Further to the announcement I made back in March, I'm pleased to say that from today North Yorkshire Police now recognise misogyny as a hate crime.
To help outline what misogyny hate crime is, we have worked alongside a group of women from York St John University and have made a short film which captures them talking about their personal experiences of misogynistic behaviour, how it made them feel and their reaction to the fact that is behaviour is to be recognised and recorded by police.
The women who appear in the film are representative of all the women we have spoken to throughout this process. Their experiences are proof that this behaviour is something that every woman has experienced and been affected by at some point in their lives.
The misogynistic behaviour of some has made these women feel vulnerable and intimidated when going about their daily lives, just walking to work or going shopping. All of these incidents were completely unwanted and uninvited and resulted in the women changing their daily behaviour; re-planning their routes to work, questioning themselves about what they wear and taking steps to not to be victimised again, when it was never their fault in the first place.
Hate in all its forms is wrong and I’m proud that North Yorkshire Police has become the second force in the UK to recognise misogyny as a hate crime.
We will take all the necessary steps to protect our communities and ensure the women and girls of our region feel safe to go about their daily business, without fear of being targeted simply because of their gender.
I encourage all victims of all types of hate crime to come forward and report it, either to the police on 101 or to Stop Hate UK on 0800 138 1625. You will be listened to and supported.
Misogyny to be recognised as a hate crime – Deputy Chief Constable Lisa Winward (posted 8 March 2017)
When Nottinghamshire Police announced in July 2016 that they were to be the first police force in the UK to recognise misogyny as a hate crime – the response the force received was mixed
Some applauded the move, that in 2016 misogynistic behaviour should be seen as out dated and that to level abuse or harass a woman simply because of her gender should be viewed as criminal behaviour – exactly as if a person was verbally or physically assaulted due to their race or religion.
But some thought the idea of misogyny being recognised as a hate crime was laughable – that this type of language or behaviour be dismissed as banter, or “it’s only a wolf whistle for goodness sake” and why should this type of protection be given to women? What about men?
Indeed, some of the people I have spoken to about the subject – many of them women, have dismissed the idea entirely and that women should just get over it.
However, when you watch the video that Nottinghamshire Police released alongside their announcement “Because I’m a woman’” I think it puts the matter into perspective. Women talking about daily harassment and physical assaults that they believed they had to live with – it’s just part of life as a woman.
There are many women who have to consider what they wear, what route to walk to work, what time they will be returning home – all of them changing their behaviour and daily routines because of the experiences they have had. And more relative to this debate, they feel that they have no power to challenge or change it.
I’m sure there are women who can deal with this, laugh it off – or challenge back – but as the video shows, there are many who don’t feel confident enough to do so, or that the situation would quickly escalate into something more sinister than ‘banter’ if they did. At times they are intimidated and fearful of just stepping out of their door. This can’t be right or dismissed can it?
Very sadly, we live in a world where the reality is that women have to take extra measures such as carrying rape alarms, downloading protection apps for their phones, avoiding certain routes after certain times and look over their shoulder whilst walking home – all to avoid harassment or potential attack. The feeling of vulnerability is real for some.
The research completed last year on behalf of Action Aid regarding women experiencing harassment in UK cities made stark reading. The report stated that three quarters of UK women had experienced some form of violence or harassment in cities, with three in seven feeling at risk on city streets and a third feeling at risk when travelling on public transport*
Our own engagement work with the North Yorkshire Youth Commission has highlighted that fear of verbal abuse and sexual harassment is still very much on young women’s minds. Some of the young women who are working with us as part of the commission, were brave enough to share their first hand experiences of being harassed whilst on nights out.**
Yes, the police already have the relevant laws in place to arrest and prosecute perpetrators of harassment or assault, but by including misogyny as a characteristic of hate crime – it gives a message out to women that this type of behaviour is not to be dismissed or trivialised. That they can take confidence in the fact that they will be listened to and taken seriously by the police and that support and advice is available to them. There is something they can do to take back control and there are steps that can be taken to stop this from happening again to them, or to anyone else.
That’s why North Yorkshire Police are currently taking the steps to add misogyny into its hate crime policy. In the coming months we will be looking to educate our front line officers in the recognition of the offence and the support available for victims.
Our job is to keep the public of North Yorkshire safe and to ensure that the vulnerable are identified and protected. This move ensures that a clear message is given to those women who feel fear or intimidation, whatever the reason, that they can come forward and report with confidence – they will be listened to and taken seriously.
**Youth commission reports (http://leaders-unlocked.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Report_North_Yorkshire_Final_report0316_AW_3.pdf – page 17 and https://www.northyorkshire-pcc.gov.uk/content/uploads/2016/01/Youth-Commission-interim-report.pdf – page 10)Last modified: May 10, 2017