Online abuse against people with disabilities increases by more than 50% during lockdown

Kerry Thompson was only 24 when she was diagnosed with a rare form of muscular dystrophy.

Now 42, lifestyle and disability blogger from Milton Keynes uses her online forums to raise awareness and campaign for the rights of people with disabilities.

But when she logs in, she says she faces horrific abuse at times.

“I was told I should have had an abortion. I was told that I am a burden on society, so die quickly,” Kerry explained.

She said that although she also receives “hundreds” of positive messages, she finds herself focusing on the negative messages, which can become “mentally exhausting”.

“You don’t have to. You know I’m human, I’m just like everyone else. The only difference is that I have a set of four wheels that makes me independent,” she said. added.

According to freedom of information data requested from 39 police forces in England and Wales by charities Leonard Cheshire and United Response, 9,200 hate disability crimes were reported to police in 2020-2021, both online and in person.

Of these, 44% were classified as “violent”, involving assault or possession of weapons, up 4.4% from the previous 12 months.

But with lockdowns forcing people to stay home for much of the year, online abuse has the largest increase seen with 981 cases, up 52% ​​from 2019. -2020.

However, charities suspect that the number of reports does not really reflect the scale of the incidents, as many people are reluctant to approach the police, fearing that they will not be taken seriously.

And with just 104 reported crimes referred to the Crown Prosecution Service or resulting in a charge in 2020-2021, they say it’s no wonder the number of repeat offenders has increased 88.5% from the previous year. last year.

A spokesperson for Leonard Cheshire and United Response said: “The stories we have heard suggest that many police officers do not have a good understanding of disability.

“We are therefore asking for a liaison officer specializing in disability in each police force. We want the government to also make it easier to report hate crimes related to disability. “

Lionel Idan, Chief Crown Prosecutor for London South and Head of Hate Crimes at the CPS, said: “Hate crimes against people with disabilities are truly heinous and have a significant negative impact on victims and the community at large.

“The CPS has enormous sympathy and concern for all victims of hate crimes against persons with disabilities, and always takes these offenses very seriously.

“We continue to work closely with police to improve victim outcomes and engage with our communities to build confidence and reassurance. “

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