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Content warning: ableism and the trivialization of sexual assault.
Autistic TikTokers are denouncing a sound on the app that uses them as the butt of a disturbing joke.
The sound, which has been used by over 15,000 videos on TikTok, is a male voice saying, “You are going to be brutally molested by 16 autistic clowns.” The upsetting phrase comes from a video posted by Damien Salinas (@damien_officiall) on March 19 that makes fun of “Christian TikTok posts.”
“Guys, heaven is real. And if you don’t believe in heaven, guys, you’re going to hell,” Salinas says before explaining what “hell” will entail—which includes that offensive, ableist detail. The viral sound, though, is only Salinas’ voice making the clown comment.
TikTokers have used the sound to make jokes about fear-mongering that comes from their parents, teachers, and other authority figures.
“POV: [you’re] listening to your parents listing the reasons why you can’t hang out with boys,” TikToker @norahsssspammm wrote in her video’s overlay text. The implied situation is that the TikToker’s parents tell her if she hangs out with boys, she will be “brutally molested by 16 autistic clowns.” Her video, posted on July 25, has been viewed almost 2 million times.
Autistic TikTokers have made videos about Salinas’s sound, calling it ableist, abusive, and hurtful.
TikToker @ellaellaw, who is autistic, explained in a video that the sound is non-disabled people using disabled people “to their advantage.”
“This is explicit ableism,” @ellaellaw says. “Not just the sound, but the way that it’s being used,” by TikTokers who are joking that “autistic clowns” are scary and will sexually assault them. @ellaellaw also asks that TikTokers, autistic or allistic, call the sound out for its ableism.
Ashley Daniels, an autistic TikToker, has done her best to get the sound taken down. She told the Daily Dot that she has reported Salinas’ sound multiple times and that TikTok has gotten back to her each time saying that the sound does violate the app’s content guidelines.
Unfortunately, it remains on the app for TikTokers to use at the expense of autistic people.
Why it matters
The widespread use of Salinas’ sound is hurting people.
Daniels told the Daily Dot that when she first heard the sound, she was “devastated.”
“It hurt to know that someone was making light of sexual abuse and using autistic people to make ‘shock humor,’” Daniels said, also citing that nine out of 10 autistic women are victims of sexual assault.
She posted a TikTok viscerally reacting to the sound on July 28, telling viewers through tears that autistic people’s existence is “not a joke.”
“I cried because I was afraid (and still am) of the consequences that sound is going to have outside of the world of social media,” Daniels told the Daily Dot. “Because social media doesn’t exist in a vacuum.”