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MAGGIE OLIVER: My battle to expose this hatred of women

MAGGIE OLIVER: My battle to expose this hatred of women

I was horrified when I read the latest revelations, that Wayne Couzens brought a prostitute to a fellow officer’s anniversary party at a hotel in Maidstone, Kent.

The fact that this was apparently seen almost as routine is unforgivable. This incident should have been enough to get him suspended from duty and placed under formal investigation at the very least.

Had senior officers taken immediate action, Sarah Everard might still be alive.

Although Met Commissioner Cressida Dick has been an abject failure by allowing this behaviour to continue unchecked, she is only a small part of the problem

Couzens was able to flaunt his brutal inclinations because he knew there would be no repercussions from senior officers

We must use that anger and outrage to force radical changes in the police, not just within the Met but across the country. The police must stop treating violence against women as acceptable and instead elevate this to an absolute priority.

Couzens was able to flaunt his brutal inclinations because he knew there would be no repercussions from senior officers. I know from personal experience that police forces are still male-dominated old boys’ networks, stuck in the dark ages.

And this evil murderer – whose nickname among his colleagues was, incredibly, ‘The Rapist’ – knew precisely how to exploit that.

I was a police officer for 16 years –from joining in 1997 at the age of 41 – and I was aware of the almost Victorian attitudes towards women from my very first week of training.

As a mature woman with four children, I was not your usual new recruit. This seemed to provoke and antagonise a couple of my supervisors, who treated me very differently to the male probationers.

I was badly bullied verbally and treated with such dismissive contempt that, if it had not been for my own inner strength as well as one outstanding superintendent who supported me, I would have walked away and quit after my first year.

Too often, a blind eye was turned to rape and sexual abuse. It was not treated nearly as seriously as gun crime or organised criminal gangs: I know this for an absolute fact, as I worked in both major crime and child protection during my service.

During this time, organised gangs were systematically grooming and abusing hundreds of the most vulnerable teenage girls in Rochdale, Manchester, and other towns and cities.

I tried with every breath in my body to stop this. But no one listened. I contacted senior officers at every level, right up to the then-Chief Constable – and even the Home Office.

The battle to be heard almost destroyed me. I was eventually left with a stark choice – speak out publicly and resign, or accept that the police were failing generations of victims and keep my job. I decided to put conscience above career.

MAGGIE OLIVER: I was horrified when I read the latest revelations, that Wayne Couzens brought a prostitute to a fellow officer’s anniversary party at a hotel in Maidstone, Kent

Had senior officers taken immediate action, Sarah Everard might still be alive

The Chief Constable ignored the failures I exposed and instead attacked me as a woman, using misogynistic slurs. He claimed that I had ‘become too emotionally involved’, implying that my gender made me mentally unstable.

I eventually set up The Maggie Oliver Foundation to support all adult survivors of rape and abuse who feel isolated, alone and betrayed by a system that has failed them. At least 60 per cent of the women we support have been badly let down by the police.

Some of these women have been arrested after reporting grooming or sexual assault. Many more are threatened with arrest, with being sectioned under the Mental Health Act, or told their children may be taken away.

The responsibility to root out misogyny in the police lies at the very top of Government. There will always be bad apples, or a handful of officers exchanging vile pictures and messages on WhatsApp groups, and these cases are shocking when they come to light.

This evil murderer’s nickname among his colleagues was, incredibly, ‘The Rapist’

But the real problems run much deeper than that. They lie right at the very heart of policing and they must be addressed. And although Met Commissioner Cressida Dick has been an abject failure by allowing this behaviour to continue unchecked, she is only a small part of the problem.

Replacing her with another commissioner will not bring the changes we need, as those of similar ranks have all travelled through the same funnels and selection processes.

I believe we are at a watershed moment. Just as the Stephen Lawrence murder led to the Macpherson Report, exposing the institutional racism in the Met, we now need a similar inquiry or royal commission investigating misogyny and attitudes to violence against women and girls within the police.

Policing is in crisis. We need a radical overhaul, not just another report and yet more empty words and promises.

Maggie Oliver is a former Detective Constable with Greater Manchester Police. The Maggie Oliver Foundation supports all victims and survivors of rape and sexual abuse

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