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Most of us are all too aware of the lack of attention and seriousness given to street harassment by the authorities. We hear rape stories all too often where a huge emphasis is made on the lack of help the victim received from the police, and we all wonder how to go about changing this. Fortunately, thanks to the hugely dedicated Vicky Simister, founder of our buddy campaign LASH, London mayoral candidate for 2012 Oona King has written street harassment into her policy. This is absolutely amazing news and a huge step forward for us, it means councils and police have to start paying attention, and many voters who may not have even heard of street harassment will be encouraged to take notice.
The policy states that King will:
“Commission Police reports across the capital about the extent of street harassment, and include it within anti-social behaviour programmes”
It also states:
“Taking street harassment seriously”
Street harassment is a regular occurrence for women in London, but is barely mentioned in government policy in the past. It is completely unacceptable that women should be expected to put up with casual intimidation, from unwanted sexual comments to being followed or even groped, simply as a result of going out in public. It is also likely that this behaviour acts as a gateway to more serious forms of violence, and so we simply cannot afford to let it go unchallenged.
The Mayor should promote a culture in which street harassment is recognised as unacceptable, and women do not have to suffer it in silence. Working with police, boroughs and Transport for London, effective action should include:
• Ensuring that local authorities recognise sexual harassment as a form of violence against women, and incorporate it into their training and policies
• Identifying London’s “harassment hotspots” and putting more police and community support officers where they are needed
• Coordinating a poster campaign to challenge this form of behaviour and encourage women to report it
• Establishing best practice in police responses, including consistent monitoring and enforcement where there is evidence of persistent harassment
• Working with local councils and community groups to ensure consensus on the unacceptability of street harassment”
“Violence against women
Women are more likely to be victims of violence in London than anywhere else in the UK and less likely to see their attackers successfully prosecuted. Many forms of violence are not adequately understood or taken seriously enough, including street harassment and violence. This is unacceptable: women should not have to live with the sense that they cannot be safe on London’s streets or in their homes.”
The policy states some really important factors; that street harassment can be a gateway to more severe forms of violence, something which is certainly not taken seriously amongst young males, that the police, tfl and borough councils need to be made aware and forced to take action, and that women need to be encouraged, (not discouraged, which unfortunately, thanks to the police, is currently the case) to report incidents of street harassment and sexual assault.
Huge thanks and well done to Vicky for this, and thanks to Oona King and her policy makers for taking this seriously, its totally amazing.