Hate crime: buddies trained to help Suffolk victims

The scheme to help the victims of race hate crime is being expanded to help other victims of other hate crimes such as gay or disabled people.

A Suffolk buddy service has been given a new £386,000 grant by the government's Ministry of Justice.

More volunteers will be trained to listen and advise victims.

The scheme is based at the offices of the Ipswich & Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE), which set it up a year ago.

Kumar, 43, an Asian man who lives in Ipswich and has a buddy, said he has had death threats while out near his home.

"When I go for my evening walk I have had people calling me 'Paki', throw things at me and a man threatening me saying 'don't come for a walk in this area'.

Family stress

"I've used the buddy service so that people who understand what I am going through can give me the help I need.

"Because I am a strong-willed person, I have come through this, but the stress affects the whole family."

Kumar, who is an engineer, said the threats have been dealt with by the appropriate authorities.

A consortium, which represents other groups covered by equality legislation, bid for the money from the government to expand the service.

As well as ISCRE, it includes the Ipswich African Cultural Forum the Muslim charity Jimas and the Suffolk Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Network.

Muthoni Muya said she was inspired to become a buddy at ISCRE after meeting an Afghan refugee, who claimed he was being abused while working as a taxi driver.

"He was really upset and felt like he had no voice," she said.

"I thought that I needed to know how to help such a person.

"There are so many stories like that - you meet them every day."

Suffolk Police figures show there were 641 hate crimes (2008-09), 808 (2009-10) and 763 (2010-11).

'Behave inappropriately'

Deborah Charles, hate crime officer for Suffolk Police, said: "There is potential to give people support for longer now, because people are recognising themselves as being vulnerable and are reporting incidents.

"Unfortunately, people in our society will still behave inappropriately towards them, so having someone they know they can talk to on a longer-term basis is fantastic."

However, Kumar says that while he likes that fact Suffolk is a "quiet place" he believes the issue of racism has worsened since he moved in 15 years ago.

"[But] I can be optimistic because we are bringing these issues to the open air and, with education and more understanding, things should get better," he said.

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