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Let's be clear. There's nothing funny about a domestic violence joke.

Warning: This post deals with themes of domestic violence, and may be upsetting for some readers.

One of the golden rules of being a decent human being is understanding that domestic violence is not, and never will be, a laughing matter.

This seems like a fairly obvious rule for the vast majority of us, and yet there are still a select few within society who don’t seem to understand exactly what comprises of a ‘joke’. It appears the employees of a Texas bar, Scruffy Duffies, fall into this category.

On 24 May, a female employee wrote up a sign to lure customers inside, as they do every few days. Except this time, the sign they put up was seriously offensive.

It read, “I like my beer how I like my violence. Domestic”.

And though we’re sure (or at the very least hope) a few people in the crowded bar winced while walking in, none of them actually did anything to take down the unbelievably offensive sign.

That is, until Courtney Williams arrived.

She was so appalled by the sign that she demanded it to be taken down three separate times. Yet with each request, first to a bartender and then to two different managers, she was treated with condescension. She was told to “calm down” and “stop being so aggressive”.

She was treated as an overly emotional woman for standing up against a ‘joke’ that was anything but humorous.

And the way she describes the nights events are all too familiar to those who’ve ever tried to stand up against this sort of ‘fun’:

“He [the manager] asked my name, I told him. He introduced himself and shook my hand. He then proceeded to tell me the sign was a joke, and that it rotates different things all the time. When I told him it was in extremely poor taste and that I’d appreciate it being taken down, he told me to calm down, and that if I hadn’t been so “aggressive” the conversation would go better.”

 

Following this encounter, Williams was so upset she left the building. When she returned a few minutes later to say goodbye to her friends, she was then refused attendance back inside.

Courtney Williams.
Source: Facebook

Yes, that’s right. She was denied access back to the bar for standing up against up against an employee’s misplaced attempt at humour.

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Rather than be mature, accept their mistake and apologise immediately, the bar managers chose to make Courtney out to be a crazed woman.

So she did what all kick-ass people in the 21st century do. She took to social media, penning a post that’s now been shared thousands of times. And funnily enough, that caused Scruffy Duffies PR to go into overdrive.

The president of Harder Concepts who own Scruffy Duffies quickly issued a statement, recognising exactly what it is that caused Courtney to challenge their managers in the first place:

“This was an isolated event executed by an employee that made a bad decision followed by a manager that did not recognize and fix the problem. Obviously not everybody’s sense of humor is the same. My brother and I are the owners at Scruffy Duffie’s and we agree that it was very distasteful and offensive. Had we been aware or seen this post we would’ve immediately taken it down. We apologize to anybody who was offended. We did investigate this issue further and our general manager has since been fired. In our eyes it was his responsibility to recognize and not allow something of this matter to take place in our stores. We will ensure that something like this will never happen again.”

The bar also issued this apology on the Facebook page due to the intensity of backlash they received:

A Facebook post by Scruffy Duffies.

And this right here friends is why we need to speak up. Because often? Through people power it is possible to create change and raise awareness about how some matters should never be trivialised.

There’ll always be a small part of society that says to “lighten up” and “take a joke,” but by staying silent we implicitly condone behaviour. And in this instance, that’s behaviour that could be deeply triggering and hurtful to some.

It’s thanks to people like Courtney, we’re getting the conversation started. We’re noting that domestic violence should not be trivialised or brushed aside as a pun or joke. We’re also recognising that it’s unacceptable to mock those who call it out.

And that is at the very least a starting point to stopping these ‘jokes’ from becoming even more commonplace.

If you have experienced, or are at risk of domestic violence or sexual assault, you can receive help by calling 1800 RESPECT – 1800 737 732. If you are in immediate danger please call the police on 000. If you believe you may be an abusive partner, you can receive help via Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277. 

 Have you ever seen businesses or people in power making light of issues like domestic violence? Did you say anything?