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Northern Ireland police remove rape warning tweet after accusations of 'victim blaming'

By Jonny Bell

Police have been accused of "victim blaming" over a tweet warning women about the dangers of "overindulging" alongside the message "without consent it is rape".

On Tuesday evening police posted a tweet on its Twitter accounts with the message, "If you're going out this weekend put your safety first. Don't overindulge, stay with your friends and get home safely. #StaySafe"

Included was a picture of an upset woman with the caption: "Without consent it is rape."

The posts sparked a massive reaction on social media and one MLA accused the PSNI of "victim blaming".

However, police said the message was in no way about "blaming victims" or that it "excused any behaviour that takes advantage of anyone who may appear vulnerable".

 

It was later removed and on Thursday lunchtime another tweet was published with the same consent message, but with a male model used instead.

Sinn Fein MLA Linda Dillon said she complained to police and they admitted the tweet was "unfortunate".

"Obviously that was accepted as they did remove it and replace it," she told the BBC.

She said both messages are very relevant, but that they needed to be made separately.

"The warning signs are there that we should not go down the line of blaming victims."

Detective Superintendent Deirdre Bones responded: “The ‘Without Consent it is rape’ campaign which was launched in 2013 is used to highlight the issue of sexual offences against both male and female victims. It is very much victim centred, and reinforces our frequently repeated message that ‘no means no’.

“The Police Service of Northern Ireland is dedicated to keeping people safe and issue safety messages regularly to remind everyone of actions they can personally take to help protect themselves from any crime.

“It is a well-known fact that alcohol can cloud judgement.

“This is not about blaming victims in any way, nor does it excuse any behaviour that takes advantage of anyone who may appear vulnerable.

“No means no. The Police Service of Northern Ireland robustly investigates any allegations of sexual crime to bring offenders to justice.

“Over the course of the next few days, we will be posting advice and guidance on a number of issues including road safety, personal safety and crime prevention.”

The PSNI has come underfire for its posts on social media in the past, most recently after Bangor officers described the rescue of a vulnerable man as something that gave them a "chuckle".

More: Six police officers disciplined over social media comments

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