FOR years, disabled 19-year-old Kirsty Smith has been a victim of hate crime.
The youngster, who has cerebral palsy, has had to deal with people sniggering at the way she walks, with some calling her vile names.
But now, she has had enough. Determined Kirsty, a former student at The Angmering School, has pledged to launch her own campaign against the hate and persecution with which many young people with disabilities have to contend.
Kirsty, formerly of Palmer Road, Angmering, but who now lives in Bognor, said: “I’ve had times when I have been walking down the street and people have been sniggering at the way I walk.
“They have called me ‘spastic’ or ‘spazz’ and laughed at me. It’s really horrible.
“What I want to do is stop the number of hate crimes because this sort of abuse is a hate crime – it’s a hate crime against the disabled.
“People don’t always realise the words that they are saying can cause some real pain for the victims.
“For me, it was horrible, but I have dealt with it and found help.”
Kirsty said she found support from Blueprint 22, an organisation which helped to build her self-esteem.
Now, with the help of the charity, which supports young people across the area, she will be hosting a fund-raiser in Rustington later this month, in a bid to launch a series of courses with Blueprint in a bid to raise of hate crime.
Her efforts come in the wake of hate crime statistics released by Sussex Police last week. They show that the number of reported hate crimes across Arun district increased by almost a third – which is being welcomed by the force.
The total rose by 28 per cent from 786 in 2012/13 to 1,009 in 2013/14, including an increase from 48 recorded hate crimes against the disabled in 2012/13 to 80 in 2013/14.
Chief Supt Wayne Jones, the Sussex Police lead officer for hate crime, said: “It is not often that you hear a senior police officer applauding the fact that crime has gone up, but I am pleased as it demonstrates growing trust and confidence in victims to report what is a most personal of crimes.
“However, we are not complacent. Although we see these figures as positive, we acknowledge we have much more to do to achieve a level of reporting that mirrors the full picture of hate-based harm experienced by many people across Sussex every day.
“It is even more saddening that a number of victims are targeted because of more than one personal characteristic.”
Kirsty is keen to try to drive down hate crime by telling those who perpetrate it of the impact their words can have.
She said that to fund her ‘Don’t Dis Us campaign’ – which would be run by Blueprint 22 – for a year, she would need to raise £6,000.
“I really hope people come to the fund-raiser to help,” she added.
Her Caribbean-themed event is taking place at Churchill Courtyard on June 28, from 11am-3pm. Entrance is free. There will be live music, face-painting, hook the pineapple and hair braiding.
Anyone wishing to donate to Kirsty’s project can search www.fundrazr.com for ‘Don’t Dis Us’.