A police force has become the first in Britain to recognize misogyny as a hate crime, in an effort to make the county a safer place for women.
Nottinghamshire Police is recording incidents such as wolf whistling, street harassment, verbal abuse and taking photographs without consent within the hate crime definition.
It also includes unwanted sexual advances, uninvited physical or verbal contact and using mobile phone to send unwanted messages.
Commenting on the new procedures, introduced in partnership with Nottingham Women’s Centre, Chief Constable Sue Fish said: “I’m delighted that we are leading the way towards tackling misogyny in all its forms.
“It’s a very important aspect of the overall hate crime work being conducted and one that will make Nottinghamshire a safer place for all women.
“What women face, often on a daily basis, is absolutely unacceptable and can be extremely distressing.”
During the past three months, selected officers and staff have undergone misogyny hate crime training which includes “behaviour targeted towards a woman by men simply because they are a woman”.
Work on the idea first started in 2014 after a research project led to a conference at which victims gave examples of harassment faced by women.
Melanie Jeffs, centre manager at Nottingham Women’s Centre, said: “We’re pleased to see Nottinghamshire Police recognise the breadth of violence and intimidation that women experience on a daily basis in our communities.
“Understanding this as a hate crime will help people to see the seriousness of these incidents and hopefully encourage more women to come forward and report offences.”
A force spokesman said: “Nottinghamshire Police has been working hard to understand exactly what hate crime means to the people of Nottinghamshire and has a clear definition.
“A hate crime is simply any incident, which may or may not be deemed as a criminal offence, which is perceived by the victim or any other person, as being motivated by prejudice or hatred.”
She added: “”Unwanted physical or verbal contact or engagement is defined as exactly that and so can cover wolf-whistling and other similar types of contact.
“If the victim feels that this has happened because they are a woman then we will record it as a hate crime. This doesn’t necessarily mean that a criminal offence has been committed, but means we will carry out risk assessments and offer support as we would to any victim of a hate crime.”
Domestic abuse is not included within the scope of misogyny hate crime as it is dealt with under its own procedures.
Richie Jones, lead on hate crimes for the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “All hate crimes are serious offences, and need to be dealt with appropriately. Any change in recording which helps officers better categorise the types of hate crime, can only be a good thing.”
Sarah Green, acting director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: “We welcome this because it comes off the local police force talking to and listening to local women’s groups. What we are talking about is not trivial behaviour – some harassment that women and girls receive in public is upsetting and should have the attention of the authorities.”
She added: “Police in Nottingham have not changed the law but they have listened to local women who said the behaviour bothered them. Together, they are recording it so they can monitor it and look back on who is doing it and where it happens.”
Last year, a building firm was investigated by police after a young woman, Poppy Smart, complained about “lecherous” men wolf-whistling at her in the street.
The 23-year-old filmed the builders’ behaviour and handed it to police.
It was believed to be the first time police had ever investigated wolf whistling as a potential crime. The investigation was later dropped when Miss Smart said she was happy the men had been internally disciplined.
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