'Amidst calls from MPs and campaigners to make misogyny a hate crime, Sara Thornton, chair of the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) has said that misogyny, although a ‘deserving issue’, is not a ‘core’ issue for the police. And the chief of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, agreed, saying: ‘I absolutely agree with Sara,’ adding ‘I think that the police are being asked to do functions that we are not as well skilled for — it’s not appropriate for us and to get back to the priority and the core we will have to stop doing that.’
Speaking at a joint conference between the NPCC and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, Thornton initially said: ‘I’m not saying misogyny is not an issue [but] is recording it as a crime necessarily the best way to reduce that?
‘While all of us would be concerned about misogyny, what I’m questioning is whether making it into a criminal offence and thinking of it solely in terms of a criminal justice solution is the best way to deal with what is essentially an issue about the way we all behave and treat each other.’
Now, Thornton does make a good point. The way we all behave and treat each other, of course, needs to be addressed, and a world in which we all sat down and evaluated how we behave and treat each other would surely be a crimeless world. Culture, rather than policy, will have a huge part to play in that mission. Yet we don’t live in that utopia, and the police is meant to do a set of jobs, including detecting, preventing and investigating crimes. Why should crimes against women, committed because they are women, be discarded?
Policing, is, sadly, a tough task right now. As well as increasing lines of division across this grey, squabbly country, austerity Britain has had dire impacts on police resources, and they're facing increasing levels of violent crime with fewer police to deal with it. However, paying heed to the warning signs threatening violence against women and girls is vital to the safety of the entire country.
Dick was right when she said ‘Violent crime — I define it broadly from terrorism through to sexual offences and child protection and street violence and domestic abuse — will remain our priority.’ Yet she, and Thornton, have been woefully wrong in suggesting that the hate crime that so often precedes or coincides with it isn’t part of the bigger picture of violence against women.
Women are, every week across the UK, insulted, shouted at, harassed, followed, stalked, abused, hit, hurt, raped, killed (that’s two a week by a partner or ex-partner), all because they are women. These harms run continuum, and it’s very telling to note where anyone draws the line between one behaviour and another.
Of course, of course, calling a woman a ‘slag’ doesn’t render a man a rapist, and we need to be very careful in how those two different acts are responded to. Both are committed, though, by those similarly infected with the horrific notion that reason that it’s ok to treat women as lesser. That notion, unchecked, grows braver, and bolder, and even more dangerous. Not only to women, women we can tell ourselves when we see their news stories pop up in tragic stories of murders and rapes that aren’t like us for perverse reasons of wanting to assure our own safety. But to children, to other men, to our very institutions.
We hear all too often of a woman who bravely tells the police, over and over, that she’s afraid of a man who’s threatened her, or previously been violent, as with 32-year-old Kerri McAuley, who was killed by her 28-year-old ex-boyfriend Joe Storey who’d previously been violent to five of his exes. He broke every bone in her face. Multiple public agencies designed to protect women like Kerri, including Norfolk Police, now have questions to answer.
You’d think the stories like this, which happen all too regularly - two women a week are killed because of domestic abuse! One in five women have been raped or sexually assaulted! One in four women will experience domestic abuse! - would make all forces and the Great British public at large, sit up, take notice and feel compelled to nix misogyny in the bud, where it begins, before it leads to this mass horror. Maybe we're all just desensitised, to the point the constant grinding down of women washes over us. Perhaps we're all too busy dealing with our own travails to want to do anything but bury our heads in the sand when we see story of less lucky women.
However, even if you don’t give a crap about women (in which case, hello, pease enjoy this website), you will still benefit from a nationwide zero-tolerance policy towards misogyny. The Westminster Bridge attacker, like so many other terrorists, had tried out his violence on women previously. Children in abusive households are also, sadly, more likely to grow up to become abusive or otherwise criminal themselves. Laid out like that, surely the most cynical, sneering anti-feminist who thinks it’s all gone a bit too far and men can’t flirt anymore post-#MeToo and women in the UK have it fine, wouldn’t disagree with taking hatred against women seriously?
If the cash-strapped police want to detect who’s most likely to commit the most violent types of crimes against women, in order to prevent (costly) crime before it requires (costly) investigation, they need look no further than those who blatantly and frequently call us names, harass us, taunt us, throw stuff at us, bully us, abuse us, and all those other things that apparently still don’t constitute hate crimes. We can give them the information, the numberplates, the physical descriptions, and the police can use this intelligence to help protect others from the worse crimes these hate crimes threaten. Violence against women so regularly happens behind closed doors, but the best clues, the most formative warning signs that a man - and, yes, 78% of violent crime is perpetrated by men - is going to hurt us, in the illegal way, is the way he talks about, or treats, 51% of the population.
There will be outliers who hide their misogyny, and stifle it, feeling censored by a brave new world that they feel treats men like women have been treated for the past couple of millennia. And as various facts laid out here attest, it will be their misapprehension driving this, is equality is a long way off. Unfortunately, at present, though, so many men are dropping hints left, right and centre. This isn't about unconscious bias, of manspreading and other entitlements some men carry with them. This is about the very real vitriol 64% of British women have endured, which isn't committed by some bogeyman, but actual men. Not all men, but too many men, who continue to get away with it and so, so much worse.
I’ll reiterate. A man calling jeering and wolf-whistling at a woman so loudly that she then has to change her walk home or be on high alert for the same humiliation to hit her next time she’s in the area, is not as bad as a rapist. Yet, if he really isn’t here to commit violence against women, he should have absolutely no problem dropping casual, hateful misogyny from his repertoire of banter. In this climate, is it really worth fighting to keep a man’s supposed right to hurl insults at women? Is it really too much to ask certain men to stop being such ogres? If not for us, then for their own safety in the face of a police service that, if truly doing its job, would consider, as so many women post-#MeToo do, all those tiny-seeming acts of hatred against women as potential red flags of something more serious.
Yesterday’s misogyny is tomorrow’s public health crisis and today, high-ranking police officers have an opportunity to collect information on harmful men, on people who detest women, in order to stop violent crime before it takes place. In the long run, it'll save them and us.'