Mayor in Australia warns women not to walk alone saying it's "an invitation for someone to take advantage of you"
The mayor of Albury, Australia has cautioned women not to walk alone at night after the alleged rape of a 17-year-old girl, saying it was an invitation to be taken advantage of.
Kevin Mack made the statement after the girl told police she was approached by three men on a footbridge in Albury on Tuesday night as she walked home from work.
The men dragged the girl into nearby bushes and sexually assaulted her at knifepoint, NSW Police said.
Addressing the case on Thursday, Cr Mack said: "I always have encouraged women not to walk alone, to have someone with them at all times, because that in itself is an invitation for someone to take advantage of you," according to an ABC report.
"It's a salient reminder to us all not to take what we have for granted, and to make sure we have appropriate safety in place," he said.
Mack has been heavily criticised, with some accusing him of perpetuating a culture of rape and victim blaming.
"Please stop telling women that they are not free to walk in public unmolested. Instead, please tell men to not rape," one woman wrote to Mack on his Facebook page.
"Why don't you ask rapists and attackers to walk with other men who aren't violent to get them not to attack women? Start with the men who do this, not blame women for men's disgusting actions," another woman wrote.
On Friday morning, Mack apologised on ABC Goulburn Murray radio and said his words were poorly chosen.
"The girl in question has not done anything wrong," he said.
"She was doing what she would do every day and she's been the victim of a heinous crime and her callous attackers are responsible for that.
"I apologise without reservation. It was a poor choice of words and if I had my time back again I wouldn't have said it.
"It's not how I feel. I'm a staunch advocate for womens' rights. My work speaks for that and I apologise."
Feminist commentators Anne Summers and Tracey Spicer criticised Mack for focusing on women's behaviour rather than talking about what men can do.
Karen Willis, executive officer of Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia, said that telling women they couldn't walk home from work was "not constructive or common sense advice".
"It's blaming the victim, it's saying you're in the wrong place at the wrong time," she said.
"Constructive advice would be to issue a warning and directions saying that anyone who thinks this kind of behaviour is OK should really be concerned; you need to stop and, if you fear you have the potential, you need to seek assistance now. That's constructive."
She said most of the 13,000 women who phoned the NSW Rape Crisis hotline last year felt they were in some way to blame for their experience.
"The flipside [to Mack's comments] is that it's quite insulting to men," she said. "It's implying that men are uncontrolled animals whom women have to avoid because they can't manage their own bad behaviour."
His initial comments to the ABC came as police investigated the attack on a public footbridge in Albury at 6.30pm on Tuesday.
The 17-year-old girl told police she was dragged into nearby bushes by three men and sexually assaulted at knifepoint.
Prime7 in Albury posted his full interview on Facebook on Friday morning following the criticism.
Mack said: "I always have encouraged women not to walk alone, to have someone with them at all times, because that in itself is an invitation for someone to take advantage of you."
He also said that the council would do all it could to ensure public areas, footpaths and parks were well lit.
Mack served as a police officer for 35 years and is heavily involved with youth initiatives in Albury.
- The Age