This week is Learning Disability Week and campaigns are focusing on hate crime. Disability hate crime is rising, and people with learning disabilities can be particularly vulnerable.
One particular form of disability hate crime is known as Mate Crime, and particularly affects learning disabled people, and people with mental health problems. It is a phenomenon where people appear to befriend a disabled person but in fact soon begin to exploit, hurt or harm them. This can include sexual abuse, forced prostitution, financial exploitation, physical abuse, violence and even murder. Gemma Hayter was killed after being tortured by people she thought were her friends.
Our Voice Our Say, a website designed by people with a learning disability, have created some videos about mate crime. They encourage people to look at who is a true friend, and who is a false friend.
Mate crime is an appalling abuse of vulnerable people, and there is very little awareness of it. You can read some people’s stories of abuse here. Frequently, victims of mate crime do not recognise that their friends are fake and are taking advantage of them. Raising awareness of real friends and fake friends, and raising awareness of the existence of mate crime can help more people to spot the signs that somebody is being exploited.
If you have a learning disability, you can find an easy read booklet about mate crime here.
Similarly, if you know someone who is learning disabled, you can print out that booklet and go through it with them.
Mate crime is a form of hate crime and should never be tolerated. The more people who are aware of its existence, the harder it will be for abusers to pretend to befriend vulnerable women and men and take advantage of them.