“We are like you, just different ... we are human beings.”
Those are the words from four people from South Tyneside who have been victims of hate crimes – being ridiculed and name-called just because they have a disability.
Lisa Bell, Joan Murrifield, Howard Prudham and John Pratt, opened their hearts to bravely talk about the impact of living with learning disabilities has had on their lives, and to encourage others suffering at the hands of bullies by seeking the help of police and other support agencies.
Their call comes as part of hate crime week, which has been launched by Northumbria Police.
The campaign is aimed at raising awareness of the crime, what it is and how to report it – something members of Arts 4 Wellbeing based in Derby Terrace, South Shields, have given their support to.
“When people call you names it makes you sad,” said Lisa, 40. “When I was little, people used to call me names all the time. They still called me names when I was older.
“I didn’t ask for help because you feel like you are on your own and no one cares.
“You don’t want to go places because you get scared people are going to call you. This campaign is a good idea and I would encourage people to get help.”
Joan Murrifield, 62, agrees, after she has suffered years of verbal abuse.
She said: “I have had people calling me names and demanding money from me. When I’ve said no, they’ve said they would hit me.
“You feel bad, like it is your fault that you have a disability. It’s not as bad now, but you still get people calling you and it’s not right.”
Over the years Howard Prudham says he has been physically attacked after being targeted for having a disability.
The 60-year-old said: “I was out for a drink and someone came up and said they wanted my money. I said no, so they pushed me and took it anyway.
“It does stop you from going out as you don’t feel safe.
“All I want to do is live my life like everyone else does. I want to be able to go out for a drink without being picked on because I have a disability.”
Howard is now hoping a play he is taking part in, highlighting the impact of hate crime, will help make a difference and change people’s perception towards those who are different to themselves.
John Pratt, 57, said: “I would love nothing more than to be able to walk down the street and not have people stare at me. I just want to be accepted for who I am.
“I just try and not let it get to me, but inside I am crying. This campaign is very good because there are people who are suffering and they shouldn’t have to. I would tell people to speak out.”
Appealing to those who carry out the verbal and physical attacks, Lisa added: “I would just tell people to think about what you are doing. You shouldn’t name call people, we are people like you, just different, we are human beings as well. We have every right to live our lives just like you.”
Don’t suffer in silence, hate crime victims urged
VICTIMS of hate crime are being urged not to suffer in silence as part of a new police campaign.
Officers have been out and about in a bid to raise awareness of the crime and the help which is available.
Police community engagement officer for South Tyneside, Richie Miles, supported by police cadets, visited Arts 4 Wellbeing – a charity supporting people with disabilities – to let people know of the support available and where they can go to for help as part of the campaign.
Hate crime is when a person is targeted because of their sexuality, disability, race or other ways they choose to live their lives.
Officers and police cadets were also in Asda South Shields to promote the campaign: Being you is not a crime – targeting you is.
The events were part of the Northumbria Police’s first Hate Crime week and South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck visited the information stand.
Assistant Chief Constable Jo Farrell, said: “It’s important people know that we’re here to help, and nobody needs to feel like they have to suffer in silence.
“We urge anyone who has been subjected to behaviour that makes you feel upset, nervous or vulnerable or feel you were targeted because of age, faith, race, disability or sexual orientation, to report it to police straight away.”
Anyone who thinks they have suffered a hate crime or wants help or information can contact police on 101 ext 69191.
People can also visit a safe reporting centre or contact agency ARCH on 08000 32 32 88.