08/30/2012 10:47 EDT | Updated 10/30/2012 05:12 EDT

Toronto mayor's niece sorry for 'whore' tweet, says didn't mean to offend

TORONTO - The niece of the mayor of Canada's most populous city apologized Thursday for suggesting women can avoid sexual assault by not dressing "like a whore" after the comment brought a public backlash.

Krista Ford, the niece of Mayor Rob Ford and the daughter of Coun. Doug Ford, expressed her regret on Twitter, where she originally made the controversial declaration.

"I didn't mean to cause such an alarm and I apologize if I did. I just want women to be safe," she wrote on the social media site.

Ford, who was captain of Toronto's short-lived lingerie football team, had earlier advised women to "Stay alert, walk tall, carry mace, take self-defence classes & don't dress like a whore."

Her message followed a police warning about a recent string of sexual assaults in the city's west end and sparked online outrage before it was yanked from her Twitter account.

Among her critics was a woman who identified herself as a victim in one of the six sexual assaults that prompted the police alert.

"You’re a woman and you should know that your body is yours and yours alone," the woman wrote in an open letter posted on Facebook.

"For the record, I was sexually assaulted while wearing a knee-length polka-dot dress," she added.

Some questioned the sincerity of Ford's apology, while others defended her against critics who took issue with her own attire.

"If your argument against Krista Ford's comments about sexual assault are based on the way she dresses, you're doing it wrong," one tweet read.

Ford's polarizing tweet came more than a year after a Toronto police officer made similar recommendations while speaking to university students about campus safety.

The officer was criticized for his advice that women should avoid dressing "like sluts" to reduce the risk of assault, and later apologized.

His comment became the catalyst for SlutWalk, a series of marches to protest the suggestion that victims are to blame.

(The Canadian Press, 680News)