GW Work


Investigating Gender-Inclusive Hate Crime Statutes Open Access

This paper is an exploration into the variation of how different states in the United States legislate and prosecute anti-female hate crimes to determine whether hate crime legislation is an effective response to violence against women, especially sexual assault. The first step of investigating the effectiveness of hate crime legislation is is to examine the literature, like Gelber and Chen, that explores how violence against women, especially sexual violence, can and should be covered under hate crime law. In order for violence against women to be included as a hate crime, gender must be considered a protected class. Despite gender being included on the federal level since 1993, only twenty-four states and DC statutes include the term "gender" or "sex." I explore the literature on policy diffusion, where there is very little on hate crimes and even less on gender. However, using Soule and Earl and Makse and Volden works, I can see if their theories on hate crime policy diffusion applies to whether states adopt gender-inclusive statutes. There is significant variation in how even these twenty-four states write their laws, some are lengthy and specific while others are brief and vague. I investigate if the variation in the state statutes creates different outcomes. My data is state level statutes and their annual crime reports, and the variations in data can be presented in charts and maps. My findings were that the amount of anti-female hate crimes reported in each state is usually less than five per year, regardless of the state's population or the detailed language of the statute. A potential explanation for the low reporting is found in McPhail and DiNitto's interviews showing that prosecutors are often not aware of the law allowing for sexual violence against women to be classified as a hate crime, and that even when they are aware of it, they often don't agree with it. In conclusion, I will discuss the policy implications. If gender-based hate crime statutes are not efficient in addressing violence against women, activist communities must decide how many resources to put into enacting this. However, gender-inclusive language in hate crime statutes can have further policy inclinations, such as more effectively protecting trans individuals. This adds to current literature by bringing the discussion from can sexual violence be classified as a hate crime, to what happens if we legally do.

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