“A rape joke was made in anonymous open chat hosted by my companies shared communication platform (like Slack). No one has openly protested the joke (made anonymously) and it's unknown if any private concerns have been raised, but the anonymous open chat still exists, is used, and the joke still remains. How could one go about getting the company to understand the severity of this poor taste joke and take action? I'm uncomfortable knowing I work with a person (or people) who not only joke so cavalierly about rape, but also that there are no repercussions for such language. What can I do?”
Rape is so funny, right?
There is a lot of talk amongst comedians about rape jokes, and whether it is the nature of comedy to poke at the uncomfortable truths of the world. But that is comedy, and this is your workplace, and you 100% have the right to feel safe at work.
If this anonymous chat room is creating an hostile environment you have every right to speak to HR and you should. This chat room is distracting and inhibiting your ability to effectively do your job and you may not be the only one. The likelihood that someone in your office has been a victim of rape or attempted rape is high—one in six. It may make you feel uncomfortable but imagine what any woman who has suffered from sexual violence may feel.
If your company insists, for whatever reason, that they want to keep the anonymous chat room open then there must be rules. Even Reddit has rules that protect against language that threatens, harrasses, and encourages or incites violence. Ask your HR representative if they feel like they can realistically police an anonymous chat room. If they cannot uphold the rules, and if the chat room is conflicting with your ability to feel safe and secure at work, then the anonymous chat should go.
Why your company would choose to have an anonymous chat room is beyond us. It seems like a liability that would only lead to situations like this which result in employees being upset and HR having to deal with the messy aftermath. Once you go to HR and tell them that the joke makes you feel unsafe and you can’t work in an environment that provides a forum for people to advocate violence against women, any HR person worth their salt will recognize the chat room for the liability that it is and shut it down. Not only that, when they take it down they should tell people why they are removing it so that your coworkers know that the joke is unacceptable.
By law they have to create a safe work environment for you. What they are not required to do is provide an anonymous forum where the people who share your workspace and shape your career can make jokes about violence against women.