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Hate incidents are in the rise in Wisconsin,

and we must work together to fight back.

Together with community partners, the Fair Housing Council has created

a Community Response Network to support victims of hate.

Read about this Network here.

Hate in Wisconsin:
a Resource Guide for Responding to Hate


What are hate incidents and hate crimes?


  • Hate incidents are behaviors motivated by bias against an individual or group on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, and/or familial status.  Victims of hate incidents may be members, or perceived as members, of these protected classes.These categories are specifically protected in federal hate crimes laws; there may be additional protections under local, state and federal fair housing laws. Hate incidents may or may not involve criminal activity.


  • Hate incidents hurt individuals, but are also harmful to entire groups and communities. They can spread fear and distrust, and can prevent full, free participation in community life.


  • Hate incidents can happen anywhere, but the most common places they occur are on streets and sidewalks, at private residences, schools, businesses and places of worship, and online.


  • When hate happens in a housing situation, it may violate fair housing laws. We all have the right to feel safe, secure and at peace in our homes. The Fair Housing Council can help people seek out a legal remedy if their fair housing rights have been violated by hate in a housing situation. Contact us to learn more.



Key indicators that a hate incident may have occurred include:


  • Use of abusive or offensive verbal or written language, gestures, and images by the perpetrator

  • Victim and witness perceptions

  • Pattern of similar incidents in general locale

  • Local activity of an organized hate group

  • Timing of incident with specific religious holiday or other date of particular significance



Hate incidents can take many different forms. As noted above, some hate incidents are crimes, and some may not be. Some examples include:

  • Vandalizing a home, place of worship or community center with symbols or words of hate

  • Verbal name-calling or harassment

  • Sending threatening messages in hard copy, in emails or texts, on social media, or on the telephone

  • Taking photos of people without permission, in a mocking or hostile way

  • Property damage (such as breaking windows in a home, ruining gardens, or throwing paint or eggs onto someone’s home or garage)

  • Sending or placing symbols and images of hate in order to send a message to a victim (leaving a noose on a Black person’s doorstep, for example)

  • Stalking or following

  • Posting hate group materials in residential areas, such as community bulletin boards in the common area of an apartment complex, or on telephone poles and bus stop shelters



Who can fight hate in our community?


All of us. Everyone is responsible for building communities that are inclusive, welcoming and safe for all people.


You might be especially well-positioned to support victims of hate if you:


  • are a neighborhood leader and community-builder,

  • work for a school, religious congregation, health care facility, social services provider or housing development,

  • are a public transit driver, or if you use public transportation,

  • are a member of a community group or faith-based organization,

  • and if you believe everyone has a right to live free from hate!



What can I do if I am targeted by hate?


  • Your physical safety is most important. Seek health care if you have been injured.

  • If you are comfortable doing so, contact the police and file a report. If you do so, take the name and contact information of the responding officer, ask for a copy of any report filed, and ask that the officer record the incident as hate-motivated.

  • As soon as possible after the incident, write down a description of what happened. It’s easy to forget things when we’ve been scared or upset, so having a written record in your own words can help later. Write down details about when and where it happened; who was involved; what they said, did and looked like; and any damage that occurred to your property. Note any additional details that might be relevant to hate: were you near a religious school? Near a LGBT+ community center or gathering place? Did the perpetrator make any gestures, or have any tattoos or clothing, that may give clues about their motivations? Were there any witnesses present, and if so, can the witnesses also write down a description of what happened?

  • If applicable, take photos. Photograph and keep letters. Photograph evidence of vandalism and property damage. Take screenshots of hate messages, social media posts and texts. Don’t delete electronic communications like emails and texts, including your own.

  • Find support. Speak to your friends and family about your experience, and make sure you ask for help to feel supported and safe. If applicable, seek out support from community organizations that specialize in serving groups with your needs; for instance, a religious congregation, an LGBT+ resource center, or a legal assistance organization. Hate incidents can be traumatic, and cause profound stress, so don’t hesitate to look for mental health care services if you need them. If you don’t know where to start looking for help, contact the Fair Housing Center and we can make appropriate referrals.

  • Consider contacting the press to talk about what you experienced. Hate can make us feel isolated and alone, but sharing information about hate incidents can generate support and spur community efforts to fight back against hate activity.

  • Contact the Fair Housing Council. The Fair Housing Council can assist you by connecting you with a Community Resource Network, and help you seek a legal remedy if your civil rights have been violated in a housing situation. The Council takes complaints from victims of hate, counsels complainants about their fair housing rights, conducts investigations on behalf of victims, and provides support throughout the process of seeking a legal remedy. More information about the Fair Housing Council’s services is available here.



What can I do if I become aware of hate in my community?


  • If you witness an act of hate against an individual or group, remember that their needs come first.

  • Ask the most-directly affected person or people what their preferences are for support, before you call for help or act on behalf of anyone else. Listen closely to their wishes.

  • Respect the victim’s decisions about how they’d like to respond to the incident.

  • If a coalition or group has been formed to respond to hate or a specific hate incident, consider joining as an ally. If no such group has been formed, ask the persons most directly affected if such an effort would be helpful to them, and consider organizing events or groups that counter hate by expressing values of inclusion, safety and welcome. Good allies in forming a coalition may include local neighborhood associations, faith-based groups and religious congregations, social service agencies, and community organizations comprised of people at risk of facing hate.

  • Speak out – to your family, friends, neighbors, elected officials, and newspaper editors – about how you believe that hate is unacceptable in your community.

  • Familiarize yourself with the organized hate groups operating in your area, and what sorts of messages and symbols they may be using. Both the Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League maintain online information about these topics.


Other resources for information


The James Byrd, Jr. Center to Stop Hate at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Southern Poverty Law Center

Anti-Defamation League

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