A housing worker who suffered racist taunts via social media is urging all victims of hate crime to come forward.
According to Maria Smith, 47, from Conwy, it’s vitally important that people don’t suffer in silence but report the abuse to the police.
Maria enthusiastically supports the Hate Crime Awareness Week launched by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones.
People are singled out for abuse because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, disability, body shape, age or a host of other personal characteristics
Mr Jones wants to throw a spotlight on the issue which causes untold misery to victims.
The plea came as it was revealed here has been a 27 per increase in the number of reports of hate crimes in North Wales over the past 12 months.
The number of cases reported to North Wales Police went up from 358 to 455, with incidents involving race and religion featuring prominently.
One of the main reasons for the increase, according to Mr Jones, is that people now have more confidence their plight will be taken seriously but he wants even more victims to contact the police or the Victim Help Centre in St Asaph.
It was a sentiment echoed by Maria Smith who spoke about the impact of receiving a racially abusive message from someone she barely knew, in a video funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner who wants to get the anti-hate crime message out.
Maria says she felt upset at the time but has now come out the other side feeling stronger.
She said “I am mixed-race and suffered some racism when I was younger. That’s why it came as a real shock when I received a message from a woman I barely know filled with vile and offensive racist abuse.”
“I didn’t know why she targeted me but I was devastated and incredibly upset. I went to a friend who supported me to go to the police.”
“The police were very supportive and dealt with the matter sensitively. I also received help from Victim Support which was very valuable and I appreciate their service. I felt strong enough to report this crime and didn’t hesitate to do so. Any crime is bad enough but when there is a hate element then it’s so much worse, and I’d encourage any victim of hate crime to come forward and seek help. Don’t suffer alone.”
Among the other people who took part in the video was transgender PCSO Connor Freel, 24, who is based in Mold, and told how he suffered a string of vile taunts when he was younger.
The commissioner said: “North Wales Police takes hate crimes very seriously and anyone who wants to report a crime but doesn’t want to go to the police can always turn to the Victim Health Centre at St Asaph.
“I’m pleased some hate crime victims have had the strength to come forward and tell their stories. They have done so in the hope it will encourage other victims to speak out and not to suffer in silence.
“North Wales Police will always investigate complaints sensitively and I’m determined that we will see offenders dealt with. We must stamp it out as there are countless victims suffering in silence.”
Rich Ward is a hate crime victim support officer based in the North Wales Police’s divisional HQ in St Asaph.
He said: “We have had hate crimes that go from attempted murder to verbal abuse – and social media is a growing issue. It can lead to all sorts of issues such as mental health problems, social isolation, and depression and even people who simply withdraw from society.
“We want people to report hate crimes and tell us what has happened. Please don’t suffer in silence, contact the police or the Victim Support Unit and seek help. And if you witness hate crime please be prepared to report it and tell us what you have seen.
“Hate crime is ruining and devastating lives. It’s something we, as a society, need to stop. Victims need to know that they can and will be supported.”
To find out more about the North Wales Victim Support Centre please visit www.victimhelpcentrenorthwales.org.uk