— Heart West News (@HeartWestNews) October 17, 2016
Our response to Cllr Eddy was featured by Bristol 24/7 both online and in print in July 2016.
Bristol Zero Tolerance statement in response to the letter to The Bristol Post from Cllr Richard Eddy
Bristol Zero Tolerance were very disappointed to see the letter in The Bristol Post from Conservative Councillor Richard Eddy, following an article, which commented on the recent addition of misogyny and street harassment as a category of hate crime by Nottinghamshire Police.
We are very pleased that both the Conservative Group and Conservative MP Charlotte Leslie have shown their support for the Bristol Zero Tolerance initiative and hope that Cllr Eddy’s comments do not reflect those of his party more broadly and in particular the Conservative Group’s support for Bristol becoming a city with a Zero Tolerance to gender-based violence, abuse, harassment and exploitation.
We applaud the work of Nottinghamshire Police and the Nottingham Women’s Centre who have been working to create a new category of misogynistic hate crime as a way to address the harassment and abuse that women experience on a daily basis simply because they are women in public spaces. This is not limited to wolf-whistling, Bristol Zero Tolerance defines gender-based harassment as “unwanted comments, gestures, and actions forced on a stranger in a public place without their consent and directed at them because of their real or perceived gender (whether male, female or non-binary). At the core of this kind of harassment is a power dynamic that constantly reminds historically subordinated groups of their vulnerability to violence in public spaces and also reinforces the sexual objectification of these groups in everyday life.
Street harassment includes unwanted whistling, leering, sexist, homophobic, biphobic or transphobic slurs, persistent requests for someone’s name, number or destination after they’ve said no, sexual names, comments and demands, following, flashing, public masturbation, groping, sexual assault, rape and hate crimes.”
Harassment is included as a form of gender-based violence in the work of Bristol Zero Tolerance because this is part of a continuum of violence and abuse and by condoning some forms of harassment, such as street harassment, there is a complicit understanding that this is acceptable and therefore that other forms of gender-based violence are also acceptable. Similarly hate incidents often escalate into hate crimes and so addressing them when they are low level can avoid more serious crimes.
Hate crime is a form of harassment and can also be severely violent and abusive, Bristol Zero Tolerance include hate crimes in our definition of gender-based violence and we also understand a hate crime or incident to be such if the person experiencing it understands it in this way. This self-definition is key as this is how the police will record and address these crimes and incidents and it also allows those experiencing harassment to make the decision about what they have experienced and how this will be recorded which can be an empowering process for vulnerable people.
Since the news about what is happening in Nottingham we have been contacted by women from across Bristol who are interested in implementing something similar because of the harassment that they experience and witness in Bristol and therefore we feel that this is also a significant issue here. Following this we contacted Nottingham Women’s Centre to find out what we could learn from them.
Cllr Eddy’s comments disregard the experiences of many women in Bristol and beyond who have faced harassment on the street, including wolf whistling but spanning a spectrum of different forms of harassment, which has made them feel vulnerable, unsafe and at risk. No one should have to feel this in public or private spaces and if it does happen there should be a way to address it and to let others know that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable. This is not a form of ‘politically correct’ policing but a way to support all citizens to feel safe in their city and to educate others about attitudes and behaviours that condone and reinforce all forms of gender-based violence. This is what we want a Zero Tolerance to in Bristol and addressing street harassment is just one part of this. We would be pleased if Avon and Somerset Police and Bristol as a city was able to learn from Nottingham to support people to feel less vulnerable and more able to speak up about their experiences of street harassment and all forms of hate crime and to work towards the Zero Tolerance vision.
Bristol Zero Tolerance and Bristol Women’s Voice are concerned about a sexual consent workshop given by Avon and Somerset Police at North Bristol Post 16 Centre on July 5th 2016 which included an out-of-date resource with the title ‘R U Asking For It’. This feeds into a culture of victim blaming and is completely inappropriate in light of the This is Not An Excuse campaign also run by the Police.
We have been pleased that the young women who received the workshop were able to have their voices and objections heard on the day and through social media and it is also encouraging that the story has been raised by local and national media as a serious issue – For example in The Bristol Post, BBC Bristol, The Huffington Post, and The Evening Standard.
We are also pleased that North Bristol Post 16 Centre immediately handled the situation proactively and in a timely manner. They gave the students time to ask challenging questions in order to share a positive dialogue around the issue and they met with the Police officers immediately following their session to provide feedback and express concern. You can read their statement in full here.
Avon and Somerset Police have also been proactive in their response and have dealt with the incident in a timely manner. As Avon and Somerset Police are signatories to Bristol Zero Tolerance we are working alongside them to see how they can take positive action in relation to this including training for staff and awareness about both This Is Not An Excuse and Bristol Zero Tolerance.
This incident highlights how important accurate messages about consent and healthy relationships are and how all schools must ensure that these are presented to young people through appropriate activities and well trained speakers. We are pleased to be working with the Bristol Ideal to encourage more schools to include consent and healthy relationships programmes in their curriculum and to ensure that young people are able to feel confident and informed about relationships, consent and gender-based violence issues.
On November 26th 2015, Bristol South MP Karin Smyth spoke to Government Ministers in the House of Commons about the work being done by Bristol Zero Tolerance.
On November 20th 2015 the Mayor, George Ferguson, spoke about Bristol Zero Tolerance in his annual Sate of the City address:
“Driven by the Women’s Commission with great support from both the council and our two universities the ‘Zero Tolerance’ campaign has launched a campaign that we should all get behind to say that as a city, as a community, we shall not tolerate any form of gender-based violence.
I am delighted that we have the Police, our Universities, First Bus, the City of Bristol College, Bristol Post, Business West and many others all signed up to the campaign. This is having a real impact across the city.”
Bristol Zero Tolerance is concerned to note the issues raised in relation to Avon and Somerset Police in the latest Police Effectiveness, Efficiency and Legitimacy Report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) yesterday.
Avon and Somerset Police have signed the Bristol Zero Tolerance pledge and so have committed to working towards making Bristol a city free from gender-based violence, abuse, harassment and exploitation. Bristol Zero Tolerance are meeting with the Police in the New Year to discuss how they can implement the pledge effectively across the force and develop an action plan to ensure that they are working towards the vision of a Zero Tolerance City both within the organisation and in their work with the public.
The concerns raised in the HMIC report will certainly form part of these conversations and be included in the Avon and Somerset Police action plan for Bristol Zero Tolerance as important issues that need to be addressed within the force. Supporting and safeguarding those most vulnerable to gender-based violence and exploitation are key parts of Bristol Zero Tolerance and we will work with the Police and other specialist agencies to ensure that those experiencing gender-based violence are able to report their abuse and are treated professionally and given appropriate support when they do, and that responses are consistent.
Avon and Somerset Police initiatives such as the This is not an Excuse campaign and the Lighthouse Victim and Witness Care Centre are to be encouraged and built upon to ensure a parity of service for all those vulnerable to gender-based violence and in need of support. Bristol Zero Tolerance is also working with the Police and Crime Commissioner, Sue Mountstevens, who has also signed the pledge, to ensure that the response to gender-based violence remains a high priority.
Bristol Zero Tolerance were interviewed and included in the Made In Bristol TV programme The 9 on November 23rd 2015 – you can watch it here at 10:30 Part 1 23.11.2015