We need to talk about the latest TikTok trend


Solen Feyissa

Within a week of warnings being posted, #april24 had reached tens of millions of users online.

Mara Fendrich, Staff Writer

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and best of all, we’ve got another moral panic on our hands.

Last week, #April24 reached over 30 million views on TikTok as hundreds of content creators posted videos warning people for the upcoming Saturday, stating that a small group of men on the platform had declared April 24 “National Rape Day”. It seems crazy, right?

That’s because it is.

Despite the millions of people viewing and sharing safety precautions for women to take on the supposed day, neither TikTok nor USA Today could find any evidence that the original video even existed, which was purported to have told men to go out and engage in sexual violence against women with the statement that “all rape is legal” on the ‘national’ holiday. Despite this revelation, however, not much had been done to quiet the flame once it reached an audience outside of the platform. Several news publications took the event at face value, and people have posted on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to further raise awareness.

Now, I don’t want to seem as if I’m criticizing anyone who warned others about April 24. Before I looked into it myself, I discussed it with friends who had seen the same warnings online, and it is now forcing me to confront my thought processes as they pertain to how most sexual violence occurs. From a young age, I was conditioned by social media to heed warnings of sexual violence, especially sex trafficking, and protect myself as needed. There are images burned into my mind of car door handles with strings attached to them or honey spread on top of them, and “1F” markings on windshields. Although I haven’t divulged in vulnerable conversations about it, I’ve heard other young women joke about how they’ve been opening their car doors and leaping inside from multiple feet away, after TikTok videos claimed sex traffickers were hiding underneath with knives. My generation’s perceptions of assault have been molded around this rhetoric, which unnecessarily incites fear in young women, especially those suffering from post traumatic stress. 

As Sexual Assault Awareness Month comes to a close, it’s time to reshape the narrative. When we push these stories of strangers planning to commit assault or traffick women, it strays from the reality of sexual violence: it is significantly more likely committed by someone the victim knows. Perpetrators are most often romantic partners, guardians and mentors. Choosing instead to paint perpetrators as shadowy men hiding in alleys, makes it less likely for people to believe their peers are capable of sexual violence. Rather than making threats online to anyone who might commit assault, we can collectively choose to recognize patterns of abuse and interfere before they escalate. Don’t believe everything you read, and don’t believe everything you think.