Ahead of National Hate Crime Awareness Week 2021 and in the wake of a number of high-profile violent attacks on women, Catch22’s Head of Victim Services Emma Jones responds.
In July 2021 the national tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy was published by Government, calling for a reduction in the prevalence of violence against women and girls. Less than a month later, Jake Davison shot and killed five people and injured two others before shooting himself in Plymouth. The shooting was linked to misogyny – that is, prejudice directed specifically at women.
We have also seen the horrific murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, apparent random attacks against women walking home. These are just the high-profile incidents we hear about – which have resulted in the most tragic of outcomes.
Across our victim services, Catch22 supports women who have been subjected to physical, sexual, and emotional harm because of crimes that were clearly targeting them as women. Domestic Violence has been on the rise nationwide. Victim First, our service in Leicestershire, has additionally noticed an increase in stalking reports since last March 2020. And Beacon Victim Care has opened its Family Hub because of increasing rates of child-on-parent violence – more often son-on-parent violence – in the area. The behaviours which lead to serious violence against women and girls often start early.
Catch22 submitted evidence to the Violence Against Women and Girls earlier this year, with direct reports of a dismissive attitude from professionals, including police, where an incident was reported:
“They do not care. Having their involvement has made everything worse.”
– Victim of exposure of indecent images
“The officer was not very sympathetic and makes dismissive comments.”
– Victim of sexual assault
Nottinghamshire Police – where Catch22 delivers Victim CARE, a service for all victims of crime, including hate crime – was the first to legally recognise misogyny as a hate crime against women in its recording of hate crime in 2016. Between then and November 2020, 260 offences have been recorded. This is likely to be lower than the actual figure due to underreporting or misconception of motivation, but it is a welcome start to better recording the how and why of offences against women and girls.
Catch22 believes in tackling issues early on – in this case, by addressing the culture of misogyny embedded within our society. The existence of this culture is clear, as early as school days, as evidenced in Everyone’s Invited and the daily statistics we see in our victim services and across the UK.
Healthy relationships education is welcome, made compulsory in schools to start being delivered from September 2020. However, the published statutory guidance still allows parents to refuse their child parts of the curriculum. Addressing prejudices, learning to have healthy relationships, and knowing what behaviour is or is not appropriate should not be something you’re able to opt-out of.
What is needed?
Women need to be confident that the police will believe them when a report is made, and all efforts to hold an offender to account will be made. Culture changes need to happen to improve this and recognition of gender-based hate crimes are a step in the right direction. But recognition and additional criteria relating to misogyny added to the list of ‘hate crime’ targets is unlikely to be sufficient when we see the severe harms done to women and girls daily.
We need more than just a law change. There needs to be better education much, much earlier in a child’s life. There must be clear processes for schools, workplaces, and police for how to respond to ‘minor’ incidences, as well as much more serious reports, so that we are not creating a society where any misogynistic behaviour – from any person or professional – is ok.