The Lead

‘Tasteless’: Pa. GOP lawmaker faces backlash after comparing COVID vaccinations to sexual assault

By: - September 2, 2021 12:48 pm

State Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon, speaks at a Capitol rally of anti-lockdown activists on June 5, 2021. (Capital-Star photo)

This story was updated at 5:55 p.m. on 9/2/21 to include additional information. 

A Republican state lawmaker who compared mandatory vaccinations to rape, is facing criticism from a victims rights and sexual violence prevention organization. 

In an Aug. 23 post to his verified Facebook page, state Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon, wrote that “What’s it called when someone sticks something into your body against your will? Or coerces you to let them?:

A screen capture of the Aug. 23 Facebook post by state Rep. Russ Diamond.

“What’s it called when someone sticks something into your body against your will? Or coerces you to let them?” Diamond, who has been critical of the Wolf administration’s management of the pandemic, wrote. 

In an Aug.25 statement, The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape called Diamond’s post “tasteless.”

“The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape is outraged by Rep. Russ Diamond’s statement comparing rape to vaccinations. Comparing other experiences to sexual violence to make tasteless jokes dilutes the seriousness of victims’ experiences. Rep. Diamond swore to serve his constituents, not humiliate or insult them.

Diamond’s post dishonestly implies that the experience of vaccination is as invasive and traumatizing as sexual assault.

It is wrong to tokenize the trauma of sexual assault survivors for any reason, especially for such a cheap and inaccurate analogy. When sexual violence is minimized for the sake of attempted cleverness or dramatic effect, it only accentuates the trauma and pain that survivors and their families experience every day. It reminds them that some people in society and in power still don’t believe or understand them. Statements like these can silence and trigger victims while they suffer emotionally, physically, and psychologically. 

Rep. Diamond has offered no apology to those who have suffered sexual violence.

PCAR respectfully requested Rep. Diamond remove this harmful post. We continue to demand that Rep. Diamond remove this post and its flagrant comparison of vaccinations to sexual assault.  PCAR welcomes an opportunity to discuss with Rep. Diamond the importance of consent and the trauma experienced by survivors of sexual assault as we work together to support these victims and create a Commonwealth that safeguards its citizens from sexual assault.  We encourage Rep. Diamond to listen to survivors and learn how statements like his make them feel. He must recognize the harm these victims suffer when their abuse is used as political fodder.”

Replying to critical comments on the Facebook post on Aug. 25, Diamond wrote:

Aug. 25, 2021 reply to the Facebook post (Capital-Star screen capture).

“For the woke crowd: Learn to think. In this analogy, the vaccine is akin to sexual activity, due to the physical nature of both. Voluntary engagement in either is fine. But forcing someone to do either is wrong.”

As of Thursday morning, and despite the criticism, Diamond has not removed or apologized for the post. 

Diamond did not respond to the Capital-Star’s request for comment. 

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Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller was the associate editor at the Capital-Star.