Persecute vs. prosecute
Today we're going to try to understand the important differences between the words persecute and prosecute. Now persecute means to torment, oppress or to treat somebody unfairly, usually because of their race, religion or perceived weakness or belonging to some sort of a social group. Anyway, it is often said that in the 1930's Jews were persecuted in Nazi Germany. Also, these days we talk a lot about schoolyard persecution when bullies torment younger, weaker children and even more recently we've started talking about gender-related persecution when, typically, women are treated badly because they are women. A person who commits a persecution is a persecutor.
Now we turn to the other concept, which can be positive, prosecute. Now prosecute means to bring legal charges against someone usually in a court of law and usually criminal charges. So it is said that currently we have started prosecuting illegal file sharing as a way of combating Internet piracy. Now those that bring prosecutions are called prosecutors. I, in fact, was a prosecutor in my prior career before I became a lawyer-linguist. I was a district attorney or a D.A. in New York. In the US, prosecutors are known as district attorneys or state attorneys. In the United Kingdom, prosecutors are usually known as crown prosecutors as they work for the Crown Prosecution Services.
Now it is possible these days if you are persecuted to be able to prosecute for that. Most countries have statutes which prosecute hate crimes or which are otherwise called bias-motivated crimes. Now a hate crime is typically a crime of violence, which is motivated by hatred of the group to which the victim belongs. Usually, this group is a racial group, a religious group, of a particular sexual orientation, a group of disabled people, or something like that. So these days you don't have to stand for being persecuted the way many religious and racial groups did all through time. They can contact their local prosecutors and see that their tormentors get prosecuted for persecuting them.