By Community Policing Superindendent Dave Sutherland - Cleveland Police
1 in 3 women and girls (worldwide) will experience physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime and women are significantly more likely to become victims of domestic abuse than men. This is one of the most powerful indicators of the gender inequality that exists in our society.
Violence against women can take many forms but at its heart lies the exercise of power by one person over another. It is only by acknowledging that there is a power imbalance between men and women that we can begin to understand why women experience significantly higher levels of domestic and sexual violence. It is this same power imbalance that also contributes to a lack of fairness and equality of opportunity in our communities and workplaces.
Throughout the 16 days of action to end violence against women our colleagues have highlighted some of the work being carried out every day in our area to support those who experience domestic abuse and to address the behaviour of perpetrators.
Alongside this work it is also vital that we challenge the ingrained gender inequality that provides greater opportunities to men and enables violence against women and girls to continue.
As a husband and father of a daughter and son, as well as being a police officer who works with a number of female colleagues, I feel very strongly about making sure they are treated fairly. I know that because of her gender my daughter will be more at risk of harm than her brother as she gets older and that she may not have the same opportunities as he does. This is something I cannot accept and really want to change and is why I will be encouraging as many male colleagues as possible to join the ‘HeForShe’ movement.
Fundamentally, gender equality is not only a women’s issue – it is a human rights issue which affects everyone. ‘HeForShe’ was created by the United Nations as a solidarity movement for gender equality and to provide an opportunity for men to become partners for women’s rights. ‘HeForShe’ is about engaging men to become advocates and to take action alongside women to promote gender equality
As a Police Service our core purpose is to keep people safe. To do this effectively it is essential that everyone who works for and with us is able to achieve their full potential. ‘HeForShe’ complements our existing Everyone Matters programme which aims to ensure that we have an inclusive and diverse workforce where people can give their best and can enjoy equality of opportunity.
Within Cleveland 64% of our total workforce (and 74% of police officers) are male. We know that women are more likely to have caring responsibilities than their male counterparts and that things like maternity leave and flexible working can mean women feeling that their opportunities to develop are limited. Meanwhile the traditional male dominated culture of policing can leave men feeling that they will be stigmatised for taking family or parental leave or for speaking up about mental health issues.
We recognise that by addressing gender inequality within our organisation we are promoting fairness and justice and creating an environment where everyone can achieve their potential. This in turn will also allow us to accelerate the positive pace of change in relation to how we deal with violence against women and girls within the communities we serve.
Over the coming weeks and months I will be encouraging my colleagues to make a commitment to the ‘HeForShe’ movement by encouraging them to become positive advocates for gender equality, to tackle gender stereotypes and to identify the aspects of our Organisation that allow inequality to continue.
We will also continue to improve the way in which our staff respond to domestic abuse and to recognise what can be more subtle abuses of power within domestic relationships, such as coercive and controlling behaviour.
It you are interested in finding out more you can visit the UN website HeForShe.
Posted on Monday 3rd December 2018