DeKALB – DeKalb area police and local advocates for those affected by sexual violence addressed concerns on Friday related to what’s being referred to as “National Rape Day” on social media.
A new hoax trend dubbingApril 24 “National Rape Day,” where those posting about it have said rape is legal for a day, made its way around social media platform TikTok in the past week. TikTok allegedly claimed the original video promoting the idea never existed, though videos that responded to the idea and warned others to exercise caution on that day have become prevalent on the app.
DeKalb Police Cmdr. Steve Lekkas said he was aware of the concerns voiced on social media, along with claims about what a group of men was talking about doing on that day.
“It did not seem like there was anything credible to it,” Lekkas said. “More like an urban legend kind of thing.”
Lekkas said the department typically does data-driven patrols determined by local call volume. Without any mention of any specific locations being named, police anticipate having their full staff of overt patrols that day, he said.
“But I do have all of the sets on the shifts notified just in case we get any suspicious activity reported,” Lekkas said.
Lekkas said police encourage people who are concerned to take whatever precautions they deem necessary in the meantime, including making sure their phone is charged and to report anything suspicious, unsettling or out of the ordinary.
“A lot of times, having a police car coming into the area could be enough to prevent something from happening,” Lekkas said.
Northern Illinois University Dep. Police Chief Jason John said the department was not aware of the trend. Typically, NIU police do extra patrols in off-campus Greek Row areas on a nightly basis and campus police also patrol residence halls.
“For us, we will want to pay more attention at this point and make sure to do our due diligence on our patrols especially,” John said.
John also urged anyone who sees anything suspicious or sees a violent crime happening to contact NIU police on campus and DeKalb police off campus. When it comes to concerning social media trends that police may not already know about, he said he also encourages people to reach out with any specific information about related threats either by calling NIU’s tip line at 815-753-TIPS (8477) or reporting it anonymously through the NIU Safe app.
“So that we can prevent something like that from happening,” John said.
John said anyone who feels unsafe walking alone on campus and would like an escort, NIU police can help arrange that with face masking and social distancing also in mind.
Lekkas said he knows there are some people who might not call the police out of fear for wasting officers’ time, even if there might be a legitimate reason to do so.
“That’s by no means a concern for me,” Lekkas said, addressing the concern of potentially wasting his or his officers’ time.
‘Every day carries risk’
Lynnea Erickson Laskowski, director of prevention and communication at Safe Passage, said she heard about National Rape Day after scrolling through TikTok on her own, though she hasn’t come across the original videos or people encouraging others to sexually assault people. However, she said she recently had a child ask her whether they’re safe walking around outside because they had heard about the potential threat on the app.
“And that just broke my heart,” Erickson Laskowski said.
Erickson Laskowski said every day carries the risk of sexual assault, especially for women or female-presenting people, and that April 24 isn’t any different from any other day. She said women concerned about being attacked are told to carry pepper spray, to be careful about what they wear or to not walk alone at night.
“There’s never a day that we don’t walk through the world not being told … that we need to be careful,” Erickson Laskowski said.
Erickson Laskowski said she personally thought the hoax was “disgusting” and that it’s “hurtful that someone would joke about this.” However, there are several things people can do to help, including believing people who confide in them about being victims of sexual assault and to always trust their gut if something feels unsafe or uncomfortable, she said.
Erickson Laskowski also said people also can make an effort to change messaging to victim-blame less and encourage people more to not sexually assault people to begin with.
“We need to call out rape culture at it source,” Erickson Laskowski said. “So when someone jokes about rape or National Rape Day, tell them that’s not funny, that it’s not okay.”