UK police tweeted their sexual assault “advice” – and Twitter responded accordingly

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Susan Devaney
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Merseyside police and Liverpool council has halted its ‘know when to step in’ campaign after it was heavily criticised on social media. 

It doesn’t matter what she was wearing when she was sexually assaulted. And it doesn’t matter that she had a second glass of wine, either.

Since the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up initiative were sparked, conversation around reporting sexual harassment and rape has changed. Not only do women feel like they can come forward to report such crimes, but they also know that ‘victim-blaming’ is being talked about like never before.

Which is why Liverpool City Council and Merseyside Police have issued an apology over its latest campaign, ‘know when to step in’. The campaign, which aimed to get women to watch out for their female friends on a night out, has caused an online backlash due to its victim-blaming approach.

The social media posts, which included the hashtag #NoMeansNo, read: “She told her mates she’d had enough. The bar staff knew he shouldn’t have served her that last shot. Her mates should have gone outside with her. Shouldn’t have left her on her own in that state. Know when to step in.”

The tweets, which were also shared by Liverpool City Council, included a link to a video which was made as part of the ‘No Means No’ campaign.

And people have made their feelings toward the campaign clear online.

Liverpool University Feminist Society claimed the campaign was “damaging” and tweeted: “This is victim blaming. The only thing that causes rape are rapists. Drinking is not an invitation to non-consensual sex,” according to the Independent

“This doesn’t highlight how friends can help each other stay safe, though. This says it’s the fault of everyone but the rapist. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Did your Comms team not seek advice from professionals in the field? #takeitdown,” Dr. Anna Cunningham posted. 

Another user rewrote the tweet, aiming at a man instead of a woman: “The bar staff knew they shouldn’t have served him that last shot. His mates shouldn’t have let him go outside in that state. He should have listened when she said no. 

“Dear men, If you see a drunk woman - don’t rape her.”

The posts have since been deleted, and the both the Merseyside Police and Liverpool City Council have issued an apology.

“It was not our intention to blame anyone who has been subject to sexual assault, rape or any other crime,” it said in a statement.

“The only person ever responsible for making the reprehensible decision to rape is the perpetrator. We apologise for not making that clear in our posts on social media.

“The scenario chosen is based on incidents that have been reported by victims and victim charities where predatory men have targeted women they perceive to be vulnerable in some way.

It added: “No one consulted felt that the campaign blamed victims, but when viewed in isolation the tweet has been perceived in that way and we are sorry for any distress caused.”

If you, or anyone you know, wants support or information regarding rape or sexual assault, please visit the Rape Crisis website here or the Women’s Aid website here.

Images: Unsplash / Twitter