At 10:59 p.m. Monday night, I, just like the rest of campus, received a emergency text from Belmont concerning an off-campus assault behind Circle K. An hour later, a more detailed email arrived in university inboxes.
What had been listed in the text message as a minor assault with no injuries was revealed to be a much more traumatic experience to the psyche – an attempted rape.
It could have happened to anyone. Me, you, the roommate down the hall. Anyone. That poor girl just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and friendly to the wrong guy.
Despite this fact, there was a number of people making light of the situation on social media through comments that oozed of sarcasm. Jokes from males that fit the vague description of a white, bearded guy named in the incident said “it wasn’t me” while overtly pointed remarks about the shock of the attack based on location and time of night ruled Twitter.
Humorous tweets have a place in social media, but that was certainly not the right spot.
Those attempts at humor were distasteful and – even worse – completely insensitive to the situation. There was likely no intent to harm the victim, but by making light of the incident, the harm was already made.
It may not have been a textbook definition of victim shaming, but it is pretty dang close.
After successfully avoiding a sexual assault and most likely and reasonably shaken up about the incident, the last thing that girl needed to see was a series of tweets laughing off the attack or insinuating it was her fault for being across the street from campus at night.
This, of course, didn’t occur to the joke-tellers who probably didn’t give the statements a second thought before posting. Not because they are awful human beings who care little for how their remarks will affect others, but because they like the rest of us have become desensitized to the pain of others.
It’s a pity really, yet not surprising in the least. Look at pop culture.
There are movies about murder, songs about prostitution and there’s even a TV show where we the viewers are meant to empathize with a serial killer. It’s okay though, he only kills “bad guys.”
No wonder the lines between right and wrong are fuzzy.
Even without the considered increased violence and graphic subjects in mass media, we as a culture simply aren’t as likely to be worried with an incident unless it directly affects us.
Because of this, most of campus had the same reaction to the off-campus assault – a genuine but fleeting concern. But it was the few motivated with a need to be considered clever who took this incident and ran with it.
And that’s where the tweeters went wrong. Humor for the sake of humor isn’t clever or even compelling commentary. It’s a clear sign of amateur hour and frankly reeks of immaturity.
Instead of “going for the jugular” with biting sarcasm, they forgot that in some cases it can just be better to hold your tongue.
Because in the real world, there is no such thing as “backsies.”