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Friday, March 28, 2014

LOL at Sexual Assault

by Kyle:

Twitter is a great place. I say “place” as if it is somewhere that I actually hang out, and if you were to ask my wife she’d probably say I “hang out” there a lot. It’s a great place for news, sharing ideas, and cat pictures. The thing I love most about Twitter is the ability to share news, ideas, and cat pictures with people you normally wouldn’t have access to. One of my proudest Twitter moments is that time I got Chuck Todd’s attention right before a live broadcast.

With all the great things about Twitter, there are also the dark sides. Over the past few weeks there’s been some trouble terrorizing female BYU students. That trouble is a serial groper—a guy wearing a hoodie jogging around campus groping women as they pass by. The first incident was reported on January 23 with the most recent reported March 19. So far, the person(s) behind the groping have not been caught.

If this wasn’t a big enough problem by itself, the reports of the serial groper have caused an additional problem. In the last couple of weeks two Twitter accounts have popped up in an attempt to parody and even glorify this sexual predator. Now I love a good parody account. When done correctly and done well they are not only hilarious but add to the conversation of whatever they happen to be mimicking. These parody accounts, however, are nowhere near what is acceptable. @BYUgroper and @TheREALGroper are taking a sexual predator and attempting to make it cool, funny, and really no big deal at all. Here's just a few of their tweets.

The problem is, sexual assault isn't cool or funny; it is a huge deal. Just so we're clear, that is what groping is—sexual assault. It's not a game, casual touching, or something that is simply rude. It is sexual assault. I shared my disgust about these accounts on Twitter, and not surprisingly, @TheREALGroper seems to not like me very much...

The sad part isn't that there are two sick individuals out there who think they are doing something funny. What is sad is the combined 400+ people who are following these accounts and retweeting their "jokes." These are people who are presumably a part of the LDS community, and yet they follow, favorite, and retweet because why? Sexual assault makes them LOL?

So what does this say about us? As a religion, as a culture? Do we view issues of sexual assault in a way that we think it is okay to make light of it? Is our inclination when we hear about sexual assault to victim blame? After all, women get what they dress for, right?

Let me be clear, I am in no way saying that the sick people behind these Twitter accounts are in any way reflective of the church's culture as a whole, at least I sincerely hope they are not. What I do hope is that when we see something like this that we not partake. That we strive to empathize with victims who I'm sure do not think that sexual assault is funny. I hope that anyone who thinks the creator of these accounts are their hero are no readers of Modern Mormon Men, and if they are I hope they change. I hope we are all better than that.

The good news: @BYUGroper hasn't tweeted since March 22, the same day a blog post went up on The Salt Lake Tribune about these accounts. Perhaps what is needed is shedding a little light on these type of actions and that is enough to cause a change of heart... or at the very least enough to make them stop.

If you, or anyone you know, has been a victim of sexual assault or abuse and need help please check out some of these great resources. It's not funny, it's not a joke, and you're not alone.
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Kyle works in Democratic politics, yet somehow his bishop still lets him participate in church activities. He hails from Washington DC, but is embarking on a year of living in Salt Lake City and being a stay-at-home dad, while his amazing wife brings home the bacon. Actual bacon. No, seriously, she works across the street from a grocery store. It's delicious. Kyle's Mormon street cred comes from the fact that he is the youngest of seven children and is only five years older than his niece. Twitter: @KJinSLC.

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