The Police, Social Media & Domestic Abuse: #infocus
We've seen a number of police forces 'live tweeting' their domestic abuse calls on twitter this week. The Association of Chief of Police have held an awareness week, using #infocus to discuss the issues around domestic abuse. You can read more about our exchanges with ACPO Domestic Abuse Lead Louisa Rolfe here.
We are troubled by some of the tweets - and have decided not to 'name' the forces doing it because we're aware that they have good intentions and we do not wish to draw further attention to the tweets in questions. The good intentions of the forces involved do not invalidate our concerns. Any tweeting of this type should only be done in conjuction with an open and transparent social media policy and full and informed consent of the victim in question.
One force listed all of their DV arrests for the day, but focused wholly on the outcome for the victim: including details about a pregnancy; a victim who had recently moved into the area and a member of the travelling community. We are concerned that even though these tweets are anonymised, they are potentially identifying.
Not only could the perpetrator ID the incident he perpetrated, but in some cases, the next stage intervention is also tweeted - meaning the perp could ID a support service who are involved with his victim. In addition to this, the victim could be ID'd by others in their lives, such as a family member or employer.
To us, live tweeting of incidents is unhelpful if they contain potentially ID'ing info - regardless of how small that potential is. Phrases about perpetrators such as "perp likes his pop, referred to alcohol services" [yes, one force really did tweet that] are also unhelpful.
It would be more appropriate for the police to live tweet that they are approachable & are a safe agency for victims to contact and to clearly demonstrate why this is the case. They could tell victims that they will be listened to, believed and taken seriously. They could tweet local support services (showing their awareness that some women don't want or feel able to use the Criminal Justice System). They could live tweet the number of 999 calls, arrests and/or charges without any perpetrator or victim details. They could live tweet incidents that don't contain (potentially) ID'ing info.
Overall, we are pleased that the police are talking about domestic abuse on social media. However, we're not sure how this challenges the 'canteen culture' that runs through the police. What we'd prefer for them to do, is tell us how they are changing, what steps they are taking, what practical things they are doing in order for victims to feel that they can approach the police safely. What we don't want is a heap of self-congratulatory tweets designed to increase the social media profile of a force.
After all, when 2 women a week are dying at the hands of their partner or ex-partner, (and in many of these cases police failures contribute to these deaths), We don't see that the police have anything to congratulate themselves on.
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