State Apologizes for Tweet About Sexual Assaults Being Avoidable

They ‘deeply regret the message.’

State officials apologized Thursday morning for sending out a tweet that implied sexual assault victims could prevent attacks from occurring, and announced that the employee who sent the tweet would attend sexual assault training classes.

On Wednesday night, the state’s @MassGov Twitter account sent out a message to its more than 36,000 followers that read:

Sexual Assault Tweet

The message, met by angry responses from sexual assault advocates and questions from users online, stayed on Twitter for roughly 12 hours before someone finally deleted it. “What an ignorant statement,” one person wrote in response to the tweet. “Sexual assault is not  always avoidable.”

Another person said the state was “victim blaming,” and a third called the unexplained message “really bizarre.”

In a series of tweets posted a few hours after the gaffe disappeared from the state’s Twitter profile, officials apologized for the wording in the message. “I deeply regret the message sent last night regarding sexual assault and apologize to all sexual assault victims,” said Geoff Kula, director of the Mass.gov website, in a message posted to the state’s account. “We in no way meant to suggest that victims of sexual assault are to blame for the crimes committed against them.”

Kula said the team that runs Mass.gov has several authors who create their tweets and blog posts, and an “editorial gatekeeper” usually reviews all social media content to ensure appropriateness, tone, and voice before it’s sent out to the public. “In this instance, the author of the sexual assault awareness tweet did not send this tweet to the editorial gatekeeper for review, and instead scheduled the tweet independently,” he said. “Having spoken with the author this morning, it is clear there was no malicious intent behind the tweet; the tweet inaccurately summarized the content in the linked-to blog post, which discussed services available for victims of sexual assault.”

He said it was never the author’s intent to blame victims for crimes, and that they agreed to participate in sexual assault awareness training. “All Mass.gov content authors have been reminded of the editorial process and going forward, no tweets will be published without first being run through this established review process,” said Kula.

The state later tweeted out additional resources for people to learn more about combatting violence, and where to find assistance and help in the event a sexual assault takes place. The original tweet was meant to promote Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which takes place in April each year.

Despite the state’s efforts to clear up the mess, some people that follow the @MassGov account were still not satisfied. “Apology fail,” one person said.