Croydon’s place in the #MeToo debate

By - Wednesday 10th January, 2018

Could this movement help Croydon tackle its issue of a high prevalence of sexual abuse incidents through greater social and criminal responsibility?

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Croydon accounts for just 4% of London’s population, but 10% of all rapes in the capital

Earlier this year it was revealed that Croydon has had the highest number of rapes in London for the past two years, with the number of reports doubling over a three-year period. There were 46 rapes reported in Croydon over the last three years, whilst the whole of London saw 455 being reported over the same time period. This means that although Croydon accounts for just 4% of London’s population it accounts for 10% of all of its rape crimes.

Namita Prakash, a staff member of the sexual support agency The Survivors’ Trust, told the Advertiser, at the time of the statistics being revealed, that it was difficult to determine the cause of the increase in the amount of rape crimes. However, she did point out the fact that Croydon is London’s most populous borough, which could account for its high sexual violence crime rate.

She said “London is an area of high reporting for rape and sexual assault, Croydon is higher than other boroughs, and those rapes reported or prosecuted are just a fraction of the probable total”.

Reasons for low report rates of sexual violence often relate to stigma

In agreement with Prakash’s suggestions, a presentation produced by LCPF Co-Commissioning group that was published online revealed that as many as 75-95% of victims in the UK never report offences to the police.

According to a report released by Rape Crisis South London in 2011, the reasons for low report rates in relation to actual sexual violence crime rates vary from case to case, but they often “relate to the stigma attached to sexual violence including fear of not being believed, feelings of blame and embarrassment, and also due to processing issues, such as, not knowing who to report to, mistrust of the criminal justice process and not wanting to go to court.

More individuals are disclosing their experiences of sexual violence which could encourage more reporting in Croydon

Given the significant engagement with the #MeToo campaign from all over the world, with more and more individuals disclosing their experiences of sexual harassment and assault, it is possible that the movement could change things for Croydon in terms of encouraging more reporting, and ensuring social and criminal accountability of perpetrators.

The #MeToo movement began late this year in October on social media after actor Alyssa Milano encouraged victims to speak out using the hashtag. The picture attached to the tweet reads: “If all women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me Too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem”.

The #MeToo campaign has, at least, resulted in some encouraging outcomes

Within a matter of days, millions of women and some men across the world responded and began disclosing personal experiences of sexual abuse, including one woman who has posted online about her experience of a man masturbating in front of her whilst she traveled from London Bridge to East Croydon.

Whilst it may be considered too optimistic to think that the #MeToo campaign can create long-term significant change – especially with so many social media based movements rising to public salience one day and then being forgotten about within a month – it has, at least, resulted in some encouraging outcomes.

Firstly, the movement has seen some male engagement and responses, as the Telegraph reported that over 30 percent of those who discussed the campaign were men. Some men have been taking a stand using the hashtag #IWillSpeakUp which calls other men to help the cause by committing to not stand by whilst sexual abuse is committed against women, and others have been using the hashtag #HowIWillChange created by Benjamin Law, an Australian journalist.

Many argue that the power to end sexual abuse lies with the perpetrators by holding themselves accountable and ending it

Of course males are, and can be, victims of sexual assault and harassment too, but the reality is that many statistics consistently show that a vast amount of sexual abuse incidents are perpetrated by men against women. Thus, many social media observers welcome the brothering hashtags, with many arguing that the power to end sexual abuse lies with the perpetrators by holding themselves accountable and ending it.

Other observers on social media have not taken to the male response campaigns as positively, arguing that it is creating moral panic and that it unfairly places a heavy judgement on all men. Interestingly, others have contributed to the debate by warning males to be cautious particularly when tweeting #ItWasMe – used by males who want to openly identify themselves as a perpetrator or bystander – as some posts appear to contain details that could make the women discussed in them recognizable, which could have devastating effects for the women involved.

Croydon Council supports greater male responsibility

A rise in male responsibility and accountability however, has long been encouraged by Croydon Council through their support of White Ribbon UK – a charity run by a group of men, whose mission is to end male violence against women by encouraging males to pledge never to commit violence against women, condone it or stand by when being witness to it.

The #MeToo Campaign has had some other visible effects. For example, as a result of it putting the need to address the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault on the agenda, claims of sexual harassment have hit Westminster, resulting in consequential action being taken against those who stand accused, in various political parties. Among those accused was Michael Fallon, the former defence minister, who, following the allegations made against him, resigned from his position and admitted that the incident did take place. Following allegations of sexual harassment, Labour MP Kevin Hopkins has had the Labour whip suspended, and Sam Kriss, a freelance journalist, has had his membership of the Labour Party suspended. This week’s cabinet reshuffle was in part triggered by the departure of Damian Green, the First Secretary of State, from the government after allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

If other high profile cases of sexual abuse care anything to go by, then #MeToo has the potential to be a catalyst for some change

Indeed, high profile sexual abuse related cases in the past, have been shown to have this effect of being a catalyst that encourages more victims to come forward. Following operation Yewtree – a police investigation that looked into sexual abuse allegations against Jimmy Saville the British media personality, and other suspects – the number of recorded sexual offences increased. If the ‘Yewtree effect’ is anything to go by, then #MeToo could result in greater criminal responsibility by encouraging victims to come forward, and reduce rates of sexual offences by encouraging perpetrators and bystanders to feel more morally obligated to behave correctly. This would be a great outcome for Croydon where the prevalence of sexual offences is the highest in London.

The #MeToo campaign has already incited further social outrage over sexual abuse, strengthened female solidarity, and initiated a change where more men are choosing to publicly express their support for women. As 2018 begins, we must hope and demand that this change is seen in Croydon.

Keleisha Robinson

Keleisha Robinson

Keleisha is a recent graduate with a BA degree in Social Policy, who is now working in the charity sector with passion to make a positive difference through her career. In her various advocacy roles she works to inform and inspire others to take action on a number of social and international problems, such as poverty and modern slavery. She has a strengthened belief that social and human rights issues are a global concern that warrant international solutions and interventions. With this sense of global and social citizenship she is keen to learn more, and write, about social policy related issues to inform readers. An energetic character, Keleisha loves to dance and sing anywhere and everywhere whenever she can. She also loves to travel and never shies away from a good debate about political issues with her friends.

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