PCC supports Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week with Crimestoppers campaign
06 February 2023
Police and Crime Commissioner Donna Jones is urging others to support Crimestoppers’ Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) national campaign, as part of Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week (Feb 6 – 12).
The campaign calls for people to challenge attitudes and increase reporting on those responsible to reduce sexual violence in our communities.
Crimestoppers commissioned a University of Suffolk report that revealed one in six children face unwanted sexual harassment in public from the age of 10. The report also sheds light on general attitudes to sexual harassment and the age at which victims are targeted.
The survey had responses from 1,800 people and key findings included:
- Around one in six participants (16.8%) first experience of sexual harassment occurred when they were aged 10 or younger
- 9% of participants first encountered unwanted sexual behaviour between the ages of 14-16
- Almost the same percentage – 29% – first experienced unwanted approaches between 11-13 years-old
- The survey also found that 10% of women said they had been raped while 23% saying they had been ‘forced’ to have sex
- Less than 1% of victims said they felt flattered, attractive or desired after their most recent harassment experience
The research also found that respondents changed their behaviour or activities to avoid a repeat incident with nearly 10% avoiding outdoor areas where they had previously encountered unwanted sexual behaviours.
More than a third (38%) had been followed and nearly a quarter (23%) had witnessed flashing/ genital exposure.
Whilst the largest group of perpetrators were strangers, this was closely followed by classmates during their younger years, then acquaintances and colleagues in later life. You can read the full report here.
Police and Crime Commissioner Donna Jones said: “Reducing sexual violence and sexual abuse starts with a culture change. Attitudes towards women and girls especially must change if we are to reduce sexual offences, harassment, rape and abuse in the long term.
“It is deeply shocking that children as young as 10 years old have been exposed to sexual harassment of any kind and those aged 11-13 years old have experienced unwanted approaches. We must do more as a society to call out this behaviour when we see it.
“We know sexual offences have increased nationally, and leaving this behaviour unchallenged just normalises it, and can lead to some perpetrators going on to commit the most serious crimes such as rape and child abuse.
“Whilst the campaign has been solely created as part of the response to violence against women and girls, we should be calling out, challenging and advocating for all victims of sexual harassment, abuse and violence.
“As Commissioner, I am urging partners of my VAWG Task Group to support this campaign which compliments the work we are doing as a multi-agency group to tackle VAWG in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.”
Councillor Matt Renyard, Cabinet Member for a Safer City at Southampton City Council said:
“The Crimestoppers report highlights the sad reality that sexual harassment starts at an early age. Supporting behaviour change tools through education is an initiative we are pleased to continue supporting through Safer Streets funding. The multi-agency working with Yellow Door outreach and STAR programmes, as well as the Saints Foundation, aims to change negative gender behaviours with young people.
“In addition, we have launched a joint Violence Against Women and Girls and Domestic Abuse strategy, cementing our commitment to this issue for the next five years.
“This is an important initiative that requires all of us to challenge attitudes and the normalisation of bad behaviours. It will not be easy, and it starts with all of us playing our part, being the change that we wish to see and taking responsibility for our own actions and attitudes. As a City of Sanctuary, I want everyone, no matter their personal circumstances to feel confident in reporting and to receive a consistent and comprehensive level of support.”
Violence Against Women and Girls lead for Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary, Chief Superintendent Raj Kohli, said: “Sadly children, and adults, face sexualised abuse and harassment every day – especially now in the day and age of vast social media consumption and other external pressures.
“Yet, that does not make the treatment they experience by their peers, by people known – and often unknown to them – acceptable.
“We must do more to stamp out these behaviours early on. If we see, witnesses or experience these behaviours taking place – which can include, but not limited to; unwanted touching, street-level harassment, workplace harassment, coercive control and cyberflashing amongst others we must take action. Whilst everyone should have the confidence to call people out; challenge them on their behaviour. We want Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to be a hostile place for anyone who commits offences against women and girls as there is no excuse; it is simply not acceptable and will not be endured.
“We are continuously reviewing information and crime reports that we receive from the community around violence against women and girls, but without those reports, we cannot be in a position to best allocate our resources in order to protect the community. This helps us to fully understand the problems we are facing and allows us to put plans in place to deter the small minority who are intent on committing these offences and causing a nuisance across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
“The public are our ears on the ground, so we would strongly urge local residents to continue to report any suspicious incidents directly to us. This ensures that we can conduct a thorough investigations and identify those responsible and bring them justice.
“We need an urgent, wholesale societal and cultural change around our attitudes towards children, women and girls. We, as the police, cannot do this alone and require the support of all our communities and different sectors to ensure that we can make our villages, towns and cities a safer place for children, women and girls.
“Behaviours ranging from wolf whistling at school girls through to sexualised verbal harassment or ‘cat-calling’ have an unfair and significant impact on women and girls every day. Even more importantly, they are often precursors to more serious offending – such as sexual assault, rape and child abuse – as a perpetrator’s offending escalates, making it even more important we tackle any abuse as swiftly as possible.
“That is why Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Constabulary prioritises efforts to tackling violence against women and girls and wholly support this campaign during Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week – we need to more to stop these behaviours now, not tomorrow or in the future.
“We are committed to working in partnership to making our streets, our open spaces, our homes and public transport safer for everyone, regardless of background or circumstances, we want our local communities to know that we are here to protect them if they need our help.
“If you have ever felt unsafe because of environmental issues in your local communities, because of behaviours displayed by others or when out enjoying the night time economy; we would implore you to make an anonymous report using the StreetSafe website – www.police.uk/streetsafe.
“However, if you have been a victim and it is non urgent, please report it as a crime either online or via 101.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Donna Jones funds a range of support services for victims of sexual violence and sexual abuse across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
She funds Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs) for adults and children in addition to therapeutic and counselling for victims of sexual crimes.
You can find out more here: Support for victims of sexual crime – Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner (hampshire-pcc.gov.uk)