CHARLOTTE, NC– Rape: It’s not a term often associated with humor, laughter, or anything funny for that matter. But a popular online trend is making a joke of sexual assault.
It’s called #Rapeface. It’s a hashtag used to describe a photo of an awkward or mischievous smile often followed by an “LOL”, suggesting humor.
When the phrase began popping up in 2008, it wasn’t a joke. It was used to describe the intense look on the face of a man before sexually assaulting his victim. Now, thanks to sites like Twitter, Tumbler, and Vine, it’s taken on a new, more comical meaning, and it’s gaining speed.
Brandy Stephens is the Director of Counseling at Safe Alliance in Charlotte, she says when the word “rape” is used as a joke, it trivializes sexual assault and creates an environment where rape is accepted.
“It perpetuates a rape culture… and it desensitizes everyone to a very, very serious issue,” says Stephens.
Stephens also says it downplays a horrific situation experienced by thousands of women and men every year.
Pariss Coleman agrees. Coleman does social media for the female empowerment Girl Talk Foundation. She says while the photos posted on the #RapeFace feed shouldn’t be viewed literally as the face of rapists, she says hashtaggers beware: every post is causing harm.
“Anyone who retweets it, or laughs at it, or tries to get other people to join in, they’re definitely part of the problem,” says Coleman.
—-If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault and is seeking help, contact the Safe Alliance in Charlotte at 704-332-9034.