TRIGGER WARNING: RAPE

The following article was written by the Feminist Society in response to the handling of a story in the newest issue of the Waterfront. If you have been affected by the issues discussed, there are a selection of support contacts at the end of the article.

In The Waterfront’s latest issue the front page sensationalises rape jokes, and this has not been dealt with in an appropriate and sensitive manner. There should have been some form of trigger warning before rape was mentioned. This could have been done by: removing the article from the front page, if one still desired the article to be eye-catching this could have been achieved by adopting a simple front page with limited details as to what was inside, a more sensitive title, or merely a brief warning. The lack of a trigger warning is deeply insensitive. FemSoc are aware of people who have been triggered by this article, and we find some of the comments from The Waterfront journalists to be highly inappropriate and insensitive. By providing a trigger warning those affected by issues related to this article would have been able to choose whether or not to read on. One of our members, who wishes to remain anonymous, eloquently explained

The way I see it is – have you ever had a really toxic friend or partner? Someone who ended up making your skin crawl and you felt bad about yourself every time someone mentioned their name? And then have you ever noticed that just hearing someone talk about an entirely different person with the same name can send a few moments of “oh god” dread through you that make you apprehensive and worried before realising everything’s okay? – Now imagine instead of them just being a bad friend, this was an act they’d committed that you’d far rather end your life than have to relive.
A ‘trigger warning’ is there to go ‘by the way, in-depth and probably disturbing content involving ‘x’ is coming up, please be aware’. And then, the person can choose whether or not to continue reading…People go to university to learn, not be reminded that they were raped. People involved in discussions on such topics have trigger warnings that help advise them on whether they should continue reading.

Following this, the article provides no information on support networks, which we feel is an essential when discussing such sensitive topics. For those affected please see information at the end of this article.

We were alarmed to read that some people considered  “lad culture” to mitigate responsibility for the tweet, particularly because the “good lad workshops” featured in a recent issue. Whilst we acknowledge and are sympathetic to those who feel the pressure of societies strict gendered demands, there is no excuse for the series of offensive tweets that this student wrote.

FemSoc are concerned that the University, who take a ‘zero tolerance approach’, have failed to take a strict stance on this sensitive topic. It is alarming to think that a ‘zero tolerance approach’ translates to inaction, particularly as this echoes a previous case (Liam Stacey).

Worryingly, The Waterfront decided to name the student, which they comment may affect his future employability. Although the tweet was written from the student’s public twitter account, it seems irresponsible to publish his name. The University (and by extension the union and other associated bodies) has a responsibility of care to all students, and naming the student breaks this. FemSoc are concerned that this could spiral into a witch-hunt, giving angry students a contact name to search for and thus a target for hate. Moreover, by naming the student the article detracts from the bigger issue, and trivialises it. Perhaps a better way to deal with this would be to address the wider issue of Swansea University’s history of offensive tweets.

Certain comments made in the article, for instance, ‘I would truly hate to live in a society where posting a tweet can get you punished’ highlight the lack of awareness in relation to legislation which restricts offensive and obscene communication on social media. The article makes reference to the specific university’s expectations but not to the wider laws, which all persons are subject to (s.127 Communications Act 2003).

This article presented the ideal opportunity to address a number of issues, many of which have been ignored as the newspaper has favoured a sensationalist approach over an informative one. Ultimately, it is so caught up in student’s reactions that it fails to discuss relevant information and thus address the wider issue.

Swansea University Feminist Society

Email us at: feministsociety@swansea-union.co.uk
Follow us on Twitter @SUSUFemSoc
Request to join our Facebook group here

Help information:
The Advice Centre: Ground floor of Fulton House, around the corner from Costcutter
Rape Crisis
0808 802 9999
http://www.rapecrisis.org.uk 
Rape & Sexual Abuse Support Centre
0808 802 9999
http://www.rasasc.org.uk

For further information see:
http://www.supportline.org.uk/problems/rape_sexual-assault.php

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