04/10/2014 03:21 EDT | Updated 06/10/2014 05:59 EDT

Edmonton radio station criticized for online poll about sexual assaults

EDMONTON - An Edmonton radio station faced the wrath of public and politicians Thursday for its online poll asking whether women deserve blame for being sexually assaulted.

"It's very controversial, but do you think victims of sexual assaults share any blame for what happens?" news-talk station CHED asked on its website.

The poll gave people the option of voting "No, women should be able to dress, drink, and walk as they choose without fear of being blamed" or "Yes, if women drink too much, dress too little or walk in harm's way they put themselves at risk."

The station received scores of angry messages on social media that continued to build throughout the morning.

Around noon, the station's brand director Syd Smith apologized on air for the phrasing of the question, saying it lacked context.

"That question, void of context, would make me angry coming from our station or another media outlet," said Smith.

"It was ham-handed in the way that we put it out there, and it was wrong."

A revised question was issued tying the poll to a recent story on a community discussion that noted victim blaming still occurs in sex assaults.

"An (Edmonton) panel on rape culture says victim blaming is still an issue. Do you think victims of sexual assaults share any blame for what happens?"

The answer options remained the same.

The new question stood online for another hour after the apology, sparking more outrage, at which point the station pulled it down and issued a second apology.

"We apologize for the inappropriate poll posted today. People are understandably upset. It has been removed. We will do better in the future," read a tweet from the station.

Smith did not return a call for an interview.

Employment Minister Thomas Lukaszuk told reporters he has asked for a review of his department's advertising contracts with CHED.

"This (poll) is one of the reasons why (sexual assault) victims often go unnoticed and unreported because they're made to believe that they're somehow complicit, that they somehow brought it on themselves," said Lukaszuk.

"In a way this vindicates the perpetrators, and that's just not acceptable."

Premier Dave Hancock commended CHED for taking the poll off the web, saying "it was a fairly ill-thought-out approach."

Liberal house leader Laurie Blakeman said she backs the province withdrawing advertising dollars as a way to send a message.

"I'm just really surprised they would even think to bring that up as a hot topic. It's not," said Blakeman. "The courts have decided it. Everybody knows you don't blame the victim in this stuff."

NDP house leader Rachel Notley said the poll is a reminder that women's rights must be vigilantly safeguarded.

"It's very concerning to me that anyone would think that there is even a question to be asked about whether a woman who was a victim of sexual assault asked for it," said Notley.

"It's a tremendously disappointing step backward."

The results before the poll was pulled down showed 65 per cent of respondents voted no while one-third said women's behaviour and apparel contribute to their sexual assault.