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Have you been a victim of sexual harassment?

Have you ever felt in fear or harassed when walking down the street?

The Government is currently reviewing whether crimes motivated by hostility towards and power over women (misogyny), or men (misandry), should be brought under hate crime laws. This includes sexual harassment and unwanted advances in public spaces or the workplace. The United Nations describes sexual harassment as “a range of unacceptable behaviours and practices” that “aim at, result in, or are likely to result in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm.”

The Government has given police forces the option of whether or not to adopt misogyny or misandry as a form of hate crime for recording purposes, to gain an idea of the scale of the problem. This comes at a time when the Government is also asking employers to look at sexual harassment in the workplace.

We have created a survey so we can fully understand what the picture is here in Bedfordshire, to see if we need to follow other forces which have already adopted misogyny and misandry as a form of hate crime. To clarify there are currently five strands of hate crime the Government recognises in law (disability, race, religion, gender identity and sexual orientation). Hate crime in isn’t in itself a crime, other offences such as assault, become a hate crime when they're motivated by hate and hostility has been demonstrated. The sentence the perpetrator is then handed by the courts for the crime committed is increased if hate is involved, as it’s recognised the devastating impact it can have on a victim when you’re targeted because of your identity.

Please note, homophobic and transgender-based hate crimes have already been recognised in law. Therefore we are asking members of the public to fill in a confidential survey and tell us openly about their experiences. The survey is not a place to report crime, but to help us gauge if there is a problem with sexual harassment in Bedfordshire. If following the survey it showed there was a problem in Bedfordshire and we were to accept misogyny or misandry as a strand of hate crime, it would only be for recording purposes to highlight to the Government the extent of the problem, to encourage them to adopt it nationally. No sentences would be able at this stage to be increased because of its introduction in Bedfordshire, but victims would be fully supported and we would always attempt to pursue each case where a crime had been committed.

In 2016 Nottinghamshire Police became the first UK police force to identify misogyny as a specific hate crime strand to address the sexual harassment of women, which had been highlighted as an issue, particularly in the city centre. Nottinghamshire recorded misandry in the ‘other’ category, to record hate crimes that fall outside of the five nationally monitored strands.

The introduction of misogyny as a form of hate crime by Nottinghamshire Police received very high profile media coverage. There was inevitably some questioning/criticism within the media, which was characterised along the lines of trivialising the behaviours experienced by women, such as complaints you can no longer wolf whistle at or flirt with women. Misogyny or misandry is not about regulating natural interaction between people, it is about addressing sexually aggressive behaviour, which leaves victims feeling intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended.

Last year an independent, academic evaluation of Nottinghamshire Police’s policy and its implementation was published and the key findings were that misogyny is widespread, it has a serious and significant impact on victims, it received overwhelming public support and it should be rolled out nationally.

The examples from Nottinghamshire included a woman being followed home by a man aggressively sexually propositioning her and refusing to take no for an answer, a young girl being shouted at by men making lewd gestures as she walked to school in her uniform, a woman being groped on the bus and a runner receiving repeated verbal harassment. This has a huge effect on victims who change their behavior because of the harassment, such as stopping running, walking a certain way, taking a bus or train, or even leaving the house. 

For the purposes of the survey we are focusing specifically on incidents at work and in public places, that are not connected to intimate partner or family relationships. We take domestic abuse very seriously and are committed in other ways to addressing this in our community through our specialised Emerald Team. We are therefore asking those who reply to this survey not to include incidents of domestic abuse. If you have been a victim of domestic abuse you can contact us on 101 and we will fully support you.

We are also looking into misandry as men can be victims to and often don’t speak out. We want to put a stop to any inappropriate/criminal behaviour to any individual whether they are male or female, as everyone has the right to live free from fear or harassment.

 We would be grateful if you could fill out our survey at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/N7985VL and let us know about your experiences, as well as share it with anyone you think may have experienced this form of sexual harassment.

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