The Mayor of London’s refreshed violence against women and girls strategy will work to “rebuild trust and confidence” in the police.
Sadiq Khan has revealed his intention to “rebuild” trust in the police and criminal justice system as part of a refreshed violence against women and girls strategy announced today (15 June).
The new strategy – which adopts a public health style approach – will urge high street venues such as beauticians and cafes across London to become ‘information points’ where victims or those at risk can come forward and seek help.
With a focus on prevention, the scheme will also see City Hall invest £17.7 million to fund and improve specialist support services, tackle the behaviour of perpetrators and educate the public on how they can address the issue.
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The Mayor has also unveiled plans to help victims and survivors feel comfortable approaching police officers and pursuing the justice they deserve.
This will include revisiting vetting processes and taking efforts to change the culture of the police as a whole, rather than passing off incidents – such as the high-profile murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Metropolitan police officer – as isolated actions perpetrated by individual ‘bad apples’.
“We’ve got to learn the lessons from the awful abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer, which has really shaken the confidence of many people, understandably so,” Khan tells Stylist.
“I don’t accept the ‘bad apples’ excuse. That can’t explain Charing Cross Police Station[where an investigation by the police watchdog discovered misogyny, discrimination and sexual harassment], and the confidence those officers had to share those messages, and it can’t explain the photographs being shared by police officers [like in the case of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman] and so forth.”
Focusing on his new strategy – which has been drawn up in partnership with violence against women and girls’ experts and survivors – Khan says any change has to be a “whole system approach”.
“We need to look at how we vet new recruits, how we vet those who are serving and get police officers to understand that there is zero tolerance towards any of this sort of stuff,” he says.
“But it’s got to start from the top, and that’s why the two most important things the new commissioner has got to do is to have a plan to address the culture that is leading to this. And secondly, have a plan to earn back the trust and confidence that has been lost from too many people across the country, including in London.”
Research into male violence against women and girls paints a stark picture of the issue Khan’s new strategy aims to tackle. In the UK, a woman is killed by a man every three days, and worldwide, statistics show that around one in seven women has suffered violence at the hands of a partner within the last year.
Speaking in Walthamstow during a visit to local businesses that have been working to support women in the community, Khan also spoke about the ongoing work being done to tackle violence against women and girls on a national level – and suggested more needed to be done to make real change.
“I think the government is making progress, and I welcome the progress that they’ve made, but it’s not enough,” he says.
“I think misogyny should be a hate crime – other protected characteristics like race, sexuality and disability are recorded, why isn’t misogyny? I also think harassment in a public place should be a criminal offence.”
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Khan continued: “I think too many men and boys have become desensitised and have normalised bad behaviour – that’s what #HaveAWord [the public awareness campaign launched earlier this year] is about. And similarly, I worry women and girls have been desensitised and think stuff like this is just part and parcel of being a woman, but it isn’t.
“I want to be an ally to women and girls. And that’s why this policy was refreshed after a lot of work with women and girls. This is not my document – my name is on it, but it’s the result of the expert advice we received from women and girls, experts, survivors and victims. It’s the fruit of their hard work.”
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