Sexual Assault Jokes Aren't Funny: A Victim's Perspective


In recent months, I feel as though I’ve encountered many people who deny the existence of rape culture. Whether it be through a Snapchat from a lifelong friend reading, “Never having to worry about sexual assault when I’m alone on campus at night #perksofbeingugly,” or a rape joke muttered by my 14-year-old brother, individuals don’t seem to understand the severity of their words.

On May 20, 2017, the 829th episode of Saturday Night Live was aired, including a skit about a “child molesting robot.” Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a. Roy the mad scientist, created this robot for a competition of the most evil invention. His deadpan delivery of his lines gained countless laughs and groans from the audience, though it seemed to minimize the severity of child sexual abuse.

I personally know several people who have been traumatized from childhood sexual abuse. Recently, I myself have been uncovering repressed evidence that I may have been as well. Furthermore, I have also gone through two sexually abusive relationships, resulting in my recent diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I experience nightmares, occasional flashbacks, incredibly high anxiety and a nagging, unreasonable voice in the back of my head telling me what happened to me “wasn’t that bad” and that I’m “overreacting.”

In addition to PTSD, I also struggle with depression and anxiety, and in the past, anorexia nervosa, self harm and suicidal ideation. Do I believe that these illnesses were the direct result of what happened? No. Do I believe that they played a major role and driving force behind my suffering? Definitely. My eating disorder was a huge part of my life, in fact, it was all I thought about for nearly four years. I was hospitalized for a total of eight months in two different states because I simply could not get past the idea that my body did not define me. However, my ED was not conventional (though just as severe) to most cases I came across, at least in the opinion of my therapist and I. I wanted to be thin, yes, but that was not my ultimate goal. I wanted to be sick. I wanted my outside to match how I felt inside. After all of this trauma I had gone through, I felt miserable inside, and I had no way of expressing that to anyone as a result of poor communication skills.

So why do I say all this? Because I’m trying to tell anyone and everyone these jokes aren’t funny. These jokes validate rapists, abusers and molesters by telling them people don’t think what they’re thinking or doing is “that bad.” I don’t believe these jokes will cause a person to suddenly commit an act they would never have done, but I do feel they will believe their thoughts and actions are somewhat normal, if not encouraged. Furthermore, they invalidate the victims of these actions, for their trauma comes off as a joke. As such, unhealthy coping mechanisms ensue, as opposed to healthier ones, such as talking about everything with a friend or loved one for fear of further invalidation.

At this point in my life, I have confronted nearly all of the individuals from my past assaults and abuse. I have gotten the same response from all of them, just worded differently. “It was a mistake,” “It was your fault,” “It wasn’t that bad.” Out of the three boys, only one of them seemed to learn the error of his ways, after I reported him to campus authorities and dropped out of college.

If I can make it clear to just one person that rape culture is real, that jokes about sexual assault aren’t funny, that this stuff does happen in real life, I will be happy. Of course, I would much rather everyone realize these facts, but that takes time. I urge you, to please think before you speak, and if others aren’t, you have my explicit permission to call them out on it.

If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

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Unsplash photo via Anton Darius 


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