Fact check: Viral TikTok trends surrounding warning of sexual assault on April 24 are unsubstantiated

Devon Link, USA TODAY
·5 min read

The claim: A group of men on TikTok plan to commit sexual assault on April 24 for "National Rape Day"

As communities observe Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, a disturbing trend is going viral on TikTok — warnings about “National Rape Day.”

The predominant narrative is that a group of six men recently created a TikTok video in which they encouraged others to commit sexual assaults on April 24.

Millions of social media users have viewed or shared reactions to the perceived threat on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. However, neither USA TODAY nor TikTok could find any evidence of the threat users were responding to.

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“If anyone got plans on April 24th DONT GO OUT!!!! there are men planning a national RAPE DAY STAY INSIDE!!!!” reads an image shared on Facebook.

Another widely shared image says the threat comes from “six men on TikTok” who “claimed that on April 24, 2021, it’s legal to sexually assault anybody — and they even provided tips on how to do so.” This image is a screenshot of an April 17 article from the online publication Distractify.

This has not stopped social media users from promoting their fears to their followers. Most of the discussion took place on TikTok, where #april24 had more than 31.1 million views and more than a thousand videos at the time of publication. The vast majority of those videos contained safety warnings and condemnations of the day.

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Some posts advised women to stay home, travel in groups and carry weapons while others made veiled threats to those who might commit assaults.

One viral video likened the day to the movie “The Purge.”

Several law enforcement officers participated in the trend by posting videos that threatened potential assailants with arrests.

According to CrowdTangle, there have more than 1,000 Facebook posts and nearly 50 Instagram posts about “National Rape Day” in the week before this fact check published.

USA TODAY reached out to several accounts that posted about the purported threat.

No evidence of the original threat

TikTok confirmed in a statement to USA TODAY that it has not found the purported original video on its platform.

"Keeping our community safe is our priority, and we do not tolerate content that promotes or glorifies non-consensual sexual acts including rape and sexual assault,” a TikTok spokesperson wrote in an email. “While we have not found evidence on our platform of any videos related to this subject, our safety team is remaining vigilant and we will remove content that violates our policies."

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USA TODAY analyzed more than 100 videos under TikTok's #april24 and found no record of the purported original, threatening video. Some creators claim to have seen the video but did not share a link, stitch or duet it.

USA TODAY reached out to several creators who posted about the original video. None responded to the requests for comment.

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Several news outlets, including Distractify, Newsweek and Tech Times, have reported about the online trend and referenced the “six men” that made the initial threat. The articles did not provide any evidence that the journalists had viewed the video.

On April 19, Newsweek updated its reporting to include a statement from TikTok and explain that there is no evidence of the initial threat.

Our rating: False

We rate the claim that a group of men on TikTok is planning to sexually assault women and children on April 24 in observance of "National Rape Day" FALSE, because it is not supporting by our research. Despite countless social media posts responding to the alleged threat, neither USA TODAY nor TikTok has found any evidence of the video making the original threat as claimed.

Our fact check sources:

If you are a survivor of sexual assault, RAINN offers support through the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-HOPE and online.rainn.org).

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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: TikTok warnings for April 24 threats are unsubstantiated