Could this become a worldwide offense?
Earlier this summer, a county in the United Kingdom began classifying misogyny as a hate crime. Under the new guidelines, Nottinghamshire police are trained to treat any reported misogynistic behavior or harassment of women as a criminal offense.
According to police, a misogyny hate crime, “May be understood as incidents against women that are motivated by an attitude of a man towards a woman, and includes behavior targeted towards a woman by men simply because they are a woman.” Wrongdoings can include a variety of offenses including harassment (both verbal and physical) and unwanted or uninvited text messages.
Officially, the law hasn’t changed?—?police still can’t lock men up for cat-calling and sending dick pics?—?but by investigating these instances as though they were actual criminal offenses, police hope to show women that they are being heard while simultaneously deterring offenders from going out and committing more serious crimes, like rape and murder.
When Nottinghamshire’s pilot program began attracting attention earlier this summer, the press immediately fixated on the sensational aspect of the story. Publications ran articles with headlines like “Catcalling Is Now A Hate Crime In Nottinghamshire, England.” But Nottinghamshire’s chief constable, Sue Smith, thinks these headlines both missed and diminished the aim of the law.
The point of Nottinghamshire’s new approach is not to make men feel paranoid about their (safe and respectful) interactions with women. Rather, the idea is to train the police to empathetically respond to female victims. Nottinghamshire hopes that this new strategy will make women more likely to report the incidents that make them feel unsafe.
It’s no secret that when it comes to reporting and prosecuting rapes, the system is severely broken. According to the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network, only 344 out of every 1,000 rapes are ever reported. The reason why so many victims are apprehensive about reporting has a great deal to do with the skepticism and apathy they are greeted with when they do choose to disclose their assaults to law enforcement.
Plus, reporting the crime is only one small portion of a much larger battle towards justice. In the United States, women have to fight to get rape kits, then fight to get those rape kits tested. No matter where you look, the process is littered with significant issues.
That’s why Nottinghamshire’s new program feels so significant. In addition to training police to actually listen to victims of harassment, the program also enables law enforcement to effectively collect and analyze data, thus allowing police to see how widespread the problem actually is.
The Nottinghamshire hate crime initiative first launched in July and already, other forces are seeing the appeal of the program. This month, Scotland will launch an independent advisory group of its own, which will also focus on hate crimes and other prejudices.
Here in the United States, we are just beginning to reexamine and restructure entire police forces built on years of brutality and prejudice, so it seems unlikely that we’ll be tackling issues like misogyny any time soon. But wouldn’t it be great to live in a world where you could report someone who sent you a dick pic— and be taken seriously?