Police have been accused of victim blaming after urging women not to use headphones or mobile phones while walking alone in the wake of a spate of sexual assaults near a London Tube station.
The Met Police called for women to stick to well-lit streets and be “alert in your surroundings” and refrain from using “earphones or handheld devices”.
There have been ten sex attacks on lone women in Cricklewood since February – with police saying the assaults are thought to be linked.
In most cases, which have taken place near Willesden Green Tube station in northwest London, the man approached a lone woman, tried to chat to her, asked for a kiss or a hug and then sexually assaulted her. The latest victim was assaulted early on 7 October.
The Met have previously arrested a man, but subsequently released him under investigation.
Detective Constable Laura Avery said: “I would appeal to women in the local area to take care when they are walking, especially if they are alone.
“Always stick to well-lit streets. If possible, let someone know when you are coming home and the route you are taking and always be alert in your surroundings, so don’t use earphones or handheld devices.
“This is a series of shocking sexual assaults on lone women and I am appealing for anyone who has information that could help identify and apprehend this suspect to contact police immediately.”
But the police have come under fire for their advice – with critics accusing them of putting the burden of sexual assault on the female victims rather than the perpetrator.
“No one will talk about the most common denominator here. Headphones don’t rape women, nor do skirts, or dark streets, or clubs, or alcohol, or parties, or sleepovers, or school uniforms. Name the perpetrators. Name the problem. We can’t help if we can’t even name it,” Jessica Eaton, who campaigns on behalf of the victims of sexual violence, tweeted.
“Every bit of this advice comes down to ‘live a little less to make yourself safer’. Also, while there are rapists out there, these tips are really just ‘How to make sure he rapes someone else instead,’” Twitter user Andrew Macdonell added.
However, there were many others supporting the police, stating that it was simply ‘good advice’.
Maurice C-Coleman wrote that women ‘are obviously too stupid to be able to differentiate good, sensible advice from what they seem to identify as domination. Madness!’
@DCStubbs1 also tweeted: ‘I’m gobsmacked the Police are being criticised for offering safety advice. The police are concerned there is a dangerous sexual predator on the loose & they are trying to keep other women safe by offering advice until they catch this dangerous individual.’