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Fighting to make women’s safety everyone’s responsibility

Women and girls are more likely to experience harassment and abuse in public spaces compared to men. These experiences of harassment often bear similarities to those experienced by LGBTQ+ communities. Unfortunately, the current laws and legislations surrounding street harassment and hate crimes are outdated. Hostile behaviours targeting women, girls, and non-binary individuals have been normalised, and often go unreported.

Historically, harassment was only recorded as a hate crime by police when it breached one of five protected characteristics of race, religion, sexuality, disability or transgender identity. Thanks to research undertaken in 2016 by NTU, the University of Nottingham, Nottingham Citizens, and Nottinghamshire Police, gender-based violence is now recorded as a hate crime in Nottinghamshire and other counties.

In 2018, the Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner and the Nottingham Women’s Centre commissioned NTU and the University of Nottingham to evaluate this new hate crime policy. Findings from the evaluation highlighted that public harassment against women and girls needed to be tackled through a combination of criminal laws, educational programmes, and civic initiatives.

To address this, NTU researchers from Nottingham Law School and the School of Arts & Humanities created a comic strip titled ‘Changing Minds’. It outlines the extent, nature and impact of public gendered harassment, and the potential for men and boys to act as role models through allyship and bystander interventions. The approach advocated in the comic has influenced Home Office policy and has been used in numerous anti-harassment campaigns across the UK. The comic is also featured in NTU student induction materials.

By influencing cultural and legal approaches to gender-based violence, NTU is encouraging victims to step forward with their stories. Our researchers have already won The Times Higher Education Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community award for their work, and also submitted their research to the Law Unit of Assessment in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021, where 100% of their research impact was rated as world-leading or internationally excellent.

Our researchers are now hoping to achieve a nationwide legislative change in how gendered violence is reported and charged, while also emphasising the key role of civic and preventative education in reducing misogyny in the years to come.



NTU researchers are currently undertaking a research project called ‘A world without violence against women and girls’. It encourages input from the public on how safe spaces can be achieved, and the role of men and boys in such initiatives. Our researchers also want to hear from women and girls about how they would use public spaces if they were freed from the everyday threat of violence. If you are interested in taking part in the study, then please email Associate Professor Loretta Trickett, loretta.trickett@ntu.ac.uk, or Senior Lecturer james.walker@ntu.ac.uk.

 

Safety and Security of Citizens and Society

This project is drawn from the strategic research theme of Safety and Security of Citizens and Society.

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