Force becomes first in the country to adopt a separate category for misogynistic incidents in attempt to tackle sexist abuse
Unwanted physical approaches in the street can be reported to Nottinghamshire police as a hate crime. Photograph: Alamy
Uninvited sexual advances and unwanted verbal contact with a woman, including catcalling or wolf-whistling in the street, are to be recorded as a hate crimes in a new effort to tackle sexist abuse.
Nottinghamshire police has expanded its categories of hate crime to include misogynistic incidents, characterised as behaviour targeted towards a victim simply because they are a woman.
This means incidents ranging from street harassment to unwanted physical approaches can be reported to and investigated by the police, and support put in place for victims.
The force is the first in the country to adopt the separate misogyny hate crime category, and has provided specific training to selected officers in the past three months.
Commenting on the new procedures, introduced in partnership with Nottingham Women’s Centre, Ch Con 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.”
Work on the change began in June 2014 after a research project, which led on to a conference at which women gave examples of harassment they had faced.
Fish encouraged anyone affected by misogynistic hate crime to contact police without hesitation. “The work we are doing with Nottingham Women’s Centre is so valuable and I am looking forward to continuing that work,” she added.
Melanie Jeffs, the manager at the 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.”
The Nottinghamshire force defines a hate crime as “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”.
Domestic abuse is not included within the scope of misogyny hate crime as it is dealt with under its own procedures.
Misogyny hate crime is classed under the new policy as “incidents against women that are motivated by an attitude of a man towards a woman, and includes behaviour targeted towards a woman by men simply because they are a woman”.
Examples of such incidents may include unwanted or uninvited sexual advances, physical or verbal assault, unwanted or uninvited physical or verbal contact or engagement, and use of mobile phones to send unwanted or uninvited messages or take photographs without consent.
Last year, a building firm was investigated by police after a 23-year-old woman, Poppy Smart, reported men wolf-whistling at her in the street.
While the matter was dropped when dropped Smart was satisfied it had been handled internally by the firm, it was believed to be the first time police had investigated wolf-whistling as a potential crime.
Rachel Krys, co-director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: “It is great that police in Nottingham will be capturing the way a lot of harassment in public spaces is targeted at women and girls. In a recent poll we found that 85% of women aged 18-24 have experienced unwanted sexual attention in public places and 45% have experienced unwanted sexual touching, which can amount to sexual assault.
“This level of harassment is having an enormous impact on women’s freedom to move about in the public space as it makes women feel a lot less safe. The women we spoke to do a lot of work to feel safer, including avoiding parts of the city they live in, taking taxis and leaving events in groups.”
Krys said recording such incidents would give police and policymakers a much clearer grasp on the levels of harassment women and girls are subjected to, and better understand measures which could reduce it.
“It should also challenge the idea that women and girls in public or online spaces are ‘fair game’,” she added. “We know that ignoring harassment and sexist bullying creates the impression that other types of violence against women will be tolerated so we welcome any action which counters this.”