A police force has come under fire for social media posts that appeared to support domestic abuse victims staying with their partners.
Essex Police is running the campaign to help people aged 55 and over in partnership with Southend, Essex and Thurrock Domestic Abuse Board.
But a Facebook post has sparked anger after saying that its subject Sheila “knew that the abuse in her relationship was wrong” but also would never leave so had been given help that helped them “stay together but safely”.
The force has now apologised for the post, describing it as “clumsy”. It said: “Our message in this campaign isn’t ‘stay in any relationship no matter how abusive’.”
We're supporting a domestic abuse campaign to help people aged 55 and over.
However, some of our language in the comments on one of our Facebook posts was clumsy and has caused offence and we're sorry.
— Essex Police (@EssexPoliceUK) December 15, 2017
The original post inspired a flurry of posts from people expressing their shock, with one Twitter user writing: “There’s no such thing as staying safe in an abusive relationship”.
Writer Jack Monroe described it as “absurd” and branded the campaign “irresponsible, silencing, diminishing”.
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The force’s apology also sparked criticism, with Stephanie Lewis writing: “I hope your ‘clumsy’ language did not change the mind of someone on the way out the door. Shame on you. Must do better.”
And another user wrote: “As someone who has experienced domestic violence, I’m still waiting to hear which forms of violence the Essex Police feel are “less harmful”.”
Wow, Essex Police. I just… have no words for what an irresponsible, silencing, diminishing campaign this is. Basically telling women to 'put up and shut up' re domestic abuse. In 2017. This is absurd. pic.twitter.com/aqZ9BLjy6c
— jack monroe | (@BootstrapCook) December 15, 2017
I hope your 'clumsy ' language did not change the mind of someone on the way out the door. Shame on you. Must do better.
— Stephanie Lewis (@Caffeinebaking) December 15, 2017
Dick Madden, chair of the Southend, Essex and Thurrock Domestic Abuse Board, reportedly said the campaign had been developed with domestic abuse specialists, refuges, partners and survivors of abuse.
The BBC quoted him as saying: “The message is clear: domestic abuse is never acceptable.
“Within the comments on this particular post, there were a number of supportive comments – some from survivors who sought support and have stayed within their relationship.
“We think it is positive that the campaign has sparked a debate on a very important issue.”
“Our message in this campaign isn’t ‘stay in any relationship no matter how abusive’, it’s ‘if something is happening in your relationship even if you’ve been with someone for decades there is help you can get'”.