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Alex Corwin reports on the insensitive and potentially triggering use of the word ‘rape’ on Facebook and explains how to report it.

Today while skimming through the list of status updates and the like on Facebook I was horrified to discover that an old school friend has joined a group called “Facebook Rape is a Common Side Effect of Going to University”. The name alone was enough to make me feel sick, but it got worse when I clicked on the link. A post appearing on the group’s wall reads, “this has to be the 2nd best form of rape”. I don’t think I have words for the amount of wrongness here.

Sadly this is not the only group of this nature; a quick search reveals many more groups about so-called “Facebook rape”. Perhaps it is foolish of me to be surprised by the existence of these groups, when in the last few months the phrase “Facebook rape” has become more and more common. Recently I have also come across the phrase “yawn rape” (apparently this is putting your finger into someone else’s mouth when they yawn; I don’t know why you would do this in the first place) and heard someone describe burning sausages as “absolutely raping them”.

Allowing rape jokes to become commonplace is unacceptable. It is triggering for victims of sexual assault for a start. But it also diminishes the horror of rape and its impact on the victim’s life. We live in an age of shockingly low rape conviction rates and high levels of violence against women and victim blaming. It is worrying that for many young men and women rape is increasingly seen as something laughable. Until there is a change in attitude and people stop equating rape with a minor inconvenience or childish prank I fear that rising conviction rates and preventing violence against women will be an uphill struggle.

It is possible to report Facebook groups, and hopefully if enough people complain about the offensive nature of these groups they will be removed and banned altogether.

To do this, you do need to click on the group and on the left side of the page there is a link to “report this group”. You have to select a reason from Facebook’s predetermined list. Unfortunately this is a pretty poor selection, but the “racist / hate speech” category seems the most relevant of those given. After this is selected you are asked for additional comments. In this section I wrote

This group is not only triggering to victims of rape of sexual assault, but it also diminishes the horror of rape and the trauma experienced by many women. Hacking someone’s Facebook page is not akin to an act of violence against a person. The trivalisation of rape in this way amounts to hate speech against the victims of sexual assault.

Feel free to use this if you wish. Once a complaint has been made against a group the administrator will review it, although Facebook will not get back to you with the result of the action (I guess this means we have to keep searching for the groups to see if they have been removed!).

Tackling those that make rape jokes in real life sadly may be a little more difficult, but if we can get this removed from a site like Facebook, that’d be a good start!