Mate Crime in Care

Mate Crime in Care

Mate crime involves the exploitation or abuse of vulnerable individuals by those they consider friends. It can manifest in various forms, such as financial exploitation, physical abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, sexual exploitation, criminal exploitation and neglect and abandonment.

With financial abuse, a so-called friend might frequently borrow money from a vulnerable person, promising to repay but never does. They might convince the victim to share their bank details or PIN, then withdraw their benefits or savings without permission. The perpetrator may also pressure the victim into taking out loans in their name, leaving them in debt.

In cases of physical abuse, a ‘friend’ might physically assault the victim, knowing that the victim is too afraid or confused to report it. Vulnerable individuals might be coerced into doing unpaid work, such as cleaning or maintenance, under threat of violence or other repercussions.

Emotional and psychological abuse can occur when the perpetrator manipulates the victim into believing they are their only friend. They can isolate them from other social connections and support systems. The abuser might use threats and intimidation to control the victim’s actions, making them too scared to seek help.

Sexual exploitation is another severe form of mate crime, where a person is manipulated or coerced into performing sexual acts under the guise of friendship or affection. In some cases, the perpetrator might record sexual acts without the victim’s knowledge or consent and use the footage to blackmail them.

Criminal exploitation involves scenarios where a vulnerable individual is coerced into transporting or selling drugs, often under threat of violence or harm. The perpetrator might pressure the victim into committing theft or burglary, taking the stolen goods for themselves.

Neglect and abandonment can also be forms of mate crime. A ‘friend’ might move in with a vulnerable person, using their home and resources while neglecting their basic needs, such as food and hygiene. After exploiting the victim for financial or personal gain, the perpetrator might abandon them, leaving them without support or resources.

These examples highlight the varied and often hidden nature of mate crime. Raising awareness and providing education on recognising the signs of mate crime are crucial steps in protecting vulnerable individuals from such exploitation.

Mate Crime vs. Hate Crime

Hate crime is distinctly different to mate crime in care, despite the similar titles.

Hate crime is any criminal offence that is motivated by bias, prejudice, or hostility towards a person or group based on certain protected characteristics. These characteristics typically include race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, and other attributes that make someone a target for discrimination. Hate crimes can manifest in various forms, including verbal abuse, physical violence, property damage, harassment, and online abuse.

The defining element of a hate crime is the perpetrator’s motivation. The crime is committed not just against the individual but against what they represent in the eyes of the perpetrator. For example, if someone is attacked because of their race, the attacker is not only harming that individual but also sending a message of fear and intimidation to the entire racial group.

Hate crimes are particularly harmful because they instil fear and insecurity within entire communities. They can lead to increased tension and division in society. Victims of hate crimes often suffer long-term psychological effects, including anxiety, depression, and a pervasive sense of vulnerability.

Laws against hate crimes exist in many countries to provide additional protection to targeted groups and to ensure that perpetrators receive appropriate penalties. These laws often include enhanced sentencing provisions for crimes found to be motivated by hate. 

To address hate crime, it is essential to have strong legal frameworks, effective law enforcement training, public awareness campaigns, and support systems for victims. Promoting social cohesion and tolerance through education and community engagement can also play a vital role in preventing hate crimes and fostering an inclusive society.

Why People in Care are Vulnerable to Mate Crime

Individuals in care settings, such as care homes, supported living arrangements, or those receiving domiciliary care, are particularly vulnerable due to their dependency on others, potential isolation, and sometimes limited ability to recognise or report exploitation.

The risk of mate crime is heightened in care settings because people in care often have fewer social contacts, making them more reliant on the few individuals they do interact with, including potential perpetrators. Cognitive impairments or physical disabilities can make it difficult for them to understand or communicate their experiences of exploitation or abuse.

Mate crime in care is most prevalent with people in community settings who are more isolated and often live alone. Mate crime in care homes is not unheard of however. While it is most commonly thought of as a face-to-face interaction, it is also possible for these crimes to happen in the online arena or even by post with letters. There are always opportunities for nefarious individuals to befriend vulnerable people to exploit them.

People in care might experience mate crime in various ways. Financial exploitation is common, where residents might be targeted by individuals who befriend them with the intent of stealing money, pressuring them to hand over their bank cards, or coercing them into signing financial documents. Emotional manipulation is also a risk, with perpetrators pretending to be friends to control or exploit the victims, leading to their isolation from genuine sources of support.

Physical and sexual abuse can occur, as perpetrators take advantage of a person’s physical or cognitive vulnerabilities, knowing that the victim may not be able to report the abuse effectively. Resource exploitation happens when someone moves into the victim’s accommodation under false pretenses and then exploits their hospitality. Additionally, vulnerable individuals might be coerced or manipulated into participating in criminal activities, such as drug trafficking or theft, often under threat or deception.

To protect individuals in care from mate crime, it is essential to maintain vigilant safeguarding practices. Care providers need to be trained to recognise the signs of mate crime and monitor relationships between residents and their visitors or acquaintances. Creating an open and supportive environment where residents feel safe to report concerns is crucial. Regular reviews of residents’ financial transactions and personal interactions can help identify any patterns of exploitation early. By fostering a community of trust and vigilance, care providers can better protect vulnerable individuals from the harms of mate crime in care.

What are the Signs of Mate Crime?

The signs of mate crime fall broadly in line with those of financial abuse.

The potential indicators of mate crime include:

  • Unpaid bills, sudden financial difficulties, loss of possessions, or unexpected changes to their will.
  • Having more money than usual or receiving expensive gifts.
  • Changes in routine, behavior, appearance, finances, or household dynamics (such as new visitors, many new friends, increased noise, or more rubbish).
  • Withdrawing from established networks of friends, family, and support, or missing regular activities.
  • Secretive use of the internet or mobile phone.

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