Edmonton campaigner calls for help tackling abuse of people with ‘visible differences’

Catherine Parr is on a mission to raise awareness of the stigma faced by people who look different, reports Philbert Osei-Wusu

Campaigner Catherine Parr
Campaigner Catherine Parr

A campaigner from Edmonton is hoping to help people with ‘visible differences’ as new figures show a rise in abuse.

The UK’s leading charity for visible differences, Changing Faces, has revealed new research which shows such people are becoming more prone to hate crimes and hostile behaviour.

A survey was conducted in 2022 by Savanta and looked at the experiences of over 1,000 people with a visible difference, with results indicating that a third (33%) of people with a visible difference had experienced a hate crime, an increase from 28% in 2019. Its also said that nearly half (49%) of people with a visible difference reported having to deal with staring and bullying, with this number having risen in recent years.

Included in the survey was anyone with a visible difference, such as a mark or scar.

Catherine Parr from Edmonton is a Changing Faces campaigner and has a recurrent paralysis on the left side of her face, caused by a facial nerve tumour. She says: “I’ve been the target of hate because of my appearance, and I know many other people with a visible difference who have too.

“Whilst more people still deal with unacceptable stares and comments, we shouldn’t have to accept this as part of life with a visible difference.”

In the hope of sparking a shift in attitudes towards people with visible differences, Catherine has written to London’s deputy mayor for policing and crime, calling on them to ensure that people with visible differences are “supported by their local police to report hostile behaviour when they experience it”.

She adds: “We don’t want it to take a tragedy for people to take this issue seriously.”

Voluntary campaigners and ambassadors from Changing Faces have spoken about the hate they’ve received and it prompted many people to share their testimonies, some of which included threats of violence in the street. The charity says young people are even more likely to experience hostility because of their visible difference with two-in-three (66%) of those aged 18-34 reporting this.

Heather Blake, Changing Faces chief executive, says: “First and foremost, we want anyone with a visible difference or disfigurement to know that we are here for them.

“This isn’t something you should just have to put up with. Let’s call it what it is, it’s hate and it’s wrong.”

For more information about the Changing Faces charity:

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