Finally, people are taking street harassment seriously.
Catcalling is not just innocent flirting. It disproportionately affects women and the LGBT community, making them feel intimidated in public spaces. In fact, catcalling is often a precursor to more aggressive forms of street harassment. A 2014 research study found that 65 percent of American women have experienced street harassment with 23 percent having been sexually touched, 20 percent followed, and nine percent forced into a sexual act. That’s why a new law in the British county of Nottinghamshire is so important.
Last Wednesday, the Nottinghamshire Police Department, in a partnership with the Nottinghamshire Women’s Center, announced that episodes of catcalling or street harassment will now be investigated as misogyny hate crimes. “What women face, often on a daily basis, is absolutely unacceptable and can be extremely distressing,” Sue Fish, Chief Constable of the Nottinghamshire Police, said. “Nottinghamshire Police is committed to taking misogynistic hate crime seriously and encourages anyone who is affected by it to contact us without hesitation.” In order to better understand street harassment and enforce its new laws, Nottinghamshire’s police officers are undergoing misogyny hate crime training throughout the month of July.
Nottinghamshire’s definition of a misogyny hate crime:
Misogyny hate crime, in addition to the general hate crime definition, may be understood 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 misogyny hates crimes include:
Unwanted or uninvited sexual advances; physical or verbal assault; unwanted or uninvited physical or verbal contact or engagement; use of mobile devices to send unwanted or uninvited messages or take photographs without consent or permission.
By acknowledging a dangerous form of harassment that 99 percent of UK women report having experienced, Nottinghamshire has taken important step towards bringing the issue to light. Hopefully, after seeing the actions of a British county with over one million residents, other municipalities will begin to take notice. “We’re pleased to see Nottinghamshire Police recognize the breadth of violence and intimidation that women experience on a daily basis in our communities,” Melanie Jeffs, the manager of the Nottingham Women’s Centre. “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 offenses.”