Sitting in her car, the woman stares directly into the camera as she records the TikTok video warning viewers to prepare themselves for April 24.
“I need to make sure you guys are aware, that there is a video going around on TikTok of disgusting men, rapists, child molesters, predators, just disgusting human beings—and they literally came up with a date to go around and rape women and children,” the woman says, pinching the air with inch-long, bright-blue nails. She adds, “Carry what you gotta carry.”
Stamped across her video, which has upwards of 300,000 likes, is a plea: “PLEASE SHARE AND STAY SAFE PLEASE.”
This woman is just one of dozens of TikTok users who’ve posted videos talking about the rumor that April 24 has been designated “National Rape Day.” As of publication Tuesday afternoon, videos tagged with #april24 have more than 57 million views.
There’s just one issue: “National Rape Day” isn’t a thing.
VICE News has not uncovered any evidence that men are gearing up to carry out sexual assaults en masse on “National Rape Day. (The creator of the above video didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.) Fact-checkers at Snopes and USA Today have similarly been unable to find original content where people earnestly urge others to celebrate a so-called National Rape Day. Media Matters for America has compared the spread of the narrative around April 24 to “a bad game of telephone,” pointing out that multiple outlets shared stories about National Rape Day without including any evidence to prove its existence.
But there are reams of content on social media platforms, including on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, where people condemn the rumored holiday. And regardless of their intent, these posts ultimately spread fear-mongering misinformation that suggests that men are going to embark on a sexual assault spree on April 24.
The trend appears to have been born on TikTok, where the hashtag “April 24” is rife with rants about the alleged National Rape Day. Some of these videos have hundreds of thousands of likes. Many feature men staring straight into the camera and threatening to fight the phantom perpetrators behind National Rape Day, playing into the time-honored tradition of men trying to stop violence with more violence. A few users pose like Aileen Wuornos, a woman convicted seven charges of first-degree murder who’s been dubbed the “first female serial killer” (and, recently, become something of a cult hero). The joking suggestion is clear: Watch out.
Several users have started using a snippet of the Falling in Reverse song “Popular Monster” as the backdrop for their commentary on April 24, indicating that the trend is, at least, viral enough to have a shareable “sound” (in TikTok parlance) associated with it. That common sound might only help spread the misinformation, because TikTok recommends videos to users using a holistic set of factors—includes sounds that they engage with.
A few users are, clearly, totally convinced that National Rape Day is a threat. One woman urges viewers, “Wake up. This is a real thing.”
Others do acknowledge that the rumor about April 24 may be just that: a rumor. But they’re not having it.
“Joke or not, that shit’s not funny,” one user tells the camera in one video. “Some shit should not be joked about. And so the motherfuckers that think they want to be cute on that day—the wig comes off, bitch.”
The flow of misinformation on TikTok is being mitigated in a few ways. Searching for “national rape day” will yield no results; in fact, simply searching for “rape” will return zero results. Users may also be trying to avoid TikTok’s community guidelines, as several don’t say the word “rape” aloud or stylize it as “r@pe.” TikTok community guidelines prohibit content that “depicts, solicits, promotes, normalizes, or glorifies non-consensual sexual acts or non-consensual touching, including rape and sexual assault.”
"The supposed 'National Rape Day' trend being reported upon is abhorrent and would be a direct violation of our community guidelines,” a TikTok spokesperson told VICE News in an email. “While we haven't seen evidence of this trending on our platform, our safety team remains vigilant and would remove any such content."
Reactions to National Rape Day and April 24 have also trickled onto Instagram and Twitter. “Even if all of this is just rumors, if one person takes it seriously, it can damage or even kill someone for the rest of their life,” one person tweeted.
Facebook has managed to flag at least a few of the posts warning about “National Rape Day” as misinformation. Facebook has added a note to one shared image, which describes April 24 as a “‘national day’ for carrying out sexual assault,” observing that the image is “missing context.” It’s labeled another post, where a user tells people “DON’T GO OUT!!!!” on April 24, as outright “false information.”
Yet it’s clear that this misinformation is still freaking people out. Kristen Bolinger, an officer with the Taylorville Police Department, which serves a small town in Illinois, said that the department had issued advice regarding sexual assault after people reached out to the department.
“We haven’t seen any original videos” in support of so-called National Rape Day, Bolinger said. “We were seeing a lot of Facebook shares, people commenting on warnings about this, and giving what they thought was good advice on trying to stay safe.
“We’d like to think that this is just a nasty prank or someone basically being an internet troll, as they call it,” Bolinger added. “We wanted to make sure that we’re addressing it.”