Haley’s Comments: When jokes cross the line

Story by Haley Zblewski

A couple of weeks before I moved away from Wausau, a woman was beaten to within an inch of her life and raped just outside her home. It was just after 4 a.m. and she had been letting her dog outside. Her house was three blocks away from the dorm I was living in; I had in fact walked past her home many times. It was discovered that her attacker was a sex offender who had cut off his ankle bracelet and had been living in our neighborhood for two weeks.

What about that situation is funny?

I would imagine that all reading this would say “nothing at all,” because everyone can agree that there is nothing funny about someone being sexually violated. Why, then, is it considered OK to make jokes about rape?

You see it all the time: a girl gets hugged a little too tightly and for a little too long so she laughingly squeaks “rape,” as though that is the perfect way to end the awkward moment.

You’d be stressed to find an episode of American Dad (and Family Guy, to a lesser extent) that didn’t feature at least one joke at the expense of sexual assault. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy watching Family Guy, American Dad, et al, but could do without watching a cartoon blonde being held down on a beach screaming for help.

It’s everywhere, this perception that rape is something to be mocked. And the jokes have become somehow acceptable to both men and women.

Rape is a reality that far too many women have to deal with. In 2009, there were 4,633 reported sexual assaults in the state of Wisconsin, according to UW-Eau Claire’s annual security report and policy statement. That same year, out of 97 reported incidents of sexual assault, the Eau Claire Police Department made 74 arrests.

The jokes, combined with incidents of girls who regret their late-night hook ups the next morning and cry rape, make it difficult for actual rape victims to be taken seriously when they report an assault.

In the U.S. it is estimated that 60 percent of sexual assaults go unreported, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network.

There are many reasons why someone decides not to report an attack, but the base of most of the reasons is shame. Women and girls are afraid of what the reaction would be from the authorities, their family and friends. We’re creating an environment in which women are afraid to come forward and seek help.

Joking as though rape is something enjoyable or funny, or when Stan Smith says that someone deserves to be raped, makes it sound as though all rape victims “deserved it.” Not only is that insulting to anyone who has been raped, but it is a harmful mindset that threatens the safety of women.

Take for example this situation:

One of Yale’s fraternities, Delta Kappa Epsilon, recently had pledges walk around campus holding signs that read “We Love Yale Sluts,” while shouting things like “No means yes, yes means anal” and “My name is Jack, I’m a necrophiliac, I f*** dead women,” according to Yale Daily News.

There is always the stigma that the only girls who get raped are sluts, and that they more or less deserved to be raped as they led their attacker on. With these sorts of jokes, we’ve been acting as though this is true.

Out of embarrassment, women hide the fact that they’ve been raped thinking that they’ll just become another joke.

The truth is this: no one deserves to be raped, no matter how short their skirt is, no matter how drunk they are – those are just sad excuses that people use to make sense of something so sadistic. In every sexual assault, there is no one to blame but the attacker – yet the victims become the punch line.