A domestic violence campaigner today spoke of her fears for the effect that a police force’s tweets – comparing Sunderland’s defeat at Everton to an act of rape – will have on victims of sexual assault.
Merseyside Police has been heavily criticised for its response to a message sent to the force’s official Twitter account after Everton’s 6-2 victory over the Black Cats at Goodison Park on Sunday.
A user wrote: “Hello. I’d like to report an incident of rape that occurred at Goodison Park, Liverpool, on November 1 at 3pm.”
In response, Merseyside Police wrote: “Just confirm there was no actual rape for me? Sunderland certainly got caught with their pants down, though.”
Minutes later the force responded to another Twitter user who tweeted: “I’d like to report an incident that’s been going on for ages. Chelsea get raped every week, can you help?”
Merseyside Police responded: “Afraid not, it’s not a criminal offence to lose week in, week out.”
“The police have then replied in a similar “bantering” manner, but what worries me more is that rape isn’t being taken seriously, police numbers are being cut and rape centres up and down the country aren’t being given the funding they need.”Clare Phillipson of Wearside Women in Need
Following a barrage of negative tweets, the messages were deleted by the force some two hours later. Now, director of the Wearside Women in Need organisation Clare Phillipson has told the Echo she is concerned about a possible knock-on effect when it comes to victims of sex attacks coming forward.
“I think it’s worrying that there seems to be a culture where particularly younger men are now saying that they raped or “fraped” a mate, meaning they have beaten them at a computer game or got one over on them in some way.
“It’s not the best use of language but it does show that rape is about dominating someone.
“The police have then replied in a similar “bantering” manner, but what worries me more is that rape isn’t being taken seriously, police numbers are being cut and rape centres up and down the country aren’t being given the funding they need.
“What I’d like to see people really outraged about is the cuts to services that we are seeing.”
Ms Phillipson added that while she accepts the force has since apologised for the tweets and said it will be investigating the matter fully, a change in thinking is needed across society in terms of attitudes towards rape.
“I don’t think for a moment that the person who wrote the messages intended to offend people.
“They were attempting blokey banter and this is the problem with social media. You can write a few words and become a hate figure overnight.
“But rape is obviously more of a joke to people, which makes it even more difficult for victims to come forward. Then if they come forward, will they have a service to help them? I don’t think so.”