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Rape Is a Crime, Not a Punchline

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Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

Rape jokes are not OK and will never be OK.

• What is PTSD?

I don’t owe you my backstory, but that doesn’t mean you can’t listen.

When you make that joke, it may seem like nothing to you. Just a word, just a joke, just a laugh, just an amusement or punchline.

When you make that joke, you harm people. You give power to them. You contribute to rape culture and stigma.

I’ve heard plenty of rape jokes and comments in my life. Whether it be from the back of the classroom, the group of boys no one really likes anyway because of how inappropriately disrespectful they are, or just kids who genuinely think they’re funny — which they’re not.

I’ve heard it from friends. I’ve heard it on TV. They’re everywhere, and it’s beyond not OK.

When I hear one, it’s like a knife to the heart, a punch to the gut, a wound to the soul.

Just because you have never been personally affected by something, it does not give you the leeway to joke about it as you please. Even if you mean no harm.

You don’t know what the people around you have been through; you don’t know their traumas, backstories, childhoods, encounters. There is no way to know, and that may be uncontrollable, but what is controllable is your respect. Jokes of any serious topic, anything of that caliber is not OK. It hurts, it damages, it reminds, it empowers rapists.

When someone I love made one, I was hurt. I didn’t handle myself well afterward, although I did express my reaction — to which, thankfully, he acknowledged and then apologized. He was distraught at the idea he had hurt me so bad, to the point he internalized it into depression, anger at himself. The emotions passed, and we both left the situation OK. I still love him, because he’s working on himself and has listened to me. Thankfully, I haven’t heard one from him since.

When a friend I care about made one, I was hurt. He realized right away, then apologized, but it didn’t change the fact that he said those words. I felt betrayed. I lost it and I went into complete self-destruct mode afterward. I isolated myself from them, hurt, taking the pain into myself — my mind, my skin. They apologized, but it won’t erase the hurt. He doesn’t even know how much pain that caused me; he doesn’t know how it affected me. I spent the night awake, if not self-harming then deep in a panic attack. Oddly enough, when I explained I was hurt, he seemed upset I didn’t immediately accept his apology. That hurt even more. He wasn’t the victim in this situation. That was the past, though it still stings. I still care about him; he is still my friend and a wonderful person. Thankfully, I haven’t heard one from him since.

This isn’t some sappy, emotional plea. This is a demand.

Rape is not a punchline.

Rape is not a joke.

Rape is not funny.

I don’t give a damn if you don’t care; be a decent human being and respect those facts.

If you don’t even acknowledge that what you say is wrong after you say it, that’s almost worse.

To be raped is to have a part of you stolen, destroyed. No amount of writing can begin to express its effects, the trauma, the pain.

No amount of writing can grasp how desperate I am for people to keep themselves in check and stop being ignorant assholes and get into their thick skulls: Rape jokes aren’t funny.

Rape is a trauma, not a joke. Rape is a crime, not a punchline.

This isn’t just for those who fail to realize this — this is also for those who do but do nothing about it.

Your buddy made a rape joke? Don’t let it slide.

Your sibling made a rape comment and laughed? Don’t let it slide.

Taking accountability as a respectful person isn’t just about yourself, your words — it’s about your actions, and how you impact those around you to help this world be a kinder, safer place.

If you don’t see the problem with these jokes, you are just as guilty. If you don’t do anything to correct those around you, you are just as guilty. There are no exceptions, no excuses that exempt your actions from their true effects. You hurt people, and you empower and contribute to rape culture.

There’s nothing else to say, nothing else to repeat because it’s up to you to educate, learn and respect… which we all need to start. Now.

Photo by George Gvasalia on Unsplash

Originally published: February 1, 2019
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