Disability hate crime victim’s campaign plea

Rochelle Dawes, of York Road, is a trustee of SYCIL and has been a victim of hate crime. Picture: Andrew Roe
Rochelle Dawes, of York Road, is a trustee of SYCIL and has been a victim of hate crime. Picture: Andrew Roe

A woman subjected to months of abuse because of her disability, is calling on people to report hate crimes.

Rochelle Dawes, says she was made to feel ashamed and isolated after being harassed and taunted by bullies for over seven months for having cerebral palsy.

The 25 year-old, who is in a wheelchair, says a group of teens at the sixth form college Rochelle attended verbally abused her three to four times a week calling her names such as ‘retard’ or ‘mong’ and on one occasion even trapped her in a corridor. Now Rochelle, of York Road, Woodlands, is backing a new campaign which urges people to report hate crime.

She said: “They made me feel bad and ashamed of who I am. I began to think it was my fault.

“You lose perspective during the situation when it’s happening to you.

“I didn’t want to retaliate, so I tried to avoid them instead. What happened made me less sociable, and feel less like interacting with people.”

The South Yorkshire Centre for Inclusive Living has launched its Call Time on Hate Crime initiative after it received a grant of £4,985 seized from convicts under the Proceeds of Crime Act. The money was dished out by South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Shaun Wright. The campaign aims to create awareness of hate crimes directed towards people with disabilities, and to provide a safe environment for people to report them.

Rochelle, who is a SYCIL trustee added: “I think people know racist hate crimes are wrong, but are not as aware when it comes to hate crimes against people with disabilities.

“A lot of people didn’t react when they saw it happening to me. The only way to stop hate crimes, of all kinds, happening is to report them. Friends and families can report it too.”

SYCIL will work with schools and community groups across the borough in partnership police, St Leger Homes and Doncaster Council.

Hate crimes are defined as any criminal offence against a person or property that is motivated by an offender’s hatred of race, colour, ethnicity, religion or belief, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability or age.

Karen Smith, joint chief executive of SYCIL, based on the M and M Business Park in Doncaster Road, Kirk Sandall, added:

“We work hard to ensure that disabled people are supported and that their voice is heard.

“We know anecdotally that hate crime towards disabled people is so often under-reported.”

Visit www.doncaster.gov.uk/sections/communityandliving/communitysafety/whatyoucando/Reporting_Hate_Crime.aspx for more .