If you’re a news consumer and/or on social media, you’re likely aware of a disturbing trend that has been discussed in the media over the past few days where men are yelling vulgarities at women reporters while they’re while they’re on camera in public places. Halifax Regional Police has learned that this is also happening in our community. The individuals who are doing this may think it’s funny and harmless or within the boundaries of their freedom of expression, but we view this type of behaviour as a form of sexualized violence and take it very seriously. We want people to know that aside from being extremely degrading and disrespectful, it could also be criminal. Depending on the circumstances, a person who does this could be charged with mischief, criminal harassment, creating a disturbance or breach of the peace.
We encourage anyone who has had this happen, whether a reporter or otherwise, to report to police if they wish. We also urge those men who would be inclined to make these disgusting comments to think twice about the consequences.
Sexualized violence was one of our operational priorities in 2014, and remains so this year as well. As part of efforts to address this priority, we have worked with local advocacy groups to understand how we could improve our response to calls involving sexualized violence. As a result of those discussions, we learned that we needed to change our communications approach both publically and with victims to ensure we’re focussing on the perpetrator’s actions as opposed to the victim’s actions. In essence, we need to ensure we don’t want blame the victim for what has happened.
Our officers are asked to avoid providing crime prevention tips that would be construed as blaming the victim (for example, don’t advise victims to never walk alone, use the buddy-system, watch your drink, etc.) The only thing that makes sexual violence happen is the presence of a perpetrator who chooses to commit an act.
It’s our view that we need everyone in our community to work collaboratively to change societal attitudes about what’s acceptable behaviour and what constitutes harassment.