Recently, in Barnsley, PC Liam Mills, 34, pleaded guilty to two counts of misconduct, admitting in court to having developed a sexual relationship with a female domestic abuse victim. Vile What’s App messages, shared in groups with Wayne Couzens (who murdered Sarah Everard) and other serving Police Officers have surfaced highlighting a flagrant disregard for women’s lives and safety. Images taken of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman by PCs Deniz Jaffer and Jamie Lewis, who were meant to be guarding the crime scene, were described by the judge as undermining public confidence and trust in the Police, when they were sentenced.
These incidents make victims and survivors fearful that the abuse, misogyny, and sexism that they experience in their own lives is also persistent within the institutions tasked with our protection.
Some commentators have compared the violence reported in the news as the result of a few bad apples, isolated incidents, individuals who have slowly gone bad. However, we believe that the problem runs deeper and is embedded within organisations’ very foundations. The so-called ‘bad apples’ are the result of rot within the tree itself and this rot permeates through institutions and public life. Our society and the individuals within it allow sexist and misogynistic attitudes and beliefs to prevail and persist. Every time sexist ‘banter’, rape jokes, outdated gender roles and harmful stereotypes go unchallenged, a potential perpetrator becomes emboldened.
Independent charities, like IDAS, work tirelessly to keep people safe from abuse and violence and change societal attitudes, however, the pace of change is too slow; women and girls are still not safe on our streets and in our own homes.
We need awareness, action, and consistent challenge to weed out the problem.
Staying quiet, letting it go this time, smiling along, dismissing it as harmless, being a silent bystander, all these seemingly innocuous behaviours create an environment where the worst attitudes are cultivated.
We must come together; individuals, charities, and institutions to make our calls for change a reality. We must nurture and propagate positive, inclusive cultures in all areas of our lives, and we must call upon those organisations in positions of authority to do their bit too. Locally, we applaud South Yorkshire Police who, together with the Office of the Police Crime Commissioner, have launched their ‘No More – Stand With Us’ raising awareness of street harassment. In North Yorkshire we have seen the development of an ambitious strategy to tackle violence against women and girls.
However, if we want real change to end abuse and violence and create a safer world for women and girls it will take our collective and long-term effort to make a real change. We can’t afford to stay silent a minute longer.
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