On Thursday, Glenn Beck took to his radio show to address the controversy surrounding last week's TheBlaze "rape skits," tearfully explaining that Beck's own father is a rape victim. Last Thursday, TheBlaze, part of Glenn Beck's extensive network, ran a skit written and produced by Stu Burguiere, the executive producer and head writer of The Glenn Beck Program. In these skits, Burguiere asked radio host Jeff Fisher to pose as a satirical rapist, who then asked another man in a blonde wig to have sex with him. Apparently, this illustrated the supposed absurdity of a Department of Justice study that indicated one in five women experience completed or attempted sexual assault in college.
Burguiere proceeded to hold up a large red arrow with the word "RAPE!" pointing to each situation, seemingly making light of rape and sexual assault.
Of course, Beck and his program became the target of a media firestorm, with Jezebel, Slate, and Media Matters taking to their platforms to denounce both Beck and the skits aired on his program as "horrifying," "mocking," "gross," and "misleading." And they were — there's no question about it. The "woman" in the skit is a blonde wig-wearing, hair-twirling, man in a skirt. It is unclear if Burguiere simply did not attempt to cast an actual woman, or if he thought his point would be better illustrated if he stereotyped women to giggling bimbos eager to titter and say "OK" when a hooded man tells them lies ("I'm going to be on the cover of this month's Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue) to get them into bed.
Now, a week after the skit blew up the Internet, Beck has issued a statement of his own that falls somewhere between an admonition and a confession. In a clearly heartfelt, heartbreaking radio segment, Beck shares his own tragic family history with sexual assault with listeners. His father, who died two months at the age of 86, was a survivor of rape, Beck said.
"When [my father] was young, he was stealing golf balls at a country club in Seattle," Beck said. When Beck's father was caught, he was "repeatedly raped" by the man who discovered his theft. Given Beck's intense personal acquaintance with the effects of rape, which he says have made a "shipwreck" out of his family, Beck said he was “tired of being accused of standing with abusers and rapists" and "of being called a monster... and of the lies."
Fighting back tears, and clearly angry, Beck continues:
Don’t you ever preach to me about what I can say and cannot say about rape. Don’t you ever try to be an authority to me on the effects of rape. Don’t you ever try to tell me what victims should or should not feel, as I have tried to piece my family back together, and to give my sisters the love that they deserve and have never had!
We have all the sympathy in the world for Beck; no family should ever have to experience the heartwrenching, traumatic effects of sexual abuse. But. Beck's personal experiences do not give him the license to say whatever he wants about rape and sexual assault. And it certainly does not justify Burguiere's skits, which ironically, seem to do much of what Beck insists others not do to him.
Beck has defended the skits aired on The Blaze, saying that the statistics used by the White House and backed by numerous studies — including the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey and the National Institute of Justice’s 2007 Campus Sexual Assault Survey — "cheapen the horror of real rape,” and that unfairly inflated numbers turn “every college-age male into Genghis Khan.”
But Burguiere's skits also seriously cheapened the real horrors of rape, horrors that Beck knows firsthand. Not only do the skits make it seem that only women can be raped and that only men can be rapists, but he also effectively tells survivors of rape that some of the circumstances surrounding their assault are "absurd." In fact, much of his skit sounds a lot like him telling victims "what they should or should not feel," as he makes light of what he calls "persistence rape" and numerous examples of sexual coercion.
As for not being an authority on rape and its effects, Burguiere's skit calls on Jeff Fisher, radio host, who Burguiere then deems a "rape-expert." The sheer insensitivity of this term in and of itself is astounding and, again, mocks the seriousness and tragedy of sexual assault.
And as for what we can and cannot say about rape, the rules don't change for survivors, friends, families, or anyone at all. Rape and sexual abuse is not a laughing matter — it is a real problem that has affected millions of men and women across the country, and no one should feel entitled to use it as a joke. So while Beck's revelation certainly makes him seem more human, it does not make Burguiere's skit any better. Nothing can.