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

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Tony Abbott: A man most Australian women would like to pat on the back...iron in hand

Caroline Garnar
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea performs in California  

Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting

Yomi Adegoke
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there