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Cleveland Co. reserve deputy suspended as office looks into recent Facebook post about rape culture

NORMAN, Okla. - A Cleveland County Sheriff volunteer reserve deputy is suspended from work until "the matter is resolved" surrounding a recent Facebook post seeming to make light of rape culture.

Sheriff Todd Gibson said Wednesday the department was made aware of a publicly-made post on Stephen Teel's Facebook profile of a picture of the rape culture pyramid. The graphic's purpose is to start conversations about how certain attitudes and actions reinforce or excuse others, which can lead to violence, such as rape, murder or molestation.

Teel posted the graphic to his account Tuesday afternoon with the caption, "I think 'unequal pay' leading to rape is a little bit of a stretch!! And what the hell is a 'rape joke'? (sic) I don't think I have ever heard one."

Since its posting, it's garnered hundreds of comments. Some centering around the ability for one to consent to sex while drunk. Others argued the post and subsequent comments made light of rape or is fat shaming women.

"Any comments on personal Facebook pages are the responsibility of the individual making the comment, and are not on behalf of Cleveland County Sheriff's Office," said Gibson in a statement emailed to News 4.

Gibson goes on, highlighting the importance of free speech, the First Amendment and how Facebook can be a tool for discussion.

"However, we have a responsibility as officers to ensure that everyone feels safe coming to us to report a crime. The sheriff's office is committed to treating every citizen with respect and working to find justice for every victim."

News 4 was able to reach Teel, via Facebook, who said he wanted "everything on the record" and that "his Facebook page is open and nothing has been erased. I stand behind everything I post."

"I hope you read the entire conversation before you pass judgement," Teel wrote, saying there is a "group of liberal trolls" who copy posts from his page and bring them to the attention of the sheriff's office.

"The real story is about people on the left trying to stifle free speech by attacking people's employment."

Teel said he plans on filing a defamation suit.

Victim advocates point to the fact that rapes and sexual assaults are grossly underreported in the United States. And when a person in a position of power -- especially law enforcement -- appears to make light of those assaults, it can exacerbate the problem even further.

"It's not just 'one thing' that plays into what rape culture is," said Karla Docter, a sexual violence prevention and response director with the YWCA of Oklahoma City.

By normalizing certain incidents, like rape jokes, unequal pay, or victim blaming, Docter said it can lead to excusing other actions that can lead to assaults -- or worse.

"We are automatically setting a standard that we have less power. And that, tied into a multitude of different things, perpetuates the lack of power that women have."