Reports of an alleged TikTok video showing men promoting 'National Rape Day' in the USA have led to a huge volume of content 'warning women to stay indoors'.
While the original clip is believed to have been pulled down, or even not existed at all, it has sparked panic and warnings online, with the hashtag #24April being viewed more than 62 million times and hundreds of thousands of videos.
TikTok believes the 'trend' began as a hoax and claims no evidence has been found of the original video threatening a day of sexual violence.
Katie Russell, spokesperson for Rape Crisis England & Wales said:
"Regardless of its origins, or whether or not it was intended as a ‘joke’ at any point, the very concept of such a day is abhorrent and has caused many people, particularly women and girls, a great deal of understandable fear.
The ‘trend’ will no doubt have also been extremely distressing for many, not least of all victims and survivors of rape and all forms of sexual violence and abuse who might have had vivid memories and flashbacks to past experiences triggered by this.
Obviously, despite one particular piece of misinformation that has featured in this so-called ‘trend’, there is no day or moment where laws are suspended and rape is legal in the USA or anywhere else in the world. Rape and sexual assault are always serious crimes.
It should also go without saying that rape and all forms of sexual violence and abuse are traumatic experiences that can and do have wide-ranging and long-lasting impacts, and are never appropriate topics to ‘joke’ about.
This episode reminds us of the ongoing need for us to collectively challenge, resist and dismantle the damaging, sexist ‘rape culture’ that still exists in our society.
We also must stress again that, however well-meaning, 'safety advice' aimed at women will not ultimately prevent or end sexual violence and abuse, or male violence against women and girls more broadly.
Only perpetrators have the power and, crucially, the responsibility, to end violence against women and girls, and we must unite in our message of zero tolerance to those who incite, promote, glorify, trivialise, normalise or commit this violence.