You Can’t Troll About Rape

How is it that some stray graffiti with apparent slurs against white people warrants a lengthy response from a team specifically created to respond to bias-related incidents, but a chalk “letter” to the TSL Editor in a very exposed area of campus rhetorically asking where to buy roofies (the implication being that the author of the letter intends to drug and rape someone) gets nothing? Really, how is that? For those of you who didn’t see it, the chalk writing in front of Frary said, “Dear TSL Editor, Need to get a girl… Where do I buy roofies? [heart], A’s, B’s, & DD’s.” We can have open forums all day about the dangers of racism, but at the end of the day, I think I speak for most of the white students on campus when I say I wasn’t too broken up about the graffiti (I wasn’t aware of it until the bias-related incident e-mail informed me). On the other hand, tells me that for every 1000 women attending college, 35 of them will be raped in an academic year. How would you feel as a survivor of sexual assault walking through campus and seeing a publicly scrawled joke that’s poking fun at drugging and raping women?

And my complaint will undoubtedly be met with the defense that I just need to lighten up, they were trolling anyway. Here’s the problem: you can’t troll about rape. When it comes to this issue, there are basically two camps of people. There are the people who are supportive of survivors of sexual assault and live their lives in a way that reflects their compassion for these people, and there’s everyone else. First, let me clarify that you don’t have to run a sexual assault counseling center to be, as I said, living your life in a way that reflects compassion. But you do have to be conscious of your language and unmoving in your attitude that making light of rape in any way at any time is absolutely unacceptable. As for everyone else, there are gradations here as well. There are those who are passive toward rape jokes and the like, and they’re a part of the problem in the sense that everyone needs to be moving toward a mindset where survivors are never made to feel laughed at. But the real reason I’m writing is to address the people who wrote the “letter.”

That writing was odious and abhorrent. Maybe it’s funny to you because you don’t know (or at least you don’t think you know) women who’ve been victimized in this way. But you are a big part of the problem. When you write something like that, you’re telling everyone that you think rape is a funny subject and that it is acceptable to publicly joke about drugging and raping women in a place where those very women will see it. One of the best ways we move toward a society where rape is less of an epidemic (I don’t use that word lightly; the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network reports that one in six American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape in their lifetimes) is by making it clear to rapists that they are repellent and monstrous people. Concretely, that means not making jokes that portray raping women as funny.

I want to end by asking you to engage in a thought experiment. Suppose your mother came to you in tears and confessed that she had been drugged and raped last weekend. Would you still feel that it was a funny troll?

(I want to mention that I recognize the reality of sexual violence against men and I think it is equally as deplorable. I addressed sexual violence against women in this letter because the author of the offending letter specifically mentioned that “a girl” was the target of the pretend plan to drug and rape.)

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