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  • 2023HoughtonPhD

    Final published version, 1.85 MB, PDF document

    Embargo ends: 7/02/25

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Defining disablist hate crime: acts, mis/constructions, and the process of othering.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Valerie Houghton
Publication date8/02/2023
Number of pages258
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Disabled people are harassed, exploited, and assaulted, by strangers, neighbours,
carers, family, and friends. These acts are disablist hate crimes, but few are recognised, reported, or prosecuted. Thus, we know little about their nature; nor how to best prevent, interrupt, or respond. This research aims to fill these knowledge gaps.

As so little is known, the research is inductive, using grounded theory methods to analyse almost a hundred cases of disablist hate crime from police reports, interviews with safeguarding practitioners, and published case investigations. From this rich analysis, anchored in the data, a new typology is developed of disablist hate crime with three major categories: i) intimidation, ii) exploitation, and iii) extensive control; and from this a new typology of perpetrators is posited.

Disablist hate crime is constructed as a dynamic process of othering in which
perpetrators define disabled people as being different, as vulnerable, and as targets for brutalisation and exploitation. The context of this process is explored focusing on its interactional nature, and two perpetrator communities are identified: i) marginalised neighbourhoods, and ii) abusive care settings.

Finally, the construction of disablist hate crime by agents of social justice1
is explored. The (mis)constructions of disablist hate crime as micro-aggressions, inside jobs, and of the less-than-ideal victim, are identified as operational and theoretical obstacles for disabled people in accessing justice.

These findings suggest both individual and structural disablism within institutions of social justice involved in the social construction of disablist hate crime. We are failing disabled people; failing to offer effective prevention, timely intervention, and access to justice which disempowers, and retraumatises disabled people. I conclude my thesis by suggesting that reframing disablist hate crime offers a timely perspective on thinking about all forms of hate crime and hate crime law.