A police force which records street harassment and misogyny as hate crime has received reports from girls as young as 12, bosses have revealed.
For nearly two years, police in Nottinghamshire have been recording unwanted advances, comments and gestures made towards women as a strand of hate crime and taking robust action against perpetrators.
David Alton, the force’s hate crime manager, said incidents have been reported by scores of women and girls, many of which revealed other forms of hatred.
Giving evidence to a Parliamentary inquiry into street harassment being conducted by the women and equalities select committee, Alton confirmed all recorded incidents involved men behaving inappropriately towards females.
“We have had reports from 12-year-old victims, we have had reports from women in their 60s,” he said.
“We have certainly seen a range of race and ethnicity, and certainly the issue of inter-sectionality in terms of the crossover into other areas of prejudice has been evident.”
The committee, chaired by Conservative MP Maria Miller, has also published a wealth of written evidence submitted to its inquiry by a range of individuals and organisations.
Among them are British Transport Police (BTP), the Young Women’s Trust, the Fawcett Society and Police and Crime Commissioner Dame Vera Baird.
BTP said incidents of sexual assault and harassment occur across its entire network and that 90% of victims are female.
“Tackling all forms of sexual assault and harassment on public transport is a priority for BTP,” the force added.
“We take any offence of this nature extremely seriously and we are committed to developing a transport network which is free from harassment and accessible to everyone.”
Most reported incidents - which stand at about 2,000 in the last year to date - occurred on the London Underground network, but the force said it believes many crimes still go unreported.
“We have worked hard to send a clear message to people who experience this that they will be taken seriously and we will investigate offences using all available avenues, such as CCTV, witnesses, and forensics,” its submission added.
Baird, who oversees strategies for fighting crime in Northumbria, said education around acceptable behaviour must start in schools at an early age in order to have an impact.
“Traditional power relations between men and women are being broken down in other ways – with campaigns for equal pay, more women becoming leaders,” she wrote.
“Sexual harassment, however, is one subtle and prevalent way that women can be reminded of their traditionally inferior position to men, backed up with a real threat of violence. This idea of women being subordinate needs to be broken down wherever possible.
“Men and boys learn behaviours from wider social and structural inequalities, as well as from their families and communities.
“If boys and men do not receive consistent messages about equality and women and girls’ rights, then behaviours will not fundamentally change.”
The Young Women’s Trust and Fawcett Society point out women are much more likely to feel generally unsafe while out in public, and are less likely to run for high-profile, public facing roles due to the fear of receiving abuse.
Both organisations want misogyny to be classed as a hate crime by police forces worldwide - a measure the government is currently considering.
The women and equalities committee will publish the results of its inquiry later this year.