National Hate Crime Awareness Week runs from 8 to 15 October 2016. To mark the beginning of the campaign, Victim Support looks at what exactly hate crime is, the impact it can have on victims, the support that’s available and how you can help raise awareness of this crime.

Hate crime can take many forms, such as assault, harassment or abuse, but all incidents share one thing in common – victims are targeted for simply being who they are. People can be targeted because of hostility or prejudice towards their race, sexuality, religion, disability or transgender identity, amongst other examples.

Following events earlier this year, the media reported heavily on hate crime levels before and after the EU referendum. As an organisation that supported around 16,000 victims of hate crime in England and Wales last year, we know just how devastating an impact crimes like this can have on victims’ lives. Hate crime is a big problem and it’s estimated that 52% of hate crimes aren’t even brought to police attention, so what we’re seeing is just a tip of the iceberg. Major events like the EU referendum this year can often cause a surge in reports and then level out, but it’s crucial to remember that no level of hate crime is acceptable. And while people often feel these kinds of incidents are minor, they are just as serious as any other crime and it’s a year round problem that needs to be tackled.

Falling victim to this type of crime can have a devastating and long-lasting effect on victims’ lives, especially if they have suffered repeated attacks or abuse. Hate crime often impacts on a victim’s self-esteem as well as their physical and mental wellbeing, and victims can be unsure or scared about telling anyone, or seeking the support they deserve.

At Victim Support, we are here to help anyone who has been affected by hate crime, whether it’s reported the crime to the police or not, and we are on hand to help immediately after the incident, or at any time afterwards. Our staff and volunteers can offer information, practical help and emotional support, so no one needs to suffer in silence.

Our specially-trained hate crime volunteers offer support tailored to the individual needs of victims of hate crime and the list of services we can offer is far-reaching;  we can help people cope with the emotional effects of hate crime, deal with employers, police and housing departments on a victim’s behalf, advise on home security and safety and organise practical help after a break-in (such as repairs to broken locks). We’ll also inform victims about police and court procedures, escort victims to the police station and to court, and be at the end of the phone whenever needed.

In support of this campaign, Victim Support will be running local events throughout England in Wales to raise awareness of hate crime.

If you’d like to help, you can get involved now on social media using the hashtag #NHCAW or #WeStandTogether.