Rooting out sexism is like tackling terrorism, says senior police official

The nation’s top police officer tasked with tackling violence against women and girls has likened ending the epidemic of sexism to the challenge of confronting terrorism after the July 7 suicide bombings.

In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Deputy Chief Constable Maggie Blyth, who last year was appointed national police chief on violence against women and girls, said it will take until the end of the decade to resolve the crisis of sexism in Britain.

Reflecting on how the public was asked to help fight Islamic terrorism after 9/11, she said: “I speak to the senior police officers behind the establishment of the fight against terrorism at the nationally and goes back to similar parallels 12 to 15 years ago and the big thing for me was the public campaign.

police chief for violence against women and girls last year, said it would take until the end of the decade to resolve the crisis of sexism in Britain.” class=”blkBorder img-share” style=”max-width:100%” />

In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Deputy Chief Constable Maggie Blyth, who was appointed national police chief for violence against women and girls last year, said it would take until the end of the decade to resolve the crisis of sexism in Britain.

“You can put all the resources and focus you want into solving it, but it’s the public campaign that makes the difference. The work with counter-terrorism, raising public awareness of the threat, we now have to do that with VAWG.

She added, “I don’t think we’re going to change some of these really embedded societal issues overnight and I think we need to be really honest about it,” she said.

‘I look over the course of this year to bring real change to the way police forces deal with VAWGs [violence against women and girls] but in a context of change throughout this decade.

“I think this is a once in a lifetime opportunity that we have now to address violence against women and girls and certainly in my career and in my life I feel like it there are opportunities for change.

“I would compare it to some of the things I’ve seen in my life like smoking, seat belts, drunk driving. These are campaigns. They were approaches to changing the way the public thinks that took years.

“We then enter a decade where you look back and think, ‘My God, is this how people behaved and thought? “I think we’re in one of those times in society in a way that I haven’t seen in my career.

The nation's top police officer tasked with tackling violence against women and girls has likened ending the epidemic of sexism to the challenge of confronting terrorism after the July 7 suicide bombings.  Pictured: The scene of the 7/7 bomb blast in Upper Woburn Place, London

The nation’s top police officer tasked with tackling violence against women and girls has likened ending the epidemic of sexism to the challenge of confronting terrorism after the July 7 suicide bombings. Pictured: The scene of the 7/7 bomb blast in Upper Woburn Place, London

Ms Blyth takes on her task at a time when police face accusations of institutional misogyny and the dark shadow of Wayne Couzens (pictured), the Metropolitan Police officer who abducted, raped and murdered Sarah Everard last March , still weighs on the profession

Ms Blyth takes on her task at a time when police face accusations of institutional misogyny and the dark shadow of Wayne Couzens (pictured), the Metropolitan Police officer who abducted, raped and murdered Sarah Everard last March , still weighs on the profession

Ms Blyth takes on her task at a time when police face accusations of institutional misogyny and the dark shadow of Wayne Couzens, the Metropolitan Police officer who abducted, raped and murdered Sarah Everard last March, looms large always on the job.

Challenging the government to provide police with the right tools to tackle harassment of women on the streets or on public transport, Ms Blyth complained that officers were “using 20th century policing and tactics with this which is a problem of the 21st century”.

Echoing comments made last month by Nimco Ali, the government’s independent adviser on violence against women and girls and close friend of Carrie Johnson, that her call to make street harassment a crime had suffered ‘pushback’, Ms Blyth pointed out that rude remarks and unwanted advances were currently prosecuted under voyeurism and harassment legislation which required police to demonstrate ‘a course of action’.

“I think it needs a real overhaul from the people who legislate, which is the government,” she said. “As women, we know what it’s like to sit on a tube to be watched or followed, all those things that can make women uncomfortable.”

She also urged that social media companies such as Facebook and Snapchat be ‘held accountable for behavior that is harmful to women and girls’, describing the Government’s proposed Online Harms Bill as a ‘real opportunity’ .

She added: ‘We are all so dependent on living and working online as part of our daily lives, now we need to make sure regulations are in place for people who want to cause violence and get away with it online . It has to stop.

Challenging the government to provide police with the right tools to tackle harassment of women on the streets or on public transport, Ms Blyth complained that officers

Challenging the government to provide police with the right tools to tackle harassment of women on the streets or on public transport, Ms Blyth complained that officers were “using 20th century policing and tactics with this which is a problem of the 21st century”.

Speaking after Everyone’s Invited, a website where victims of sex crimes can post anonymous allegations, revealed it had received complaints from pupils at nearly 8,400 schools, Ms Blyth risked controversy by saying that students who come forward with allegations “will be believed” by the police.

Critics have expressed concern that Everyone is being asked to bypass the justice system, but Ms Blyth said: ‘I really applaud any girl or young adult who has come forward with evidence of what happened to her at the school or university.

‘This [Everyone’s Invited] is a very good initiative… I hope it gives the girls confidence that the police will take things seriously even if it did not happen yesterday… Tell your story, we will believe you and we will listen to you.

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