Content warning: This article includes brief discussion of sexual violence. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline, which can be reached at 800-656-4673 or online via hotline.rainn.org.
A narrative warning women that April 24 is “National Rape Day” and they should protect themselves is going viral on TikTok and spreading to other major social media sites. April 24 is being described as a day when “it’s legal to sexually assault anybody,” which is unquestionably false.
The narrative supposedly began with videos encouraging a “National Rape Day,” but there's no evidence any such videos actually exist. But still, a flood of videos warning women of potential assault and encouraging them to either stay inside or protect themselves have emerged. And some media outlets have reported on the nonexistent calls for violence.
This isn’t the first time a viral hoax meant to scare women has emerged on TikTok, and incredulous coverage can actually contribute to fear and misunderstanding about sexual violence.
So what is April 24 all about?
According to Tech Times, “six men” originally promoted the April 24 narrative in videos posted on TikTok, but neither the Tech Times nor supplemental reporting provides evidence that the videos actually exist.
In a statement to Media Matters, TikTok confirmed that there is no evidence of the original reported trend circulating on the platform. “The supposed ‘National Rape Day' trend being reported upon is abhorrent and would be a direct violation of our Community Guidelines, and while we haven't seen evidence of this trending on our platform, our safety team remains vigilant and would remove any such content.”
However, there is an array of viral videos currently circulating on TikTok claiming that women need to either stay inside or protect themselves on April 24. The search term “NationalRapeDay” is blocked on TikTok, but “NationalRpeDay” returns videos perpetuating the April 24 claim; an “April 24” search returns similar results.
“Some trash boys are saying April 24th is national r@pe day. Please be careful and try to stay inside. If you have to go out go in a group and have a way to protect yourself,” read on-screen text in one video. “Keep yourself safe and try to help keep others safe if you can.”
“Girls be careful,” read another.
“Girls lets make April 24 National self defense Day so if you kill someone ‘Self defense,'” posted one user.
While many of the videos posted about April 24 come from a place of concern, they can be disturbing for survivors of sexual violence. Again, the dominating narrative relies on fear tactics and encourages women to stay inside or have a weapon.
Reporting of the April 24 trend has turned into a bad game of telephone
Like in a bad game of telephone, the April 24 narrative has been misconstrued with each reporting.
The Tech Times reported on April 18, “According to KTBS, users have seen six men on TikTok that have posted videos about inviting people to perform or engage in unspeakable acts that cause harm to another, particularly towards women.”
In KTBS’ piece from the same day, the outlet claimed that Newsweek reported the “claims of the users of TikTok regarding this trend” and KTBS used Newsweek’s framing in its report.
However, Newsweek’s original reporting from early that morning merely stated: “According to users, a group of men have declared April 24 a ‘national day’ for carrying out rape and sexual assault.” Newsweek clearly stated, “It's not clear where the trend originated or exactly who is responsible for beginning it.”
Newsweek later issued a report including TikTok’s statement that no videos were found promoting April 24, but the damage was already done.
April 24’s virality on TikTok helped it spread to other platforms
While mainstream social media sites are warning users of April 24, anonymous users on far-right internet forum 4chan have begun to engage with the topic, asking about its legitimacy.
“What’s April 24th?” wrote one 4chan user. “It’s allegedly encouraged to sexually assault women on this date. Are we raping lads?”
Incorrectly reporting the April 24 narrative as a widespread trend men are participating in gives legitimacy to a narrative that is meant to instill fear.
This narrative does not appear to be grounded in fact, but sexual violence is a reality for Americans. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Natwork (RAINN), “every 73 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted.” Even more, 55% of sexual assaults occur at or near the survivor’s home. Sexual violence is widespread in America, but spreading false narratives about a “National Rape Day” does nothing to help survivors or prevent sexual assault.