MONROE — “I’m going to (expletive) your wife when I get out of here. I’m going to tie up your daughters and make them (expletive) watch you piece of (expletive).”
Since broadcasted on the 24-hour live stream of the CBS reality television show, “Big Brother” Aug. 28, this statement made by contestant and Iowa native Jason Dent has circulated entertainment headlines this month, stirring up controversy on social media and causing fans of the series to demand the local rodeo clown to be booted off the show.
With the season now over and a winner chosen, the small town Iowan is making a stop in Jasper County Friday evening to sign autographs, share his experiences and meet fans. The owner of the hosting restaurant, CJ’s Bar and Grill of Monroe, said the reason they wanted to hold this event was simple — they wanted to welcome Dent back to Iowa and send off a local musician before he moves to Texas.
“All the posts and comments, everybody is excited to see (Dent) ... From what I have seen, it was a bad joke. He obviously is not a rapist,” owner Carolyn Daniels said. “The actual event is for a singer performer by the name of Nate Nelson ... The other things have just come up and are coming along for the ride.”
In the 19th season of the CBS series, Dent and 16 other contestants had to live under 24-hour surveillance in an isolated home with no communication with the outside world for a chance to win $500,000. As the show also incorporates weekly competitions and evictions, the Humeston rodeo clown made the controversial comment about fellow contestant’s family while he was talking with other house guests about what he would do if an alliance was broken.
“Jason has probably got the biggest heart than anyone I have known. He has done so much to help me,” Nelson, Dent’s friend for more than two years, said. “It is television. There are things aired before the comments that were said that would take it out of context. I could tell you right now, he did not mean to mean how it is being perceived.”
Although Daniels and Nelson said Dent’s remarks on the show were “just jokes” taken out of context, sexual assault advocates at the Crisis Intervention Services said comments like Dent’s normalize sexual violence and may have devastating effects on rape victims.
“When those types of jokes are made, statistically, victims are listening. Rapists that commit these kind of crimes are listening. When you make this kind of joke, you are letting that rapist or person that sexually assaults people know that, ‘Hey I’m with you. It is cool. Whatever. It is fine.’ You are telling the survivors, ‘What I think this horrible thing that happened to you is funny and that if you go and tell somebody, they are probably going to think it’s funny and not believe you,’” CIS communication coordinator, Leslie Ruggles said. “These types of jokes discourage victims from reporting ... When you accept or laugh at these particular jokes, you are identifying yourself as someone who isn’t safe for them.”
Ruggles said every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted, with one-in-five women and one-in-75 men raped at some point in their life.
According to Daniels, she does not watch the series and was unaware of Dent’s comments on the series when the restaurant made plans to host the Friday festivity.
“A lot of my customers are involved with or ride bulls,” Daniels said. “I knew (our customers) would be excited to come here and talk to (Dent) when he was done with (the show) ... I have never heard of him.”
After she was made aware of Dent’s remarks prior to the event, the bar owner and Monroe City Council candidate said she decided to not cancel the event because she does not believe Dent’s comments prompt action, as it does not reflect the values of Daniels, her restaurant or the town.
“I don’t think (the comments) should have been used, said or joked with and I don’t think they should have this much acclimation to them either. I think it is ridiculous that they are holding this over his head for something he said stupidly because they have it on video,” she said. “If you are on a reality show, I get it. No matter what you say is going to be announced everywhere. Personally, I think he was an idiot for saying that ... Everything else I heard about him has been good. I’ll make my own assessments when I meet him.”
Despite the national reception of Dent’s comments, Daniels expects a large crowd at her pub in town square Friday.
According to Nelson, Dent has already made steps in reaching out to the family of the contestant affected by Dent’s comments. Dent did not respond to an interview request from the Newton Daily News.
“(Jason) just said he is going to show up (Friday) and if people want to talk, that is fine,” Nelson said. “Kevin and his family have already talked about it (with Jason). They understand the situation and context. All of this is a forgivable situation to me.”
The Iowa native made similar comments on the show at least in one other instance. Earlier in the season, Dent joked about “backdooring” a fellow female contestant with other house guests stating, “I’ll hold the (expletive) out of her while you guys take turns.”
Ruggles said despite the negative effects of jokes like Dent’s, the national attention this controversy receives brings awareness to domestic and dating violence, and sexual assault, allowing victims to get the help they need.
“Rape culture is ever present and is something we are constantly struggling with ... to change that cultural norm, we have to invite everybody in,” she said. “People may consider themselves a good person who may never actually do that kind of behavior, and may not understand why people might be upset. What people don’t realize (comments like Dent’s) are really scary to other people and a really intense violation of their life.”
CIS shares an office with United Way of Jasper County at 312 First Ave. W. The group has a 24-hour crisis hotline, which is 1-800-270-1620.
Dent was voted off the show by fellow contestants Sept. 7. He was the 11th person evicted in this season.
Contact Anthony Victor Reyes at firstname.lastname@example.org.