Police apologise for ‘victim blaming’ leaflets which linked rape to alcohol consumption

Eleanor Busby
Police are investigating how the old information leaflets entered circulation in the north of Belfast: Sara Haller/Facebook

Police in Northern Ireland have apologised after flyers – which suggested the more someone drank the more likely they were to be raped – were wrongly distributed in Belfast.

A woman, who came across the leaflets at an event in the city this week, told the police it was a “horrible example of victim blaming from those who are meant to protect the victim”.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has now said it is investigating how the discontinued leaflets, which say “alcohol is the number one rape drug”, entered circulation in the city.

The PSNI flyers, which state “many rapes happen when people are drunk”, offers advice such as “don’t get so drunk you don’t know what you are doing” and “watch what you drink”.

Sara Haller, who posted an image of the leaflets on social media, wrote: “The tone, language and arguments all add up to ultimately saying that if you’re intoxicated you’re allowed to be raped.

“The issue with this leaflet is that the core message it gives out is that those who are raped are responsible for it.”

The Facebook post, which was shared hundreds of times, added: “No one should engage in risk taking behaviour, no one should get black out … but those that do don’t deserve to be raped?!“

Detective Chief Superintendent Paula Hilman, head of the PSNI’s Public Protection Branch, said they “apologised unreservedly”.

She added that the message contained in the flyers did not reflect how the PSNI views or treats victims of sexual crime, insisting the only people to blame for rape were rapists.

In a statement issued on Friday, she said: “We were made aware this evening that old PSNI flyers had been distributed in north Belfast this week, and that this had been reported online.

“First of all, I want all victims to know that the only people who are responsible for rape are rapists. Victims are not to blame.

“We are investigating how these flyers made their way into the public arena as they were discontinued a number of years ago.”

She added: “We are taking urgent action to ensure that any remaining flyers will be destroyed so this cannot happen again.

“I want to take this opportunity to say that if you are a victim of a sexual crime and that if you choose to speak to us, you will be listened to, respected and treated sensitively.”

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