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The seriousness of rape and sexual abuse Watch

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    Hi Jo,

    I see it quite often on the internet, when people make a joke about rape and sexual abuse but don't intend to offend, but just want to be funny.

    I recently read this on The Guardian site:
    Which talks about exactly that, and Facebook's stance on removing the pages and comments.

    Another example is in comedy and professional comedians - this is hard to regulate and sometimes there seems to be reactions from crowds which are oh I probably shouldn't be laughing at this but I can't help it. When I think of that I think Jimmy Carr/Frankie Boyle.

    I'm not really sure if I have a solid question here, but wanted to get your thoughts on whether you think this all trivializes rape and is what is affecting societies perceptions of it. I read another article on the Interdependent about rape victims not believing they would be taken seriously... is this problem getting better or worse?

    Thanks for posting, this is a really great question and something i think a lot of people are curious about. I will do my best to answer it.

    Generally, sexist jokes and misogynistic language help to reinforce gender stereotypes and normalise violent behaviour against women. It trivialises a very serious issue and normalises it by making it seem funny and acceptable and not something that should be challenged. This in turn can contribute to a society where young people grow up thinking sexism is OK.

    I know many people think this is trivial and that there are not concrete links between a joke about rape and the actual act itself, but what it does is contribute to a gradual acceptance which can then lead to bigger issues like the rape/abuse itself also being seen as acceptable or normal.

    Also, when telling those kind of jokes, we have no way of knowing who is overhearing. Huge numbers of people are victims of rape and sexual assault (the NSPCC found in 2009 that 31% of teenage girls and 16% of boys have experienced sexual violence in a relationship). Imagine a victim of sexual assault hearing those kind of comments, she/he may well then decide not to report as they fear they will not be taken seriously. Not only does it give that kind of message to victims, but if the joke is being told by someone who has committed a sexual offence, or is listened to by someone who has, the 'joke' is reaffirming for them that what they did is OK and not serious.

    You are right, this is really hard to regulate, a lot of it comes down to freedom of speech and often when we complain about inappropriate humour on TV, we are told that just because we don't find it funny, other people would so in balance it was acceptable to broadcast. But, as i said, this feeds into a culture of normalisation and acceptance of abuse in our society.

    Globally, up to six out of every ten women experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. This is NOT a joke and we need to start challenging a society that thinks it is.

    For more info on this and how to challenge jokes that you think are not cool, check out:

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Updated: March 27, 2012
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