The first Violence and Intimidation against Women and Girls conference held in the county last week was attended by 180 police officers and staff.
The event, organised by Gloucestershire Constabulary and the Office for the Police and Crime Commissioner was held at Kingsholm stadium on Tuesday 23 May. It delved into many areas of male perpetrated violence against women, from domestic abuse and sexual violence through to coercive control and stalking.
Esteemed speakers included Laura Bates, the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, Chief Inspector Sharon Baker from Avon and Somerset Police and Maggie Blyth, National Police Chief’s Council Lead for Tackling VIAWG.
Laura Bates, who is an activist, writer and speaker discussed misogyny within the wider context of our society in the UK. From small, unchecked biases and discrimination, larger forms of sexist abuse can grow.
Chief Inspector Sharon Baker discussed how she had tackled domestic abuse in her neighbouring force and had opened lines of communications for people who felt silenced.
Many other speakers took to the stage to discuss specific cases, how to get successful sentences, how to best care for victims of sexual violence and how Gloucestershire Constabulary is holding its staff to the highest possible standards – amongst many other areas.
Maggie Blyth spoke around the national strategy to tackle repeat male perpetrators of VIAWG and how different areas forces have done this successfully.
Tackling, and ultimately bringing an end to violence and intimidation against women and girls is a priority for both the Constabulary and the Police and Crime Commissioner.
Police and Crime Commissioner Chris Nelson said: “Since coming into this role, I have learned more and more about the disrespect – and in the worst cases, the physical abuse and violence – shown by too many men towards women. That’s why I have made tackling it a priority.
“My Office, the police and other partners are working together to pursue offenders and tackle the root causes of misogyny in our communities. As well as introducing measures to improve our environments so that women feel more comfortable going about their business.
“My Office launched a campaign called #FindYourVoice, encouraging men to call out inappropriate behaviour.
“We have also used money we have secured from the Home Office Safer Streets fund to install more CCTV cameras, improved lighting in places women have told us they feel insecure, and cleared away vegetation in areas where they feel threatened.
“Male violence and intimidation against women and girls (VIAWG) is unacceptable and is a problem everyone in our society can do something about. The guilty men should look to themselves and change their behaviour; and those that aren’t should not just stand by and allow it to happen.
“The very worst examples of police perpetrated male VIAWG disgusts us all, and that such behaviour was allowed to happen is a national disgrace. We can only hope that it has brought about genuine reflection and change.”
Chief Constable Rod Hansen said: “This was a truly powerful day where the room was captivated by inspiring speakers and brave survivors of male violence and abuse.
“Hearing first-hand accounts was eye-opening, and I thank them for helping demonstrate why we need to do everything we can to tackle perpetrators and keep women and girls in our county safe.
“These crimes are deeply harmful, not only because of the profound effect they can have on victims, survivors and their loved ones, but also because of the impact they can have on wider society, impacting on the freedom and equality of women everywhere.
“Relentlessly pursuing those responsible is a priority, and we also need to ensure those who are subjected to this type of crime feel safe and confident to seek support, whether that is through the police or our partners.
“The abhorrent acts carried out by police officers against women has understandably undermined public confidence in our ability to protect all members of our society, and how we act and behave impacts on the trust of women everywhere.
“This is not about men versus women or boys versus girls, it is what all of us tackling those whose behaviours are unacceptable in our society. We are determined to do better, and these open conversations are a step in the right direction, but we recognise there is still much work to be done as confidence in this area is vital. Proof through action.”
If you need to report an incident to police, call 101 and speak to our specially trained officers.
If you think you’ve been sexually assaulted, you can find advice and support here: Support for victims of rape and sexual assault | Gloucestershire Constabulary