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Row after 'victim-blaming baubles' used to decorate Christmas tree

PUBLISHED: 10:31 02 December 2019 | UPDATED: 10:31 02 December 2019

Pictures of the tree posted on Twitter by Reclaim the Night March Picture: RECLAIM THE NIGHT MARCH/TWITTER/AMY ROCH

Pictures of the tree posted on Twitter by Reclaim the Night March Picture: RECLAIM THE NIGHT MARCH/TWITTER/AMY ROCH

RECLAIM THE NIGHT MARCH/TWITTER/AMY ROCH

Suffolk police have been accused of hanging "victim-blaming baubles" on a Christmas tree on display at an Ipswich church.

Messages such as "being drunk makes you vulnerable" and "stay with friends" adorn the decorations, which bear the Suffolk Constabulary badge.

Campaign group Reclaim the Night Ipswich shared the pictures on Twitter, adding: "We don't make ourselves vulnerable by drinking, and excessive drinking doesn't cause sexual violence. Perpetrators do. Think of a survivor out there seeing these messages, and tell us she'd feel comfortable to report."

A police spokesman apologised for any offence caused and said it would be taking down the bauble from the tree.

"Our Safer Suffolk Christmas campaign is aimed at raising awareness of a variety of issues which affect the whole community," the spokesman said.

"However, we accept that to suggest any of our messaging was aimed specifically at women by linking it to a photograph of a female was wrong. We apologise for any offence caused and are taking down the relevant messaging from the Christmas tree."

Amy Roch, of Suffolk Rape Crisis, warned that these types of messages can deter victims from reporting incidents to the police.

"We were really shocked when we found the Christmas tree. I think it is incredibly trivial, putting these kinds of messages on a Christmas tree.

"From the reaction we've had over the last 24 hours it seems to have hit a nerve, lots of women have told us it is these sorts of messages that have stopped them from speaking up and makes them feel like they can't report anything to the police.

March organiser Amy Roch from Suffolk rape crisis, at the start of this years Reclaim The Night event in Ipswich. Picture: Neil DidsburyMarch organiser Amy Roch from Suffolk rape crisis, at the start of this years Reclaim The Night event in Ipswich. Picture: Neil Didsbury

The force has since apologised for any offence caused by the tree, which is featured in the St Mary-le-Tower church's Christmas tree festival.

The police spokesman added: "Suffolk Constabulary's Christmas safety campaign encompasses a wide range of issues including home security, drink-driving, fraud, personal safety, keeping valuables secure and advice on when to call us on 101 or 999.

"The safety of people when out enjoying the night-time economy is particularly important to us.

"Campaigns such as this form part of our year-round work to provide crime prevention advice and to target those who may be considering breaking the law through opportunistic criminality.

Marching through the streets of Ipswich after dark, hundreds of women took part in this years Reclaim The Night event. Picture: Neil DidsburyMarching through the streets of Ipswich after dark, hundreds of women took part in this years Reclaim The Night event. Picture: Neil Didsbury

"Other examples include campaigns around consent in relation to serious sexual offences and the #ItsNotOk campaign."

Festival organisers have been approached for comment.

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