Childline is encouraging youngsters to speak out against discrimination as figures reveal the service delivered almost 2,700 counselling sessions about race and faith based bullying in the last three years.
Today Childline is launching its new Understand Me campaign amid fears children are suffering in silence from physical bullying, verbal abuse, cyberbullying and racist name calling because of the colour of their skin, religious beliefs or their accent.
It comes as figures obtained by the NSPCC from police under Freedom of Information laws show that 34 hate crimes against children were recorded in Northamptonshire last year.
Between 2015 and 16 there were 64 hate crimes with a racial, religious or faith-based element committed against children recorded.
Chief Inspector Lara Alexander-Lloyd, the force lead for hate crime at Northamptonshire Police, said: “We understand that hate crimes can have a significant impact on victims, who are often left feeling vulnerable, embarrassed and in fear when they have been targeted simply because of who they are.
“It is not right that anyone, including children, should be victims of other people’s hate. We want all victims of all hate crime to feel confident reporting incidents to us.
“I would ask that anyone who has been targeted because of who they are, whether that’s because of their race, ethnicity, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity, to please call us on 101. Hate crimes and incidents can also be reported via www.report-it.org.uk
“We can offer support to victims, via the victim and witness service Voice, and we can investigate if a crime has taken place. It is really important that we understand when hate crimes or incidents have occurred so we can look at providing proactive plans around possible future triggers. We work closely with partners, including local councils, to tackle hate crime and are committed to making Northamptonshire a safe place for people to live, work and visit.”
Nationally there was a 14 per cent increase in hate crimes against children in one year, with 5,349 hate crimes with a racial, religious or faith-based element in 2016/17.
The campaign, which includes a film ‘Think You Understand Me?’, challenges xenophobia and prejudice, empowering young people to speak out about racial bullying and discrimination and seek help should they need it.
Spikes in Childline counselling sessions about racial and faith-based bullying have sometimes followed terror attacks, with the number rising by over a third following the Westminster attack in March 2017, compared to the previous month.
NSPCC CEO Peter Wanless said: “It’s heartbreaking to think that some children are targeted by bullies because of their race, culture or nationality. Racist jokes and negative stereotyping can be hurtful and leave young people feeling isolated and ashamed of who they are or where they are from.
“Our Understand Me campaign aims to reach out to all children who are experiencing racial or faith-based bullying and make sure they know that they are not alone. No child should suffer in silence and anyone being targeted must be supported to tell someone and ask for help.”
Some young people contacting Childline said the abuse and negative stereotyping was so cruel they had self-harmed or the bullying inside and out of school made them feel isolated and withdrawn from society.
Others said they no longer wanted to go to school because they were worried about the abuse they would face.
One 11-year-old girl said she had been called a terrorist and had racial slurs used against her.
She said: "They bully me because of the way that I dress, I don't want to wear my headscarf to school anymore because it makes me stand out, but I could never tell my parents that. I just want to make friends at school and for people to like me, but it's really hard when I feel like an outsider.”