Report pegs no blame on victims
Nearly ninety per cent of night-time visitors to Liverpool city centre believe that women should be able to “wear what they like” without fear of sexual violence.
Respondents to a Merseyside Violence Reduction Partnership (MVRP) study released today (6 December) also say that drunkenness is no excuse for abuse and 78% thought that the victim in all cases is “never to blame.”
But while nearly 60% of the 365 interviewees had been subjected to sexual violence themselves, just 4% would report the crime to the authorities.
Examining the success of a new sexual violence police response called Operation Empower, which aims to disrupt predatory behaviour, the report showed that pubs, clubs, and the streets were the main sites for inappropriate touching, catcalling and even rape.
Detective Superintendent Siobhan Russell, Head of the Merseyside VRP said: “The respondents were keen to see more plain clothes officers on the streets and everyone from bar to door staff better trained to recognise the signs of unwanted sexual behaviour . But what we actually need is a fundamental societal change in mindset, starting at an early age. That is why we are running programmes in primary and secondary schools to combat misogyny, hurtful cyber bullying, and the objectification of women.”
The training element of Operation Empower was delivered by local authority specialists and RASA (Rape and Sexual Abuse Support). Participants from Merseyside Police and its partners in the night-time economy agreed that it had provided them with a better understanding of the nature and extent of sexual violence in the nightlife environment (76.9%), how to respond to sexual violence there (71.2%), and of where to go for help and support in cases of sexual violence (90.4%).
Recommendations included the setting-up of a permanent sexual crimes team, where the tactics and philosophies learned in the training were put into practice.
Whilst many of the respondents were confident to share with their peers the fact that they had been attacked, building-up their confidence sufficiently to report crimes to police needed further work,
Det Supt Russell, explained: “The huge majority of officers care deeply about violent and sexual crime, are aware of the hurt victims’ experience; and are keen to both punish and prevent these crimes from happening.
But the perception, no doubt increased by the horrific murder of Sarah Everard, is somewhat different. Collectively, the police and local authorities, working with our partners in education and health, need to develop greater public trust. Together we need to listen, understand, and act on suggestions from the members of the public when it comes to keeping them safe. If that means more work around designing out crime such as better streetlighting and CCTV, which could potentially reduce these types of offences, then our communities will be all the better for it.
Research has shown that the night-time economy has given our city a considerable boost in income since COVID and with a quarter of visitors to our bars and clubs coming from outside of the region, we have developed a national and international reputation for a great night out. However, women and girls need to feel safe for that to continue and that takes a reset in the way men, in particular, think.”