(Trigger warning: rape, rape jokes)

Every joke can be a setup for a rape joke. When rape victims turn on their TVs, they face a strong possibility of being confronted with reminders of one of the worst experiences of their lives. What's worse, these experiences are likely to be laughed at. 

Rape jokes are abundant in a variety of media forms, and they don't exist in a vacuum. They are accepted as the norm within a rape culture, a society wherein male sexual aggression is encouraged and violence against women is supported. My documentary, “Trigger Warning”, aims to bring awareness of this issue and to encourage an ongoing conversation about the topic.

A few years ago, a friend of mine opened my eyes to the concept of a Rape Culture. A conversation that stemmed from something that happened on a television show we were watching that completely changed my outlook. A conversation that started with "that's not right. She did nothing wrong."

According to “Transforming a Rape Culture”, a rape culture is defined by a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. Little truths that I had grown up already knowing were being pushed to the front of my mind and refused to leave. The unsettling fact that I, as a girl, had been conditioned my entire life to work to prevent being raped while no one was ever sat down and told "do not rape" refused to leave me.

After watching rape jokes in sitcom after sitcom, listening to them by an abundance of comedians, and even hearing people I know use phrases like “that exam totally raped me”, I was left with an overwhelming “what could be done? And since one conversation opened my eyes, that's where I decided I'd begin.

“Trigger Warning", at its most basic, is a conversation. It's a pull to get people thinking and get them questioning the foundations of our society, groups of people thrown together discussing something that is rarely discussed. It's our attempt to plant the seed to find growth. We need people thinking. We need them talking.

In doing this, we need to talk. We need to spread these truths and ask people to explore them. Completing a film was a goal I was happy to meet, but it isn't where this can end. We want this film out there. We want people to see our film and to think about it. We want conversations starting.

With your help this is possible. I want to be able to continue to spread awareness with my documentary. Currently, “Trigger Warning” has been asked to be part of the “Violence Against Women 365 International Poster Exhibition” as well as the “National Sexual Violence Resource Center”, and has been well received with numerous sexual violence and abuse prevention organizations. My goal is to enter my documentary into as many film festivals as possible, both for recognition and to continue to raise awareness.

Only by opening up dialogues can we ever hope that people will come to recognize the issue and then be able to take an informed stance on it. “Trigger Warning” does exactly that. This is not a job my team and I can do alone, and any support would be greatly appreciated. To find out how you can help us, and to contact us to view the documentary in its entirety, please visit our website at www.triggerwarningfilm.com

Nicole Louise Melleby