Brigid Says: Sexual assault is never a joking matter

By Brigid Edmunds-Lawrence - [email protected]

Last week, Wilkes-Barre Area School board member Ned Evans found himself in hot water after a screenshot of a lewd comment he made on a Facebook post was passed around social media.

The post shows a headline using a slang term to describe a story about a married teacher having a sexual encounter with a 13-year-old male student in Arizona. Two comments are below it.

One with the name of Nick Bartorillo, read “Kid is my hero.” The second, from Evans, says “probably broke her teeth on it. Lol”

Evans has defended himself, saying he made a “stupid mistake.”

“I apologized to my family, my constituents, the board and Dr. Costello,” Evans said. “I just made a stupid mistake. A group of people that don’t like me got together and went to the papers on it. I’ve gotten more calls from my constituents not to resign. I don’t intend to resign over it. I made a stupid mistake and that’s it.”

But the issue isn’t that he made a stupid comment, it’s the fact that the comment was used to minimize rape.

Evans wasn’t even the first one on the post in question to mock the 13-year-old for getting raped.

“Kid is my hero,” Nick Bartorillo wrote.

The joke is all too familiar. When a man, regardless of age, is a victim of sexual assault or rape, it’s often a punchline. Young boys are lucky to have been preyed on by adult women, or they simply can’t get raped because they’re men.

Just like jokes when women get assaulted, these tropes are toxic and continue to create an environment where victims are afraid to come forward.

Not even celebrities are immune.

Last month, actor Terry Crews testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee about his own story of sexual assault and to advocate for the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights, which overhauls the way rape kits are collected and creates a bill of rights for survivors and overhauls the statute of limitations in rape cases.

“This past year we have seen powerful men in Hollywood and elsewhere finally held accountable for sexual assault,” Crews said in his opening statement. “We also saw the backlash survivors faced coming forward. I wanted these survivors to know that I believed them, I supported them, and that this happened to me too.”

“I heard time and time again about the rights that my predator had, but I was never told about the rights I had as a survivor,” Crews said about when he was reporting his assault.

“That was the wake-up call. I knew I had to be part of what was happening here today in regard to the Sexual Assault Survivor Bill of Rights,” he added. “If you know what you can do, you can actually do something about it.”

Crews outlined to the committee his experience, being assaulted at a party in 2016 by the head of the motion picture department at his then-agency. Crews said the man in question, Adam Venit, grabbed Crews’ genitals twice during the encounter, which Crews’ wife was present for.

“I’m not a small or insecure man, but in that moment and in the time that followed, I’ve never felt more emasculated,” he said.

It was an emotional testimony, and one that showed no one is immune from being taken advantage of, whether they are male, female, child or adult. Crews wanted to come forward with his story to make it easier for all victims to come forward. He wanted to use his platform as a celebrity to pave the way.

The response when he came forward, however, was filled with jokes and men downplaying the situation.

“I have to say the silence is deafening when it comes to men coming forward,” he said. “As I told my story, I was told over and over that this was not abuse. That this was a joke. That this was just horseplay. But one man’s horseplay is another’s humiliation.”

Even rapper 50 Cent took shots at Crews on social media, posting a pair of images of Crews. One showed him topless with the words “I got raped, my wife just watched” superimposed over it and another of the actor with a rose in his mouth and the words “Gym time.”

“LOL,What the (expletive) is going on out here man?,” 50 Cent wrote in the caption. “Terry: I froze in fear, they would have had to take me to jail. Get the strap.”

Sexual assault is never a joke. Period. 50 Cent eventually took the Instagram post down, but the damage is already done.

Here in Wilkes-Barre, Evans defended himself, saying he took the comment down and that he is a “public servant.”

“My votes are for the children of the district and the taxpayers of the district,” he said.

And they very well may be, but his actions and his language are damaging to children, and given the history of sexual abuse in the district, he should know better than to make a joke about a student being raped.

To read more Brigid Says columns, click here.

By Brigid Edmunds-Lawrence

[email protected]

Reach Brigid Edmunds-Lawrence at 570-991-6613 or on Twitter @brigidedmunds

Reach Brigid Edmunds-Lawrence at 570-991-6613 or on Twitter @brigidedmunds