds scary.”  


  • Be client-centered. Ask clients what would help them most, and then seek to meet that need when possible and appropriate. Some helpful questions are, “What would be most helpful to you right now?”; “What sort of information do you need?”; and “Is there anything that can help you feel safe right now?”  


  • Suggest documentation. Explain to clients that it may be helpful to specifically document what happened, as this information can be useful when reporting to law enforcement, sharing with advocacy organizations, or seeking support. You can offer to assist clients in recording details, especially clients with low literacy. Details should ideally include date, time, location, description of the perpetrators, what happened, and what was said (using quotes where possible). You can also refer to this resource for more information on how to document details for a report. 


  • Respect client wishes. Clients may have concerns about reporting or contacting local law enforcement. Provide clients with information so that they are empowered to make the best decision for themselves. Do not pressure clients to report crimes unless there is a reasonable suspicion of abuse of a child or an adult who is unable to make decisions independently due to a disability. In those cases, follow your state’s mandatory reporting laws. 


  • Provide information. People process distressing events over time and in different ways. Providing handouts, websites, and video or audio resources can allow clients to absorb and think through information at their own pace.  


  • Help with navigating the reporting process. If a client chooses to report a hate crime, including by contacting local law enforcement, help the client know where and how to report, and be a supportive presence when they report it. 


  • Provide psychoeducation. Use the tools you received during your training to inform clients that people often experience a range of emotions or reactions to hate incidents and hate crimes, such as: 
    • Anger, fear, helplessness, or other intense emotions 
    • Physical symptoms such as trouble sleeping, headaches, and fatigue 
    • Difficulty returning to regular routines and feeling like yourself again 
    • Worry about family, friends, and community members 
    • Loss of identity or detachment from the identity being targeted (not expressing identity through clothing or personal relationships, avoiding places of worship or social settings). 
    • Anxiety, depression, and/or thoughts of self-harm 


  • Encourage clients to use coping skills and seek support from family, friends, and community groups. For example, clients can: 
    • Utilize personal coping skills that help distract from and disrupt anxious thoughts, or activities and environments that provide a sense of calm and safety 
    • Limit media and social media exposure to violence or other distressing content 
    • Combat feelings of helplessness by supporting others and reaching out to community groups and coalitions (see Resources section below) 
  • Document the incident. Record the client’s disclosure of the incident either through notes in the client’s file or through an incident form, per your agency’s standard process. If your agency does not have a standard process in place, this mandatory reporting guide offers guidance on how to make a report. It is also recommended that you report such incidents to your State Refugee Coordinator for additional support and/or resources. 


  1. Reflect

Following preparation and response, it is important to reflect on the situation. Hate incidents and hate crimes can be disturbing and distressing, even if you only hear about them. They may be even more distressing for providers who are from the particular groups and communities being targeted. To best support staff in remaining resilient, agencies and supervisors should consider the following: 

  • Debrief with staff. Hate incidents and hate crimes are frightening and can be even more traumatic when they impact a whole community. Scheduling time with staff to discuss community matters and how to build resilience can help them find solace amid distress. Moreover, staff who support clients may need additional supervision and support so they can discuss how these events have impacted them personally. 
  • Encourage self-care. This may be through additional time off, increased supervision time, or referral to a counselor or the agency’s Employee Assistance Plan. 
  • Revisit preparedness policies. Depending on the type and severity of the incident, agencies may want to revisit their preparedness response, including any safety and security policies. 

Reporting hate crimes to local law enforcement: 

  • Dial 9-1-1 or call your local police station
  • Law enforcement may contact clients for more information as they investigate
  • Clients should state their preferred language for interpretation services

Consider reporting the crime to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for monitoring:

  • Online: Report a hate crime to the FBI at 
  • By phone: Call the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324) 

Additional Resources

Staying Safe Against Hate is a client-facing handout from CARRE with information on what hate crimes and hate incidents are, how to remain safe, and reporting options. It is available in Arabic, Dari, French, Pashto, Spanish, Congolese Swahili, and Somali. 


Supporting Children and Youth Affected by Hate Incidents and Hate Crimes is CARRE’s client-centered handout for parents who may have a child impacted by a hate incident or hate crime. It is available in Arabic, Dari, French, Pashto, Spanish, Congolese Swahili, and Somali. 


Combat Hate Crimes Toolkits 

NAPABA and the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) have collaborated on a hate crime/incident toolkit that provides basic and critical information for victims, community-based organizations, and community leaders. It is translated into 25 languages. 


What to Do If You’ve Been the Victim of a Hate Crime is a resource page from the Human Rights Campaign with helpful reporting tips for clients who may have been the victim of an LGBTQ+ hate crime. 


U.S. Department of Justice – Report a Hate Crime  

This website includes recommended steps for reporting a hate crime and links to reporting methods. It is available in multiple languages. 


U.S. Department of Justice – Community Relations Service (CRS) 

CRS serves as “America’s Peacemaker” by facilitating understanding and improving communication in communities facing conflict and by developing communities’ ability to independently prevent and resolve future conflicts. CRS offers the following resources: 

Working with Muslim, Arab, Sikh, South Asian and Hindu Communities, Bias and Hate Crimes Forums, Protecting Places of Worship Forums, Engaging and Partnering with Sikh Americans Training, Engaging and Partnering with Muslim Americans Training, Presenting and Responding to Bias and Hate Incidents in K-12 Educational Settings, School Spirit Program, Dialogue on Race, Helping Communities Resolve Conflicts Through Mediation, Toolkit: Educational Organizations (, Preventing and Responding to Bias and Hate Incidents Against Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Communities 


Oregon Department of Justice – Community Bias Response Toolkit 

A collection of resources applicable to communities in all states regarding reporting, safety, and community organizing. Several quick reference guides are available in Spanish, Dari, Pashto, Russian, and Ukrainian.    


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