Offensive or innocent joke? Cafe sparks debate with ‘disgraceful’ sign

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The Seddon Deadly Sins cafe in Melbourne was forced to apologise for an "offensive" sign out the front of the business. Source: Facebook/ Bree Kenyon

A Melbourne cafe has been forced to apologise for a controversial sign that was displayed out the front of the business, which many labelling it “disgraceful” and “offensive” to those with a disability.

Seddon Deadly Sins in the city’s inner suburbs came under fire on Wednesday for the blackboard sign which, according to the cafe,  was meant to be a joke. The cafe has become iconic in Melbourne for its humorous jokes, but their latest has gone viral for all the wrong reasons.

Many locals took to social media to vent their frustration at the sign which read: “My girlfriend broke up with me. So I stole her wheelchair… Guess who came crawling back”.

Of those outraged by the sign was Bree Kenyon, who pointed an accusing finger at the cafe for making light of the serious issue of domestic violence in the country.

Noting the number of women who are subject to abuse on a daily basis, the concerned Aussie said it definitely wasn’t a “silly pun” when she posted a picture of the sign on her Facebook page.

“Women with disabilities are exponentially more exposed to abuse and subject to it by their partners – and for wheelchair users, one of the ways this control is exercised is by removing their accessibility tools i.e. their wheelchairs,” she said on the post.

“This is explicitly a joke about domestic violence, and it targets a demographic that experiences violence at significantly higher rates.”

Others echoed Bree’s comments, with a barrage of Australians expressing their anger at the cafe online.

“The fact that you thought it was ok to joke about disability and domestic violence says a lot about you as a human being. You have no idea the damage this has done to your business. Shame on you!” one person wrote on Facebook.

Another simply said: “Such humour is cowardly and harmful. Disgraceful”.

However, others weren’t too phased by the sign, claiming the owners in no way intended to offend anyone.

“My husband is disabled, I did not take offence at yesterday’s chalk board comment, it was not meant to offend. I do believe some times in this day and age we are so quick to condemn,” someone added.

“I’m a wheelchair user and I found it hilarious. If I couldn’t laugh at my disability (spinal cord injury) then I would spend the rest of my life crying,” a second said.

The cafe’s owner has since apologised for the chalkboard sign, posting a heartfelt message to their followers and the wider public on Wednesday.

Taking to Facebook, the owner claimed they felt “ashamed” for creating the sign and admitted they “should have known better”.

“Today I made the mistake of making light of something that I had not considered was a brutal reality for some people,” a post wrote.

“I’m ashamed that it took this for me to learn about this abuse. I apologise for my ignorance and any offence that it has caused. Regardless of the original intent, I should have known better.”

This isn’t the first time a cafe has come under fire for a controversial sign. Earlier this year the The Battered Wife fish and chip shop in Far North Queensland was forced to shut up shop after becoming the subject of an “abusive witch hunt”.

Carolyn Kerr’s small business in Wangan, about nine kilometres south of Innisfail, came under intense scrutiny late last year for its controversial name and its slogan “the only battering you need know”.

The former police officer received a flurry of complaints from concerned Australians, who accused her of making light of domestic violence.

The tirade of accusations first began in November  last year when a number of people took aim at the name of the shop on social media.

This included not-for-profit organisation The Woman’s Electoral Lobby, which claimed Kerr was making a joke out of the situation that led to the death of 69 women across the country last year.

In a since deleted post the organisation wrote: “This is a fish and chip shop in far north Queensland – it’s called ‘The Battered Wife’. This indicated the scope of things that need to change in Australia for us to really see societal and cultural change and a reduction in violence against women and children. This is not clever, or funny. Family violence is no joke.”

What are your thoughts on the sign? Do you think it was offensive?

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