Doing nothing says everything

NS January 21st, 2010

Did you know that the Metropolitan Police sent a message to every woman in the UK yesterday?

What, you didn’t get yours? Well, it didn’t come on paper and through the letterbox, admittedly (that would contravene its environmental policy and administration budget, you see), but we can all understand —  loud and clear and in no uncertain terms — what that message was. It went something like this:

Dear Birds Women of the UK,

We are sorry we were caught regret the honest mistakes systemic failures and staggering inactions on our part which led to what seemed like a nice guy serial sexual predator John Worboys (aka the Black Cab Rapist) carrying out countless attacks over a period of years on drunk slappers numerous victims, none of whom we believed when they came forward.

While we take allegations of sexual assault not at all seriously, the investigations stemming from these female fairy tales allegations were completely inadequate not quite up to our usual piss-poor high standards. For this we are totally unrepentant sorry and have resolved to get the media off our backs make changes at no all levels of the department, including a new unit specialising in regret sex sexual offences committed against whiny feminist bitches women. At all times At this time, we do not feel that any further disciplinary action against the officers in charge of the utterly failed mismanaged investigations is deserved needed.

Fuck Thank you very much,

The Boys Met

I’ll just pause while you refocus your eyes after all that reading between the lines (ahem).

Obviously, that wasn’t the exact wording, but you get the drift. If you are of a more exacting nature and wish to read the nauseating excuses comments from deputy chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) Deborah Glass on why the body decided to only issue the officers with written warnings, see below.

“I think on the evidence available the written warnings outcome was right,” she said. “They are a serious sanction requiring officers to accept they have breached the police code of conduct and have failed in some way. People will say, if you cannot sack them what’s the point? But there is still a point, there are important points around learning here. It is not about slamming the Metropolitan police. This is their wake-up call.” She acknowledged that had the police officers at the centre of the inquiry not committed “serious errors of judgment” and “missed crucial investigative opportunities” when Worboys could have been stopped before he went on to assault more women. “There’s certainly a likelihood that if they had followed up lines of inquiry he would have been in custody much earlier,” she said.

Whew! And here I thought that written warnings were just a weak, one-digit tap on the wrist: not even akin to a slap! Thankfully we have Deborah to explain that, actually, writing the words ‘You were naughty…but carry on as you were” in an officer’s file (perhaps alongside a frowny-face doodled in the margins) is an adequate reprimand for “serious errors of judgment” and other perfectly understandable breaches of professional misconduct like laughing at the victims, failing to follow up crucial leads or interview any potential witnesses, failing to fully investigate Worboys or obtain a warrant to search his home and, most of all, failing to believe that anything could or even should be done about it.

For the Met and the IPCC to act like this was some kind of shocking revelation and that the individual officers in question conducted themselves (and the investigations) in an unusual, non-sanctioned manner is absolute and utter bullshit. For as long as they have been reporting sex crimes (a long time) and for as long as they have been police officers themselves (not such a long time), women have been belittledharassed, bullied and disbelieved by the boys in blue. Those meant to protect the people and uphold the law have often been accused of protecting one another from criticism and even from criminal charges, despite compelling evidence to the contrary. They have botched other serial rape cases. The rape conviction rate in this country is the lowest in Europe, a measly 6%.

This is not a recent phenomenon.

Why, just as recently as 2003, a Met rugby team put together a magazine for its players with sparkling sexist gems such as: “Why did God invent lesbians? So feminists wouldn’t breed,” and “Women: can’t live with them, can’t force them into slavery,” not to mention “How do you know when your wife may be dead? When the sex is the same but the washing starts to pile up in the sink.”

But hey, I need to lighten up, right? It’s all just a bit of harmless fun and in no way influences the way these men think, behave or do their jobs, yeah? Tell me it doesn’t contribute to rape culture or the belief that a woman who reports a sexual assault is to be shooed away, fobbed off or altogether discredited unless she has irrefutable proof, has been battered to within an inch of her life and/or is a ‘respectable’ white woman who hadn’t been drinking, wearing revealing clothing or flirting before she was violated.

If you believe that I’d also like to talk to you about tropical jungles in Siberia and ocean-view property in Nebraska. Call me.

Hell, even the Guardian reporter from whom this information comes in today’s paper (and who, on the surface, seems quite repulsed by it) subtitled his article, “Boys will be boys. But shouldn’t the boys in blue know better?” suggesting that men naturally feel and think these things about women (by the way, it’s called m-i-s-o-g-y-n-y) but that, as police officers, these guys should have hidden it better.

So thanks, Met police, for the fucking pathetic half-hearted attempt at making yourselves blameless accountable, but your words, I’m afraid, hold no value. Your actions speak louder and ring truer than any statement you could ever make.

7 Responses to “Doing nothing says everything”

  1. Heather says:

    I grew up being told / absorbing the fact that the statement ‘boys will be boys’ is true. Men say these thing, they are funny, women shouldn’t complain about them because they are funny and true and anyone that says otherwise is just trying to ruin everyone’s fun. My fathers friends and men in the bars and parties (this was back when taking your kids to bars was normal) would laugh out loud at these things, the women all smile, tut and roll their eyes. That’s just the way it was. And besides, the women had their own jokes about men, they didn’t mean anything. It was all harmless banter.

    And the women that did complain about it? Made a scene, made a big thing out of nothing, over the years I have scorned, laughed at, put down. What was wrong with them, couldn’t they just see it was all fun? What were they being such party poopers for?

    Even reading this when you got to the point about the rugby magazine jokes I was rolling my eyes and tutting at the screen. Right up until I got to the point where you said ‘“Boys will be boys. But shouldn’t the boys in blue know better?” suggesting that men naturally feel and think these things about women (by the way, it’s called m-i-s-o-g-y-n-y) but that, as police officers, these guys should have hidden it better.’

    Naturally feel and think this way but should have hidden it better.

    I now feel slightly unwell and also guilty. Because, of course, you are right. Why do we take it as being normal that men feel this way, say these things? And why, for the men that say them but don’t really believe them, do they feel the need to join in and perpetuate this strange normality.

    You have really gotten to me, I need to go away and do some thinking, I feel a lot of my views on these things are very skewed.

  2. nicola says:

    I am so glad you have addressed this injustice. I was infuriated yesterday to read all the details and you are spot on with all your observations. How can this be acceptable? How do we continue to allow this to happen? How can we change it? Because of course, with the patriarchal society that we live in – if it’s a bunch of women protesting we will surely be painted as hormonal and be dismissed. This change needs to be led by men themselves (assisted by the women: wives, girlfriends, mothers, daughters in their lives), but change certainly won’t be assisted by a senior female in charge virtually advocating this accepted ‘norm’ of attitudes by men towards women.

    Like Heather, you have really gotten to me and this will be on my mind.

  3. JDF says:

    One of my least favourite party lines from the Met is about ‘learning lessons’. Frequently, when they make some sort of egregious, harmful error, their ‘get out of jail free’ card (as it were), is to make a statement about how they have ‘learned important lessons’ from the episode. How lucky for them that other people’s fright, pain, frustration, and ongoing suffering have let them learn something new. Nice.

    I work with sexual abuse survivors and far too frequently, I have to tell my clients that the police, the CPS, and the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority won’t take their experience of rape or assault seriously because they were drugged and don’t remember the attack, or because there were no witnesses to corroborate their story. What lessons are learned here, and by whom?

    Why isn’t there a branch of Men Stopping Violence in the UK?

  4. Chic Mama says:

    Thank you for such an informative and thought provoking post.
    It’s sad and I’m sorry to say but in this day and age, and after all that women have gone through we are still living in a ‘man’s world’. I have learned that in the last eighteen months and am trying to fight my own personal cause….which is really insignificant compared to this one and I thank and applaud you for highlighting these injustices.

  5. mothership says:

    Every time I read your blog I feel rage boiling up inside me along with a deep, abiding gratitude that I am no longer living in the UK or bringing up my daughter there. I have watched the backlash sexism after the womens’ movement and the PC 80s growing like a cancer all over the first world (it never really shifted elsewhere) over the last twenty years, but nowhere has it been more openly aggressive, accepted and ingrained at every social level than Britain with its tits-n-ass laddish culture, and the ritual degradation of women and girls that is so deep in the psyche of the nation that most people – women included – hardly notice it anymore. On my last trip to Britain I briefly watched an episode of Have I Got News for You Too (two?) and actually had to switch it off I was so offended and disgusted by the rampant, aggressive misogyny displayed by the ‘educated’, ‘witty’ participants in the name of comedy. Everywhere I turned there was a headline or an article putting women in their place which is disadvantaged, underrepresented and humiliated. We need to take back our collective consciousness and power and shout louder. This is unacceptable

  6. Jane says:

    Absolutely fantastic post NS. Totally spot on.

  7. Fantastic post NS – I agree that the lessons learned bit makes me want to rage

    Boys don’t have to be boys unless we as society condone their actions – their behaviour is a reflection on all of us and its just not acceptable