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Nottinghamshire police take a welcome step

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nottinghamshire police, misogyny, hate crime, Nottinghamshire Police the first police force to record sexual harassment as a hate crime.

While a lot of misleading headlines focus on promoting this to mean that wolf-whistling is going to become a hate crime, what is really happening is that, for the first time in England and Wales, a police force is going to record harassment of women as hate crime.

For as Nottinghamshire Police told the Guardian: “Misogynistic hate crime can cause significant distress to women, who have been known to face threats, and in some cases, sexual or physical abuse for turning down propositions.

And added: “Claiming we are focusing on wolf-whistling and catcalling does nothing more than trivialise our intentions.”

The move follows many months work and consultation with local women’s groups, including Nottinghamshire Women’s Centre, who have told police how distressing this behaviour can be, and then explored with them what could be done.

The new misogyny category acts as a flag or ‘qualifier’ on the incident log, rather than defining the incident itself.

The offence itself is not changed – so for example, an incident of anti-social behaviour would become anti-social behaviour with a ‘misogyny hate crime qualifier’.

It is important to understand that no new crimes are created as a result of this policy change – despite what you may have read in the media.

Recording these incidents will enable the police and the community in Nottinghamshire to see where this behaviour is common, who is doing it and then to look at what might deter it.

And now anyone who has witnessed or been a victim of a misogynistic incident can report it to the police by calling 101.

You can also report online via the True Vision website.

If you don’t want to report anything but you still want to speak about your experience, consider sharing your story with an online forum such as Everyday Sexism or Hollaback.

In March this year Imkaan and the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) released a powerful new short film which featured young black and minority ethnic women in the UK talking about their experiences of being sexually harassed in public places and how it is often combined with racism.

The film was released alongside a new national survey by YouGov of women’s experience of sexual harassment which revealed that:

85 per cent of women aged 18-24 have experienced unwanted sexual attention in public places and 45 per cent have experienced unwanted sexual touching (which can amount to sexual assault); and

64 per cent of women of all ages across the UK have experienced sexual harassment in public places, and 35 per cent of all women have experienced unwanted sexual touching.

It also found that only 11 per cent of women reported that someone else intervened when they experienced unwanted sexual touching in a public place, while 81 per cent said they would have liked someone to do so.

And that of the women who have received unwanted sexual attention and unwanted sexual touching, more than a quarter were aged under 16 the first time it happened, and more than three quarters were under 21 when it first happened.

The 5-minute film, ‘I’d just like to be free‘, includes young women talking frankly to camera about racist stereotypes that harassers direct at them, and about receiving a barrage of racism when they object to harassment.

One woman said: “My experiences are different as a black woman than they are for my white friends. I should be ‘up for it’ or I am ‘fair game’ or I shouldn’t care if my body is touched in a specific way.”

And another said: “After me ignoring them, that’s when it turns racial, so that’s when it might be ‘you black this’ or ‘you black that…how dare you ignore me’.”

The women also rejected the idea that sexual harassment is trivial: “It’s a common misconception that those minor incidents are minor – they’re not – in the minds of those who experience them.”

Another interviewee said it’s not women’s job to sort this out: “I think men need to talk to each other and say actually, dude, don’t do that, that’s really messed up.”

Speaking at the release of the film, Sarah Green, co-director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: “Girls learn from a young age that they have to do things to avoid drawing attention to themselves.

“We do work to try and make sure we’re safe, and we’re made to feel responsible when we’re vulnerable.

“This film shows the changes women are making to how they move about in public to try to avoid abuse, and the devastating impact on the freedom of women in the UK today.”

And Lia Latchford, policy and campaigns co-ordinator in Imkaan’s Young Women’s Team, said: “Our film tells a powerful story of young black women’s everyday experience of racialised sexual harassment.

“For us, we cannot ‘leave race out of it’ because the way we are treated is based on how our whole identities are perceived as black women.

“This harassment and abuse often uses racist stereotypes and insults as an attempt to put black women in our place.

“Everyone, adults and young people alike, needs to talk about it and it needs to stop.”

To watch the film, click here.

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