PSNI are criticised for 'flippant tweet that trivialises rape'
Police still have far to go to ensure victims of rape have the confidence to come forward, it has been claimed.
It comes after the PSNI took to social media to warn festive revellers to be wary of potential predators under the mistletoe this Christmas.
The tweet was later deleted.
In the Saturday night post, the PSNI said: "If you bump into that special someone under the mistletoe tonight, remember that without consent it is rape."
The tweet was signed off "season's greetings".
Green Party MLA Clare Bailey described the tweet as "twee for a very serious crime".
It also sparked a backlash on Twitter with users from across the UK commenting. Some described it as flippant and "trivialising rape".
"There's much better ways to put a serious message across than this," said one twitter user in response. Some were astounded the tweet did not come from a parody account, while others even questioned if the PSNI knew the exact details of the law around rape.
"The PSNI has a warped view of the world," added another.
Clare Bailey campaigns for women's rights, and has previously called on the government to scrap the so-called rape clause for benefit claims, which required women to prove that they conceived through rape to access tax credits for a third child. She has worked for Nexus, the Northern Ireland charity which supports those who have experienced sexual abuse.
"I can understand the PSNI intent, but this was a twee tweet on a very serious crime to which many women will be victim," she told the Belfast Telegraph.
"Statistics show that Christmas is a peak time of the year when violence against women at all levels increases. What needs to be made crystal clear to every victim of sexual assault and rape is that it is never their fault and they will be believed if they come forward to report.
"While much education around consent is needed, all our judicial agencies have far to go to instil the confidence that will allow victims to come forward and believe they will receive justice."
Police have been forced to remove similar tweets in the past. Previously they were accused of "victim blaming" for a similar message earlier this year. The latest tweet was taken down yesterday morning. The PSNI said: "We posted a message on Twitter yesterday that some may have taken out of context but the message remains the same, when you are out socialising over the Christmas period, please remember without consent it is rape."