A Police Superintendent is urging islanders to report repeated cat-calling, leering or any more 'minor' incidents that make them feel unsafe, warning that harassment is often the "precursor to more serious sexual offending."
Alison Fossey’s comments come after local women opened about their experiences of being sexually harassed, and what they do to protect themselves at night.
The recent conversation about women’s safety was prompted by last week’s news of the death of 33-year-old Sarah Everard in South London, combined with the findings of a recent YouGov survey exposing the extent of sexual harassment against women in the UK.
This week, Express is sharing a series of articles on women's experiences of sexual harassment locally. Several of the women interviewed said they hadn’t reported what had happened to them because it was too "commonplace" and “almost a part of life."
But Superintendent Fossey says this shouldn't be the case.
Pictured: “Quite often, some of the more minor offences are the tip of the iceberg,” Superintendent Fossey warned.
There is no official data reflecting the scale of sexual harassment on the island, as there is no single offence of 'sexual harassment.'
However, Ms Fossey said she was aware that few incidents had been reported because women often feel there is no point, or that Police won't be able to do anything about it. She however encouraged women and islanders as a whole to report incidents that make them feel “uncomfortable or unsafe."
“Even though it is not a criminal offence, we can still go and talk to that person and tell them their behaviour is not acceptable,” the Superintendent explained.
“If they continue, we can then look at an offence of harassment. If there is a pattern of behaviour that is repeated and they’ve been warned about their unacceptable behaviour, the police can consider a criminal prosecution.
“People, men and women, are entitled to feeling safe and being able to go about their day without being scared or subjected to harassment that is what we want for everyone in Jersey.”
No one should feel scared or intimidated, harassed or objectified at any time. We shouldn’t accept unacceptable behaviour; by reporting it, we can help to stop it. See our website for more details on how to report, and agencies that can provide support. https://t.co/yxoXo837qS pic.twitter.com/owCdhkMqqS— States of Jersey Police (@JerseyPolice) March 15, 2021
Ms Fossey says individuals who cause others to be alarmed should be told their behaviour is unacceptable. Reporting what might seem as an insignificant incident could also help prevent more serious ones.
“Quite often, some of the more minor offences are the tip of the iceberg,” she said. “Research tells us that quite often minor offending can be the precursor to more serious sexual offending."
In an interview earlier this week, 30-year-old Jane* shared with Express how she had been sexually harassed while working as a barmaid.
Ms Fossey said that, while the Police had not received many of this type of complaint from the hospitality industry, she remained "convinced that that behaviour is fairly commonplace, it does not mean it’s not happening."
Pictured: Ms Fossey says individuals who cause others to be alarmed should be told their behaviour is unacceptable.
“It should not be acceptable, and victims should report those incidents and their employers should support them.”
Even if the incidents are not recent, the Superintendent says victims of harassment should still come forward.
“If it’s something historic and you know the suspect and you want to investigate, you can report it and we will be investigating it,” she explained.
“With the passage of time, you might have less evidence, you might have lost CCTV opportunities for example, but if somebody has witnessed it, that’s good evidence.”
There are also other avenues for islanders to get support. They can report incidents anonymously via Crimestoppers or the Sexual Assault Referral Centre, and the Independent Sexual Violence Advisors Service, which can provide support and collect intelligence on behalf of the police.
Following recent national events, the Superintendent says the force is fully expecting to see an increase in reports - this happened previously in the wake of the #MeToo movement following allegations about film producer Harvey Weinstein and his subsequent conviction, and the Jimmy Saville investigation.
“Our control room, which is the front door to our services, will be watching very closely to see if we get an increase in calls of this nature,” she said. “We expect that to happen in response to what’s happened in the UK. It’s natural that’s going to probably happen.”
If you have been sexually assaulted or experienced sexual harassment, you can contact:
Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs) (Specialist advisors providing tailored support to victims and survivors of sexual violence) Telephone: 01534 880505
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