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UNITED Berlin Conference Report – Day 3

Day 3 focused on sharing best practices in supporting victims of hate crimes.

VICTIM SUPPORT – EXAMPLE FROM BERLIN

In the first plenary session of the day, Johanna Mohrfeld from KOP – Campaign for victims of racist police violence (Berlin) gave an overview of the importance of self-organised activism against racist police proceedings and racial profiling in Germany. “Institutional racism and racist stereotypes lead to failure in proceedings by the law enforcement agencies.” The Campaign for victims of racist police violence documents and monitors incidents and also takes action to advocate for the people affected by racists police violence. She highlighted the importance of advocating and networking since the victim’s accounts are often not taken up by the media.

SHARING GOOD PRACTICESIMG_3730

Parallel workshops shared projects and approaches that offered insightful ideas and practical tools to improve their activities.

An inspiring project on victim support in rural areas was presented in one of the workshops.The workshop focused around the issue that in rural areas people often distrust the police and that there is a lack of awareness around the issue of hate violence. The participants than shared best practice approaches to tackle this issue, e.g. distributing phone numbers to call in case of racism and offering trainings to raise awareness within the law enforcement agencies. It was pointed out that numbers are misleading: the number of hate crimes seems small in rural areas, but proportionately minorities are more likely to become victims of bias-motivated violence in the countryside than in big cities. Results of the presented project are positive: in the last few years, people and police became more aware of hate violence and more cases are being reported.

The workshop on remembering fatalities of hate crimes explored individual cases of hate crimes. In individual cases, the consequences for relatives are: loss of a loved one, financial costs, possible trauma, possible stigmatization. However, a connection to social conditions needs to be established. A theming of inhuman attitudes which should be classified socially is needed. A murder of a single person is at the same time a collective moment in which a similar group is addressed (prejudice and enemity against specific groups). Motives for hate crimes can include racism, social Darwinism and homophobia.

Another working group talked about stereotypes on LGBT* people and summarised different ways of supporting LGBT* people who are affected by hate crime. The discussion highlighted some key factors to be aware of when working with LGBT* people: no judgement, be aware of how you react when people report a hate crime, be aware of secondary victimisation, “it’s not about you” – remembering this is about the person affected, don´t question their experience, keep intersectionality in mind, don’t push people and respect boundaries, be aware of the words you are using, be visible – if possible – so people know they can contact you, connect with other support services and networks, put working into building trustful relationship, take your responsibility serious and respect confidentiality.

The workshop on self-care for supporters was of great importance to anyone working in a difficult area, with vulnerable people, and with people who have been through any kind of trauma. The danger when working with such people on top of having quite a heavy workload is that one can easily burn out and become emotionally exhausted. Vicarious trauma is a real experience for many people working in the area. When this happens, it is not only discomforting and damaging for you, but also for the people who you are trying to help. A weak you cannot be strong for other people. In view of this, it is very important to meet one’s own need of rest and a good work-life balance. Take time to relax and care for yourself so that you can remain always strong for the people you are trying to help.

MEETING LOCAL REALITY

The afternoon was spent in the city of Berlin, where participants had the opportunity to visit historical and topic-related sites in Berlin through organised tours. Participants visited the “Topographie of Terror” documentation centre, took an Antifascist Walking Tour organised by the Association of Persecutes of the Nazi Regime /  Federation of Antifascists (VVN/BDA), and had a meeting with Killian Behrens from the Monitor of the parliamentary commission of enquiry of the far-right terror group NSU.