An Edmonton police officer has drawn the ire of the Internet, after a poorly worded safety reminder came across as blaming the victim of a sexual assault.
According to the Edmonton Journal, Acting Det. Jerrid Maze told a news conference Thursday that people shouldn't walk down alleys, after a third attack was reported in as many months in the Edmonton neighbourhood of Terwillegar Towne.
“Alleys aren’t meant for people to walk down,” Maze said. “Those are meant for vehicles and for people to put their garbage out.”
Instantly, Twitter users jumped on Maze's statement, calling out the officer for what they saw as a chance to blame the victim for the attack, and not the attacker.
But Ward 9 Coun. Bryan Anderson told the Journal the words were about concern for public safety, rather than blaming the victim.
“I’m certain there’s no policeman in Edmonton prepared to say it’s the victim’s fault … If you have a choice to walk in the street where there are street lights (rather) than in an alley, take the street,” Anderson said.
“Walking in an alley is not necessarily as safe as walking with somebody or walking on a street with street lights or eyes on the street.”
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According to inews880, a women reported being knocked down by a man in an alley around 10:15 p.m. on January 14, near the 1800 block of Tomlinson Crescent. The woman, 29, received injuries to her face but was eventually able to scare off her attacker.
Investigators said they believe the assault may be linked to two other attacks in the area, dating back to November 2013.
Global News reports two of the attacks happened just off alleyways, in areas with poor lighting.
In 2011, Toronto Constable Michael Sanguinetti told York University students during a talk on sexual assault on campus that, "I've been told I'm not supposed to say this – however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized."
He apologized shortly after.
A sexual assault awareness campaign to recently come out of Alberta's capital attempted to put an end to victim blaming and shaming, instead redirecting the responsibility back onto perpetrators.
The "Don't Be That Guy" campaign was first unveiled in 2010 and targeted alcohol-related assaults. The campaign was expanded in 2013 to include sexual assault of all types, including same-sex assault.
Check out posters from the campaign: