For the last time: If you're being harassed on Facebook, or on the streets, it's not your fault

A tweet from GMP Salford gave a textbook example of victim blaming

Share

Mid afternoon yesterday a retweet popped up in my feed from a post by GMP Salford Central. It read “POLICE NOTICE if you are being ‘Harassed’ on facebook please follow these instructions: 1. Close your facebook account”. (Note the interesting use of inverted commas).

My initial response was “eek, victim blaming!” but I presumed rule 1 was an emergency, get-yourself-out-of-danger card, surely to be followed with: report the perpetrator, see here for internet safety advice, or something actually useful.

Nope. There were no further points. Greater Manchester Police Salford Central were simply perpetuating the notion that if you're being harassed online, get off the internet. It doesn't take too many steps of the imagination to then conclude that if you're being harassed on the street, you should stay in. Before you know it we've left the internet to abusers and streets to aggressors. We find ourselves living in a Grimm fairy tale - cooped inside a castle.

By this morning GMP Salford’s tweet had been retweeted almost 4000 times. A follow-up has been issued to apologise, and the original deleted.

Before the police thought twice, however, there were numerous outraged replies. One person responded: “Straight out the ‘if you don’t want rape, don’t wear attractive clothing’ logic book.” This ignited many “don’t be ridiculous” responses: how can you possibly compare internet harassment with rape? And yet you can.

The issue here is focus and language. In one tweet the impression was given that the response to an attack is to limit the victim’s liberties. There is no focus whatsoever on the perpetrator. They are free to slink away. And while many people recognised the outrageousness of this, some also agreed.

Two weeks earlier, as reported in the Manchester Evening News, GM Police issued an alert following a spate of sexual assaults in the Withington area. The alert read: “Officers are warning women, especially joggers, to be vigilant and not to go out alone where possible.” And Det. Sgt Doug Cowan said: “The purpose of this appeal is not to alarm people but to alert women of the risks posed to them and to be on their guard.”

So, the police don’t wish to alarm the community that a sexual predator is prowling their streets. Instead, they simply alert ‘women’; this is their issue, watch out ladies!

Before you even look at the practicalities – for women to pair up or be chaperoned to go to work, nip for milk, even maybe go for a run – the issues of gender divide here are immense. By not alarming people, but alerting women, GM Police perpetuate the notion that sexual harassment and gender violence is a woman’s issue exclusively. Yes, there’s sense in making sure women are made aware of a potential threat – but by encouraging them alone to be on guard the police excluded men from connecting with, understanding, or dealing with the issue. Surely the police should have alerted the community - men and women - to look out for each other and the offender.

Yesterday Everyday Sexism requested a response to the Facebook harassment tweet from Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan. As national police lead on stalking and harassment, he was an ideal person to request action from. Shewan responded in less than 140 characters, saying: “No we do not advise victims of Facebook harassment to close account. Need to empower victims not isolate.”

That just about sums this whole debate up.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The campaigning is over. So now we wait...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
In this handout provided by NASA from the the Earth-orbiting International Space Station, weather system Arthur travels up the east coast of the United States in the Atlantic Ocean near Florida in space. The robotic arm of the Space Station Remote Manipulator System or Canadarm2 is seen at upper right. According to reports, Arthur has begun moving steadily northward at around 5 kt. and the tropical storm is expected to strike the North Carolina Outer Banks  

Thanks to government investment, commercial space travel is becoming a reality

Richard Branson
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week