Nottinghamshire Police started treating misogyny as a hate crime two years ago, as part of a pilot scheme to shift misogynistic attitudes. Now, the results are in, and researchers are said to be ‘shocked’ by the volume and nature of the recorded incidents.
Recording misogynistic behaviour as either a hate crime or hate incident, depending on how criminal the behaviour is, the incidents ranged from wolf whistling to sexual assault. While the pilot scheme only led to one conviction over two years, researchers claim that the policy is ‘shifting attitudes’.
Misogyny hate crimes are defined as ‘incidents against women that are motivated by the attitude of men towards women and includes behaviour targeted at women by men simply because they are women’. While the policy doesn’t criminalise any behaviour that was previously legal, such as wolf whistling, it does encourage police to talk to men about their behaviour when incidents are reported.
The Misogyny Hate Crime Evaluation report, put together by the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University, showed that 24.7% of survey respondents had experienced sexual assault, with other examples of misogyny hate crime including: indecent exposure (25.9%), groping (46.2%), taking unwanted photographs on mobiles (17.3%), upskirting (6.8%), online abuse (21.7%), being followed home (25.2%), whistling (62.9%), sexually explicit language (54.3%), threatening/aggressive/intimidating behaviour (51.8%), and unwanted sexual advances (48.9%).
While some of these are classed as hate crimes, some are recorded as hate incidents, depending on current legislation surrounding the individual acts. For example, sexual assault would still be recorded the same way, but would also be considered a hate crime under the scheme. Wolf whistling would be considered a hate incident, but police investigate and offer victims support regardless of whether the act is criminal or not.
In fact, the report states that police have spoken to building site managers after women reported harassment by builders. According to Nottinghamshire Police, the scheme was not meant to push for move convictions but increase the amount of people reporting incidents and change attitudes in the community.
Since three quarters of victims said there been a long-term impact because of experiencing hate crime, it is clearly a necessary shift. However, according to The Telegraph, some police on the force have spoken out against the policy, calling it a ‘vanity project’. The report showed that officers were ‘dismissive’ of the policy, with one officer saying it ‘incorporated some behaviours that were fairly trivial, did not warrant a police response and that it involved a waste of resources without being backed by a mandate from the public’.
One went as far to say ‘I just think if someone wolf whistles you when you walk past a building site, “So what? Really?” If someone came up to me in a gym and said “you look good in your lycra” I’d take it – ‘thanks!’.
Of course, internalized misogyny is within all of us, and sexism is particularly prevalent within the police, so it may not be a surprise that some male officers cannot understand the benefit of tackling seemingly small acts when they themselves are privileged not to be worn down by them every day. The public however, have been overwhelmingly in support of the pilot scheme, with 87% of people surveyed stating it was a good idea to make misogyny a hate crime in Nottinghamshire.
In fact, the report goes on to suggest the policy should be rolled out nationally, with Paddy Tipping, Nottinghamshire’s police and crime commissioner promising to raise the issue at the chief constable’s discussion later this week. ‘We all need to be pushing together to say we are not going to tolerate this kind of behaviour,’ he told The BBC, ‘The report has come out at a really good time, a couple of days before all the chief constables have this discussion, and I think there's a lot of support for it.’
With Labour MP Melanie Onn leading the charge to make misogyny a hate crime, there is also support within the government. Alas, we are closer than ever to seeing an active response to incidents of misogyny in the public. It’s about time.