'Men need to step up' - Fife MP reflects on her experiences dealing with sexual offences

North East Fife MP Wendy Chamberlain has called on men to ‘step up’ and be ‘allies’, as she reflected upon her experiences dealing with sexual offences during her time as a police officer.
MP Wendy Chamberlain.MP Wendy Chamberlain.
MP Wendy Chamberlain.

The MP used her speech during Parliament’s International Women’s Day debate to call for action to address domestic abuse and misogyny.

It comes as women across the UK are sharing their own stories and experiences, and discussing women’s safety, as the investigation into the death of Sarah Everard continues.

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Ms Chamberlain said: “I also reflect on my own time in the police service, and indeed I was a sexual offences trained officer. Early in the 2000s, I recall my force ran a bus advert in Edinburgh advising women to think about what they drank and who they were with when socialising – basically to plan to prevent sexual assault. And in my early 20s as I was then, I probably thought that was reasonable – it shows how conditioned we all are.

“I was responsible for taking the victim’s statement and then attending any medical examination. Securing evidence, productions and maintaining a chain of evidence is crucial. I also witnessed the impact of this initial investigation of the women involved.

“It’s an incredibly invasive process. And no matter how empathetic the investigating officer is, they’re not your friend; they’re not your family member.

“The real tragedy is that, a lot of the time, all that comes to absolutely nothing. And of course, that’s just in the cases of those women who feel able to contact the police and disclose in the first place.

“So how do we #ChoosetoChallenge?

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“The challenge to the Government is - pass the Domestic Abuse Bill – it’s been in the offing for four years. Legislate to make misogyny a hate crime. Make sure that those occupying positions of trust are people we can really trust.

“Men need to step up. They need to be active allies.

“And the final challenge is to ourselves. Because we need to do much more to ensure that when we are talking about women, when we are talking about discrimination, and violence – that we are inclusive. At the root of much of our debate around single sex spaces is the fear of sexual violence perpetrated by men. Changing men’s behaviour changes that debate.”