March 27 (UPI) -- A North Carolina jewelry store apologized to anyone offended by a billboard bearing a controversial message: "Sometimes, it's OK to throw rocks at girls."
The billboard, which featured the words surrounded by precious stones, sparked a backlash on social media when it was erected by Spicer Greene Jewelers in Asheville.
"Small steps like this lead to a culture of violence against women. Also, children will not see the humor in this billboard. All they will see is, 'It's OK to throw rocks at girls,'" resident Shannon Page wrote on the Facebook group WAX, West Asheville Exchange.
The owners of the store, Eva-Michelle Spicer, 28, and her husband, Elliot, 27, apologized for any offense caused by the billboard.
"I'm truly sorry that it offended anybody, that was not our intention," Eva-Michelle Spicer, whose parents previously owned the store under a different name, told WLOS-TV. "The billboard was intent to be a nostalgic thought of a childhood teaching, that it's not OK to throw rocks at girls. It's not OK to throw rocks at anyone. It saddens me that it was taken that way, because it certainly wasn't intended."
The owners said they will donate 10 percent of sales through Sunday to Helpmate, a local domestic violence shelter.
Helpmate Director April Burgess-Johnson said the billboard reinforces confusion surrounding love and abuse.
"So what we need to do is draw clear and distinct lines that even in a joking manner, we're not gonna mix an expression of love and an expression of violence. Those are very separate and different things: one of which is very sweet, the other of which is very dangerous," Burgess-Johnson said.
The store addressed the controversy in a post on its official Facebook page:
"To whom we have offended with our recent billboard, please accept our apologies. We do not condone violence of any kind toward any being. We are humble enough to realize when we make a mistake and humble enough to realize the context in which we are speaking. We did not intend to cause controversy and our billboard communicated something we did not intend. We intended the billboard as a play on words to encourage the loving act of gift giving and are deeply saddened that it offended anyone."