Mar 192014
 

There’s an app (Lulu – more on them in a moment) designed to help women rate potential boyfriends/dates. And people have found a host of ways to turn the tables on those who harass women on the street (like “Hollaback”).

What if there were a web site – “herapedme.com,” say – where people could post information relating to rapists?

I recognize at least some of the limitations and challenges of such a project, including the possibility of false accusations. But there are ways, surely, to protect against (or at least limit the consequences of) that possibility.

For example, what if the site provided a mechanism for (but didn’t require) people to “validate” their accusations by, say, linking to their Facebook, or Twitter, or Google+ (yes, apparently people do use G+) profile. And if people accused could be “re-accused” by others who had survived attacks by them? Or what if accusers had to pay – a dollar? a hundred dollars? – to make an accusation? Or if friends could publish testimonials – “Jenny told me about this the night it happened, and I saw them leave the party together” – or rebuttals – “She told me the sex was great!” And if they could, but wouldn’t be required to, link to their Facebook or Twitter or G+ profile.

Then we readers could assess the credibility of an accusation, based on information provided by purported victims, the accused, and supporters of those both. And our assessments would, no doubt, be informed by a host of variables.

The web site could be a clearinghouse for accusations. And defenses. In a venue tilted in favor of accusers, but having no power beyond itself.

I have a friend who managed to capture her rapist on tape admitting what he did, and she now is at a loss as to what to do with her evidence. She has zero appetite for a criminal trial (as would I, I suspect), but would like some combination of vengeance and assurance that he’ll think twice before he rapes again. I’ve thought (hard) about posting her tape here, but this isn’t the right venue. But if there were a sort of semi-curated encyclopedia of assaulters, she could post his name, employer, photo, and the recording, thus fucking up his life just a bit at relatively low cost.

If the site were overwhelmed by false accusations, it wouldn’t work, its value would be undermined. But if it weren’t, if it managed to maintain credibility, think about it: you could look me up, see whether I was listed, read what people had to say about me, and decide for yourself.

Questions:

1) Lawyers: what challenges do you see?

2) Survivors of sexual assaults: what are your reactions?

3) Those who’ve been accused wrongly of assaults (if there are any, or if any are among the readers of this), what are your reactions?

4) Everyone: what thoughts do you have about such a project? What would make it work?

Sure, this invites (is) vigilante justice, but hey, our system is failing, utterly, at protecting women from predatory men.

Sound off: what do you think?

Postscript: I asked three very smart people I know and respect to react to this idea. One hated it, saying “I believe people’s impulse to humiliate others (even others who have done them wrong) should not be encouraged under any circumstances.” One, a lawyer, cautioned that the legal implications would be “insurmountable,” calling the idea “the defamation-lawyers’ full employment act.” And the third, also a lawyer, proposed a sort of inverse of this idea: “What if there were a forum where women praised friends and bystanders who came to their aid?”

In reverse order: I’m in favor of, instead of “herapedme.com,” “he’samensch.com.” I think it’d be less of a hit, but I’m entirely in favor. To the threat of litigation, I’m not so sure. I mean, solarmovie.cn exists (two weeks ago, it was solarmovie.ru – they seem to have moved from Russia to China in the last stretch of time). I assume pretty much every Hollywood studio must be trying to shut them down, so far without luck. So it might well be that N. Likes isn’t going to launch “herapedme.com” in the U.S., but I’d wager that a crafty cabal of vindictive rape survivors could figure out how to get around the legal issues, if only by making the whole thing a wiki. And finally, on the encouragement of the humiliation of others, I’m agnostic. I agree that humiliation is bad, but rape is worse, and humiliating rapists may not be the kind of behavior I’d exactly condone, but, in the service of rape prevention, I’m not sure it’s the kind I’d exactly condemn, either.

Post-postscript: Lulu seems to have contended with some of these very same issues, and they’re reworking their whole offering in favor of a less humiliating, less litigiously vulnerable model. Where previously, women could rate any man on Facebook, positive or negative, they’ve now moved to an “opt-in” (by men) model. So the only men appearing on Lulu are those who opt in. This is reported to be a result of some combination of litigation and American lobbying by dudes. Lulu says “we’ve decided to be the better woman,” whatever that means. My gut tells me this is a result not of the lawsuit they faced in Brazil (where, apparently, they’re huge) but Facebook’s insistence that they obtain the permission of any individual whose Facebook information they were using – apparently a central component of the app is showing men’s names and Facebook profile photos – without their permission, until recently.

My idea doesn’t require the hijacking of men’s personal information (other than their names, as reported by others). Think of it as crowd-sourced journalism, rather than a social bullying network. Anyway, it’ll likely never happen, but it’s fun to think about.

  59 Responses to “Rape prevention”

  1. As someone who has been sexually assaulted, and as someone who was accused (as a minor) of having an illicit affair with a high school teacher (untrue and found to be so) and then watched said high school teacher’s (my mentor, by the way) life RUINED (professionally and personally even after the accusation was dropped by the third party) because of a false (albeit statutory) rape charge… I don’t like this idea. I understand the motivation behind it, and it’s a good one.

    However, I don’t trust humanity’s propensity for cruelty to see us through to a good outcome here. Unpopular opinion: I happen to think false rape accusations happen more than people think they do. This is not based on any solid statistical data (is there any, really?) But more based around knowing people who have falsely accused someone of rape for various reasons (revenge, hatred, low self-esteem, regret, etc) and because I’ve read about an alarming number of cases of this happening in the news (especially in the last five years or so). The fact is that if you are accused of rape, you are ruined, period. I believe that wholeheartedly. It is not an accusation you can run from, and in some cases, even if a court of law finds you not guilty, there will always be detractors. I should also mention (just because I’m feeling like a twat) that I don’t like the way it is implied here that only women are raped. That is far from the truth.

    I think it speaks to the kind of culture we live in that I feel the need to defend myself after these statements, but: I do think that rape is the most heinous crime you can commit against another human being, for so many reasons. I do think that victims are silenced every single day. I know that there are thousands of untested rape kits just in American alone. I support victims of rape being able to speak out in an open forum. I understand that not wanting to go to trial is a very real and valid feeling (I was very young when I was assaulted, so this option was not given to me, unfortunately). I don’t believe in shaming people, but I do think that rapists should feel ashamed. I support victims of rape. I abhor people who falsify claims of rape or molestation. I don’t think that rapists wake up and say, “I’m going to rape someone today.” I don’t think anyone is ever “asking for it” and I don’t think anyone ever deserves to raped (not even the rapists themselves). I think that rape accusations should be investigated to the full extent of the law and treated with utter seriousness. I don’t think a rape victim should ever be accused of “faking it” until that is proved beyond a shadow of a doubt.

    I don’t know what could make this idea better. I know I just came in here and shit all over it and now I cannot offer up an opinion toward its betterment, but I don’t think vigilante justice can solve this problem. I think that rape and true misogyny (not just a catch all word for rude men, but true misogyny) and misandry (yea, I think misandry is real) are problems that have pervaded our culture at a base level. I think that rape is about power and sometimes about hatred (either of oneself or of the person or other gender involved). I think that these are ideas that are nurtured into existence. I think we need to address the cellular level problems of our society–why do rapists rape, what the fuck is up with this gender warfare, etc before we can hope to try to quash rape and rape culture.

    With that being said… I really like the He’s A Mensch idea. I don’t think heroes should go unsung.

    • For the most part, I agree with what you write. Except for your conclusions. And this is why, among other things, even though I kinda like my idea, I certainly won’t be the one making it happen. (Or the “He’s a mensch” idea, which I also like.)

  2. I think there is something positive and negative to say for apps/sites where we can list rapists or sex offenders. You have addressed quite a lot of those questions in this post, and I sure would be interested to see what lawyers, survivors or wrongly accused say about this.

    Rebel xox

  3. not a great idea, could be abused, imagine the likelihood of someone being falsely accused of a rapist if he is not

  4. Not a lawyer, but I am a victim counselor so I do get to see a lot of the ‘aftermath’, so to speak. And yes, I can be incredibly pissed and disappointed when I see the system failing victims, especially when going to trial can be traumatizing all on its own. However, I do not see a website like this working.

    You’d be amazed how many false accusations there are out there, especially amongst younger girls (about 15-18). Sometimes it seems like for every woman who is hesitant about pressing charges for the fear of not being believed, there’s someone who knows exactly how seriously they will be taken and misuse it. I’ve started my current job just recently, and so far I’ve had 3 girls recanting accusations. The reasons for lying about it varied from not wanting to get into trouble for having sex, to friends spurring them on because they wanted to get revenge because they got dumped by a douchebaggy ex-boyfriend. I feel like these would be the girls using such a site, and I don’t see how that would benefit anyone. Least of all actual victims who *do* want to be heard…

    • This is an interesting take. I’ll be doing a follow-up post shortly. My own sense is that a) while there may well be some significant number of false accusations, if this effort were done well, they’d be easily recognizable, and b) I’m not nearly as worried about false accusations as I am about true rape.

  5. Hate this idea with a passion. I agree the system often fails but it is a system that is based on a fair trial by your peers not a public lynching based on hearsay. The system requires facts to prosecute someone, despite the issues this brings with regards to sex crimes it is still vital that we stick to this.

    This system encourages accusations with no thought for the outcome what-so-ever… dangerous ground to get into in my opinion both for the real victims of sex crimes and for innocent men who could be falsely accused. By supporting this system we are in fact saying to the real victims that despite rape being a crime, we don’t have the stomach to really do anything about it and so we are going to offer some sort of second class system instead. How insulting.

    In my opinion we should all be campaigning for rape and sex crimes to be a priority for law enforcement and maybe most importantly off all, educating our youth about healthy sex lives and the true meaning of consent.

    Mollyxxx

    • Molly, I have only one basic response to your response: you are responding as if what I proposed was that the state do this. In fact, I was proposing a potential action by individuals. The standards for individual behaviors, and the arguments for or against them, are very different than are those for the state. Your objections are very real, and I respect them. But they aren’t reasons such an effort shouldn’t EXIST; they’re reasons either a) the state shouldn’t do them, and/or b) those consuming the information presented by such a system should bear in mind.

      I don’t think law enforcement is the solution to the problem of rape in our culture, nor is “education.” The solution is CHANGED ATTITUDES.

  6. I agree with Molly, the potential for misuse far outweighs the benefits. I was one falsely accused of rape by a mentally-ill ex-wife, and even though the system completely exonerated me it cost me all my friends and half my life savings.

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