Violence Against Women Should Be Treated As Seriously As Terrorism, Report Finds
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An investigation has called for violence against women and girls to be treated and prioritised as highly as terrorism.
HM Inspectorate of Constabulary has called for radical change surrounding crimes that disproportionately affect women, such as rape, domestic abuse, sexual assault and stalking.
Two thirds of women aged between 16 and 34 say they have been sexually harassed in the last year, while half feel unsafe in public areas.
“We can’t just police our way out of this, these offences are deep rooted, pervasive and prevalent across our society and if that is to change a whole-system approach is needed,” said inspector Zoë Billingham.
“There will need to be more resources... this is not going to happen if there is not an increase in funding to enable it to happen.”
At present, violence against women and girls is not included in the list of priorities on the Strategic Policing Requirement. Categories that are prioritised include terrorism, serious and organised crime, protests and child sexual abuse.
“[Women and girls] should be afforded a priority that is equivalent to those types of crime,” said Zoë.
“Police have improved the way they respond over the last five years, but when you look at the priorities within police forces, violence against women and girls often does not feature. We think that given the scale of the epidemic it’s vital that it does.”
The inspection was sparked by the tragic death of Sarah Everard earlier this year.
The disappearance of Sarah sent shockwaves around the UK after the 33-year-old went missing as she walked home from a friend's house in Clapham, south London, on 3rd March.
A major police investigation was launched and her body was found a week later in woodland in Kent. A post-mortem revealed that Sarah died from compression of the neck.
Wayne Couzens - a Met Police officer - pleaded guilty to her murder.
Zoë added: “The reaction after the murder of Sarah Everard has made it absolutely clear that things need to change.”
The report has made a number of recommendations and has called for the government to create statutory duty in order to protect women and girls.
Meanwhile, Harriet Wistrich, Director of the Centre for Women’s Justice has called for the government to 'address the failures of other criminal justice systems' while 'investing significant funds to tackle this epidemic'.
She said: "The scale of violence against women and girls (VAWG) and the failures of our criminal justice system in tackling this issue is a public health emergency. This was reflected in the public response to the Sarah Everard murder which originally triggered the inspectorate report and is abundantly evident in the work we do with frontline women’s services.
"We welcome the recommendations of the inspectorate report but ask how many more reports must there be before there is change?
"The laws and the policies are largely in place to tackle the problem but the resources are not and the huge variations in practice identified in the report, indicate there is not sufficient accountability.
"The loss of specialist policing units around domestic abuse in many forces has been a disaster which must be reversed. We welcome the recommendation for improved data analysis so we can understand better which victims are most failed.
"The government must now invest significant funds to tackle this epidemic and they must also address the failures of other criminal justice agencies, in particular the CPS and probation, which require similar scrutiny and accountability.
"The report does not adequately address a lack of understanding of the nature of VAWG by the police and other criminal justice agencies which results in so many victims becoming criminalised and resources being disastrously misdirected."
Home secretary, Priti Patel, said: “Tackling violence against women and girls is a top priority for the government, which is why I commissioned this report from the inspectorate.
“Our Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy, which commits to radically changing how we end abuse using a whole-system approach, focuses on working with key agencies including police, healthcare and education. We have already taken essential action including introducing a national police lead for tackling VAWG and making relationship education compulsory in all primary schools.
“I am grateful to the inspectorate for their work on this report. We will consider its findings and recommendations and expect police to also take necessary action.”
For support, advice and information, you can visit Centre for Women's Justice here.