'It started when I was a teenager' - woman with cerebral palsy speaks on hate crime she faced

  • ITV Wales' reporter Richard Morgan spoke to Jade Owen who experienced discrimination due to her disability

A woman with cerebral palsy shared her ordeal of how one of the students in her class "threatened to take her off the wheelchair".

A recent report from charity Leonard Cheshire found fewer than 2% of disability hate crimes end up being in court despite over 11,000 incidents getting reported last year across England and Wales.

The charity added victims are increasingly reluctant to report incidents for fear they won't be taken seriously.

Jade Owen from Bridgend had to leave her school as a teenager because of the disability hate crimes committed against her in person and online including verbal slurs and threats of violence.

Jade reiterated how the hate crime 'started in school with everything from taunts and violence due to her cerebral palsy'. Credit: ITV Wales

It started in school with everything from taunts and violence due to her cerebral palsy.

Jade, who is also a wheelchair user, said: "I've experienced hate crime for several years, starting in school when I was a teenager and then it went online until 2020.

"Very ableist slurs were said to me. One of the students in my class was threatening to take me take me off my wheelchair.

"There were also derogatory comments used and I experienced a lot of hatred."

Jade said: 'If I had known it was a hate crime then I would have known I was getting bullied.' Credit: ITV Wales

While disability hate crime reports suggest offences have reduced from the record numbers of incidents reported in 2021 to 2022, they are still higher than pre-pandemic figures.

Talking about the malicious comments she received and the support she got from school, Jade added: "I originally thought it was banter, as some of them were my friends but most of it was malicious. Most of the slurs were obviously because of my condition cerebral palsy.

"I didn't get any support and I felt quite isolated and alone because every time I was telling someone about it, they were just dismissing it.

"The teachers told me just crack on with GCSEs and just get on with it and nothing was done."

When ITV Wales' reporter Richard Morgan asked Jade if she had any friends?

She replied: "No, I didn't have anybody sadly. I struggled to get up in the morning and that declined with my mental health. It got to the stage where I had to be homeschooled."

What is cerebral palsy?

  • Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture.

  • It is the most common motor disability in childhood. Cerebral means having to do with the brain. Palsy means weakness or problems with using the muscles.

  • It is caused by abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain that affects a person’s ability to control their muscles.

  • The symptoms of cerebral palsy vary from person to person. A person with severe cerebral palsy might need to use special equipment to be able to walk, or might not be able to walk at all and might need lifelong care.

Victims of disability hate crimes are unlikely to receive justice, according to figures obtained by Leonard Cheshire and United Response.

The data showed that roughly half of these reports involved violence and over 1,300 occurred online.

Here are some of the key findings in Wales-

When asked why she is speaking about her experience, Jade said: "There's not much awareness about cerebral palsy. People just think that you go for treatment and you're cured. When that's not necessarily the case.

"I do try and educate people about it and they are stunned about it as they don't understand that I can come up with a comeback because they think by saying those things, I'm just going to cry and that I'm going to be silent.

"People would say that they would catch what I had. Also, a few people said I was faking my disability and that I was not going for treatment.

"It was online and people even came up to me and said are you faking your cerebral palsy?

"It was quite brutal. There's not much awareness about cerebral palsy.

"People just think that you go for treatment and you're cured. When that's not necessarily the case.

"Hate crime does happen and if I had known I could have reported it and then I probably would have reported it and if I had known it was a hate crime then I would have known I was getting bullied."

She added: "Maybe other people right now could be struggling and understanding what they are going through because of hate crimes and I want to use my voice so that people do report hate crimes.

"I do feel one key change would be that the UK government should educate schools about disability rights and ableism and hate crime.

"When you are a disabled person it's so hard to turn to the police because you already feel anxious about people not believing their stories. So, there should be disability awareness.

"If I had to report a hate crime now I would do that as I now know more."

The Home Office spokesperson said it "will not publish a strategy" because the government is "focussing on improving the police response to all crime".

It added: "Hate crime, including disability hate crime is a scourge on communities across the country and does not reflect the values of modern Britain.

"We expect the police to take these abhorrent crimes extremely seriously and work with the CPS to ensure perpetrators are prosecuted and victims receive justice."

Online Abuse Support

Women's Aid

Women’s Aid is the national charity working to end domestic abuse against women and children. They have been at the forefront of shaping and coordinating responses to domestic violence and abuse through practice for over 45 years.

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The NSPCC is the UK's leading children's charity. You can contact its helpline to discuss online abuse by calling 0808 800 5000 or emailing help@NSPCC.org.uk

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Mind is a mental health charity which promotes the views and needs of people with mental health issues.

It provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem, and campaigns to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.

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The Revenge Porn Helpline is a UK service supporting adults (aged 18+) who are experiencing intimate image abuse, also known as, revenge porn. You can call them on 0345 600 0459

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