Shirt Sparks Discussion About Rape Culture

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OMAHA A single tweet got hundreds of people talking in Twitter. Originally posted on Saturday, the tweet exploded on Twitter causing a massive discussion about rape culture in Omaha.

The tweet shows a man wearing a shirt purchased from the "Blue Jay Bar & Grill." On the front it reads "Creighton Crazies," on the back it reads: "We are not responsible for lost or stolen virginity!" The person who took the picture, Erin Avondet, told WOWT 6 News she took the picture at a Creighton basketball game never realizing others would share in her feelings.

"I was very shocked," said Avondet. "That was the very first thing that came through my mind: complete and utter shock and a lot of disappointment."

Avondet is a fourth year medical student. She's worked with rape victims as a caregiver. She's also had friends who have been raped. To Avondet the shirt is anything but a joke.

"People will kind of laugh it off they may be uncomfortable about it but they'll think, 'Oh, it's a joke nothing will come of that,'" said Avondet, "but I think anytime we condone something as serious as rape or not having someone's consent to pursue any type of sexual act I think that's a shame."

The owner of the Blue Jay Bar & Grill, also known as 'The Jay,' told WOWT 6 News the shirt was a mistake. Jamie Stapleton said he was bombarded with Facebook messages, emails and tweets throughout Saturday night and into Sunday morning. Stapleton called it a "dumb decision" to make the shirts in the first place.

"I feel absolutely terrible and awful about this whole situation," said Stapleton. "We want to do whatever is right, right now we're just trying to figure out how we go about that."

After initially shutting down the bar's Facebook and Twitter pages the social media sites reappeared late Sunday afternoon along with an apology. The apology also offered a refund to anyone who bought the shirt.

While the Blue Jay Bar & Grill works to right the wave of negative comments, posts and uproar the incident may have larger consequences. According to Elizabeth Power, a worker at the Women's Center for Advancement, the staff has been put on high alert. Power said incidents like these will lead to a flood of calls to their victim support team as it re-awakens memories of past rapes and assault.

"All of those emotions and feelings that happened during the moment, this incident of horrible crime, it's terrible for victims," said Power, describing incidents like this cause a trigger to their original experience. "It's showing how society doesn't really care about victims of assault. It reminds us here at the WCA we have a lot of work to do."

Creighton University has even gotten involved in the discussion.

A statement was issued from J. Chris Bradberry, the interim President, saying that the school is stunned and disheartened that a local bar sold shirts with a demoralizing message.

"The shirt is not representative of the values and beliefs of Creighton," wrote Bradberry.

Avondet told WOWT 6 News she's happy to see the conversation is being had, and she hopes that leads to a meaningful conversations within families and groups of friends.