Photo courtesy of Creative Commons
What were you doing on April 24, National Rape Day? I fear this is a question that my kids will one day ask me. And what makes that notion so profoundly sad is I will be able to give them an answer: I was supposed to go visit a friend in New York City, we were supposed to enjoy the Met and Central Park, but instead I stayed in my campus bubble, in my room, and waited it out.
In reflection, I was not scared when I first heard about the day. From the beginning to mid-April, I recall seeing a few social media posts about some men trying to declare that April 24th would be National Rape Day, a day where they could do as they pleased with women, in particular, and not face consequences or stigma. It had to be, more or less, a hoax. A cruel joke perpetrated by a few, albeit terrifying, but sick men, perpetuated by the sensationalization cycles of social media. Possibly, it was in response to the 97% statistic that had been circulated coming out of the United Kingdom. Only 3% of women have never experienced sexual harassment or assault in their lifetime. Maybe it was in response to April being National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
As April 24 approached, and I saw more and more warnings from more and more reputable sources, I did some more research. The facts were that the day in question originated on Tik Tok; no one could identify the original source of the idea; Tik Tok negated knowing of its publicity on the app and denounced it; the #april24nationalrapeday had 683.9 thousand views with videos ranging from warnings to threats.
By April 23, law enforcement and media alike were issuing warnings and publicizing sexual assault victim resources in response or working to debunk the whole rumor. Whether looking at the sources that want people to prepare for the day, to take shelter and hide or the ones that work to discredit it altogether, the whole situation remains disturbing.
If the warnings do turn out to have merit, then we are faced with a day of atrocity. But if the warnings turn out to be for nothing, there are still serious implications. Because it was believable. It was believable that people would try to plan a National Rape Day. It was so easy to believe that it trended on social media that it was picked up by multiple news sources. And regardless of whether people act on the intentions of the day, it was successful. It created fear and panic and reminded everyone that they are not safe.
So I am resolute in saying I am not scared, I am angry and I am tired. I may have chosen to remain cautious on April 24, but the truth remains that most women remain cautious every day. Whatever April 24 is or becomes, it is a reflection of how we experience the world on a daily basis. To the woman who is home alone or uses public transportation or who works the night shift or orders a drink at a bar or calls the police for help, any day could be national rape day.