The Legal Definition of Hate Crime and the Hate Offender's Distorted Cognitions

Document Type


Department or Administrative Unit

Law and Justice

Publication Date



The legal definition of hate crime (i.e., the offender attacks the victim because of the victim's actual or perceived race, color, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or national origin) tends to be viewed as a causality description for the offense. This paper maintains that the “because” statement in the legal definition refers to the offender's criminal intent and distorted cognitions (e.g., blaming the victim and using different group memberships to justify and rationalize their hate crimes), rather than suggests that the different group memberships for the offender and the victim cause hate crime. Clarifying the distinction between the offender's mental state and reality has implications for understanding and conducting research on hate crime and clinical interventions with the victims.


This article was originally published in Issues in Mental Health Nursing. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Issues in Mental Health Nursing


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