I’m an anxious person, which means that even though I like to argue, I don’t like conflict. I tend to let things go, even if they irritate me. However, I will never let you get away with making a rape joke in front of me. Do you know why?
In America, 97% of rapists will not go to gaol. Only 40% of all sexual assaults are reported to the police. Your oh-so-funny jokes have helped lead the world to believe that rape is an ordinary part of day-to-day life, to be expected and not dramatised. But there are two kinds of people likely to hear your joke – rape victims, and their rapists. You making that joke tells the victim that their pain is funny to you; that their trauma is the stuff of humour. You making that joke tells the rapist that their actions are okay; that they are justifiable; that they are acceptable. You making that joke spreads the exact opposite of the right message.
I’m sure you are a fine, upstanding person. I’m sure you would never do that to another person. But the person standing next to you might. And you making that joke sends the message that you accept them. The person standing across from you who has been raped hears that message too, and to them it means that their rapist is accepted while they are laughed at.
So next time you go to make a joke; next time you go to say something you think is funny; next time you go to make fun of a crime: look around you. Wonder who standing within earshot might be a potential rapist, an actual rapist, or a rape victim. Wonder this, and then, for pete’s sake, keep your mouth shut.