“A hate crime, also known as a bias crime, is a criminal offense committed against a person, property, or society that is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin.” -FBI

Notice that in the FBI definition, crimes committed against women are not included. That means that crimes against women, like pushing, punching, or strangling by an intimate partner, or crimes like sexual assault or battering, crimes like the burning of women by family members or murder by family members or intimate partners, rape, or murder by an acquaintance or strangers, are not counted as hate crimes. They do not fit into the legal definition.

But why weren’t violent crimes against women included?

I have been reading comments and different blog posts on the web that say crimes against women shouldn’t be hate crimes. Some that say hate crimes shouldn’t exist at all. Others that say that the idea of having crimes against women or against people of color or with disabilities or because of sexual orientation is ridiculous because all crimes are crimes of hate and shouldn’t be looked at differently than other crimes and that it’s just a way for people to forward their agendas.

The FBI wrote on their website:

“In response to mounting national concern over crimes motivated by bias, Congress enacted the Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990. The law directed the Attorney General to collect data “about crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.”

So, a hate crime is a crime against someone who is targeted because of who they are. Translation: people get so mad about other people different from themselves existing in the world, that they are violent toward them. That means these crimes are different than crimes motivated by money, drugs, or another reason. Also- we’re talking about violent crimes here- not a pickpocket who is lifting wallets only from black men or people who dine-n-dash from only Indian restaurants.

Hate crimes are crimes motivated by bias against people of a certain group and are therefore different from regular crimes. I think I understand why crimes against women weren’t included. There are two main reasons:

1. Women are a part of most families, of the heteronormative family that is the model for our society (mother, father, 2 children- one boy, one girl), women are present in the majority of households across races, cultures and socio-economic class. Women are necessary for reproduction as well as for completing tasks delegated by stereotyped gender roles. They can be and are in the other categories included within the hate crime definition: women of a differing race, sexual orientation, ability, religion, or nationality than their perpetrator.

2. Women are targeted in different ways for violence than other groups are. Women are still considered second class and inferior, but this is a very ingrained belief in the society. So ingrained that it seems preposterous to many, even though women are not given entry to important conversations that determine their destinies, even though women are paid less than men, even though there is an enormous amount of violence perpetrated by men against women, and even though laws affecting women negatively and reinforcing their inequality continue to be passed. Because women are present in the society across all of the categories that hate crimes cover, the violence perpetrated against women is seen as different from violence occurring against those groups. Hate crimes are bias based crimes against people because of who they are but the fact that women are women is seen an underlying issue in crimes against women.

The society and the law believes these two things: 1. women are raped by men because men are attracted to women- obviously straight men would rape women rather than men 2. violence between men and women is an escalated lovers quarrel.

Rape and sexual assault is viewed as sexual rather than violence and underlying views about women are that they are for men’s pleasure and are property (objects)

Plain and simple: violence against women is seen as different. The view is not that women are sought out for violent acts to be committed against them in the way someone might be sought out for being Jewish or black.

The truth is: In our society, women do not have equal rights to men, they are seen as second class or inferior to men. Many people believe equality is that women want to be the same as men or to be men. That’s not the case. Women want and deserve to have equal rights and opportunities to participate in the society. When women are viewed as inferior, they are treated as such and violence against them escaletes. Equal rights are necessary for violence against women to be stopped. 

If violence against women perpetrated by men was included in the definition for hate crimes, the FBI would investigate cases of rape and murder of women. Maybe the penalty for the violence would be greater. Maybe the crimes would be taken more seriously. Maybe it would be a step toward its end. Of course, the amount of violence that regularly happens to women would probably overwhelm the system.

Think- every 6 minutes a woman is raped/sexually assaulted in the US. Every 15 seconds a woman is battered. They are hurt because they are women and the society is biased against women. It leaves women feeling unsafe in the society. It is ingrained in every one of us. So should the violence against women perpetrated by men be considered hate crimes- Yes, of course. But it may be too much for the system in place to investigate.

“Investigating hate crime is the number one priority of our Civil Rights Program. Why? Not only because hate crime has a devastating impact on families and communities, but also because groups that preach hatred and intolerance plant the seeds of terrorism here in our country.” –The FBI

What about civil rights of women? There is a terrorism against women going on with bombs going off daily- that’s every 6 minutes when a woman is raped, every 15 seconds when a woman is battered. Crimes of hate.