Trolls

Today was a huge day for the WYR Project. It’s been just over a month since I launched the Project, and today two feature length articles were post in posted in major Canadian news outlets:

NATIONAL POST: Never reported: Torontonian uses big data and privacy expertise to create anonymous index of sexual assault

MACLEANS/PROJECT 97: ‘When you’re ready, and want to share, I’m here.’

I also launched the new logo and banner (created by the talented Becca Sayre) – it should have been a great day all around. But actually, it’s been the worst so far.

Before I get to that – the positive side:

  • Since the National Post article went live last night, whenyoureready.org has had over 1000 more views.
  • Another wave of women submitted their stories – this, to me, is success. Some just reached out to me personally, others submitted to this site and I’ll be publishing soon.
  • The article appeared on the front page of the newspaper and online – and included multimedia (video) interviews.
  • A couple of personal heroes offered words of support and insight for the article: Lucy Decoutere and Dr. Ann Cavoukian
  • I was invited to appear on a radio show tomorrow morning! I’ll be in 770 News in Calgary (I’ll share the link).
  • I was once again met with love, support, and encouragement from those close to me and many strangers.

TrollI’m trying to focus on the list above, but it’s impossible to ignore the other, darker side: trolls. For those unfamiliar, I’m not referring to the mythical grotesque creatures that dwell in caves and turn to stone when the light hits them; nor do I mean the adorable 80’s collectors items. I’m referring to real life grotesque creatures that dwell in caves (their mothers’ basements) and lurk on internet message boards with the intent of provoking reactions and starting arguments. This whole concept of “trolling” is new to me: I’ve only been on Twitter for a few weeks now and I didn’t grow up using message boards and chat rooms. Side note: while I’m not comparing my experience to the relentless online bullying that many teens endure, I have a very different understanding and new appreciation for the impact of it after today – it is no longer an abstract concept to me.

Within minutes of being published, the National Post story had over 20 comments. I know, I know: DON’T READ THE COMMENTS. But I had to. I’ve never been the subject of a news story before and I was excited to see what people would think of the Project. For hours, not a single positive comment came in – lots of misogyny, hate, victim-blaming and cruelty…all the things that led me to launch this project in the first place. For hours I kept hitting ‘refresh’, waiting for someone to say “thank you for doing this” or “I support you” (the responses I’ve grown accustomed to in the 4 weeks since sharing my story). I couldn’t sleep, I kept checking but to no avail. The nasty comments kept piling up. By early this morning, a few reasonable people responded and some of those offered support (there were even some very reasonable comments speaking against the Project, which I fully respect, because they weren’t meant to be hurtful but practical).

By lunch time, the National Post editor decided to shut down the comments because they were so overwhelmingly negative. I didn’t ask her to do it but admit I was relieved when she decided to. I’m sharing some of the highlights below. I KNOW I shouldn’t read them. I KNOW these people are just idiots. I KNOW these comments don’t matter. I KNOW, I KNOW, I KNOW. But it’s not that simple.

I’ve been reading these types of comments for years about others who are brave enough to come forward – most recently Lena Dunham, Cosby and Ghomeshi’s victims…I certainly didn’t envy their positions. But it’s very easy to say “just ignore it” to someone else (I’ve said/thought it before). Today I was unprepared for how much these comments would impact me. I was deflated, hurt, and forced to relive the days after my rapes when I was doubting myself, blaming myself, and ultimately deciding to stay silent. I was feeling pretty down still, when a friend pointed out a NP article about Malala Yousafzai. Even there, the comments were full of ignorance and hate. Of course that didn’t make me happy, but it did give me some perspective and it made the issue seem smaller.

When the editor turned the comments off, they disappeared from the article, but you can still find them here. Why am I telling you this? As much as I want them to go away forever, I’m showing you because these comments and responses are EXACTLY why the WYR Project is so necessary.

This is rape culture. This is victim-blaming, slut shaming, misogyny, hateful rhetoric that is to blame
for survivors being afraid to come forward.

The men and women who say these things to survivors are guilty of creating an environment that protects rapists, and violates the rights and freedoms of their victims on an ongoing basis.

Disbelief 

I was called a liar by “Michael Manning” (who, ironically, appears to be an expert on rape statistics):

Who the heck gets raped three times by three totally unrelated individuals years apart? Statistically, this is very, very unlikely.

Would it be cynical of me to suggest that these are three legitimate stories but “borrowed” from three different victims and personalized?

This young lady appears to be a fantasist along the same lines as the “victim” who suckered Rolling Stone.

“Proud Surrey” tried to help out by comparing me to a battered woman:

Someone who repeatedly puts herself in dangerous situations? It’s true. Many battered women, even if they do manage to leave one abusive relationship, just drift right back into another.

Don’t worry, “Michael Manning” corrected “Proud Surrey” to  clarify that my rapists were actually just “opportunistic acquaintances”.

I grant you that there are such women. Her stories aren’t about abusive boyfriends, however, just opportunistic acquaintances. It rings false.

Where I come from, an “opportunistic acquaintance” is someone who always asks for rides but doesn’t chip in for gas. RAPING SOMEONE MAKES YOU A RAPIST.

Another statistician in the crowd, “gary” chimes in:

I was thinking the same thing- something very odd about her claims- 3 rapes, by 3 different guys, on different occasions. What are the odds?

Less of a math guy, more of a logic guy: “YouJustGotOwned” says:

Unless the men were tried and convicted of her rapes, then no rape took place. I don’t believe her.

Victim Blaming

And now, ladies and gentlemen, for some classic victim blaming. I’m going to post this series in descending order of how perfectly they illustrate my point, starting with “Old Canada” who apparently skipped over the sections where I said it wasn’t about naming names:

OK, Lady. You are coming across as confused, silly and not too bright.

Step 1: Revisit your vetting process for “Trusted Friends” because you are awful at character judgement. Plain awful!

Step 2: Do not sleep in other people’s bedrooms. Especially when drunk. Either on beds or closets.

Third: Do not invite people home, and then be unsure if you said yes or no.

And oh yes, stop drinking- you cannot handle it.

And with your fragile crazy state, please do not start up any database. Men cannot be maligned and destroyed in public because you do not know if you said yes or no. You will be hammered with lawsuits and angry men whose careers and marriages you will destroy because you did not remember if you said yes or no.

User “ShortTermMemory” chimed in with some more helpful advice:

More than a database, perhaps just courses on common sense.

1. Getting hammered and sleeping in a strangers bed.
2. Sleeping in a strange frat guys closet even when you know it is an unsafe situation.
3. Asking a strange frat guy to take you home even after you know you were drugged.

Now without any question a woman does have a right to walk naked through a gauntlet of rapists, molesters and killers and emerge as pure as the driven snow, but remember your legal right is only enforceable after it is violated.

Victim Blaming…a step further:

The two above not only blamed me for what happened to me, but for the damage I caused my rapists by naming their names (oh wait, I still didn’t do that…oh well). At first I thought, “that’s a stretch” but soon I learned from “gtaguytoo” that I (not the actual rapist) was to blame for other women being assaulted and even hypothetically killed by a rapist! He felt very strongly about this, with multiple comments to that effect:

if the three rapes did occur then this must be the dumbest woman on the planet for a number of reasons. After the first one and not reporting it you would think that the second one would prompt her to go running to the cops. If the third one actually happened then by not reporting any of them she is allowing somebody to continue abusing others because she failed to report the crimes against her.

SHE may have been the cause of another rape by not reporting any of hers and letting a criminal continue on. It’s not like she has a personal rapist who only rapes her…if any of this is true.

I have no sympathy for anyone who does not report a serious crime. By not reporting it they are allowing a criminal to make someone else a victim by allowing the perpetrator to continue on. This is in fact a very selfish act.

I’ll save my sympathy for the next victim who was attacked because the first victim chose not to report and enabled the subsequent attacks to occur.

upholding the law is everyone’s responsibility. In this case she was raped and chose not to report it. Using your license for the dramatic, let’s say the same rapist then attacks another woman and during the rape he kills her. Image what that victims family would be thinking of the first victim who did not report her attack. she would be partially responsible for the death of the second woman. Furthermore, let’s say that second victim lived 2 blocks away from the first victim. Just be reporting her attach the people in her neighborhood would have been extra vigilant knowing that there was a rape nearby.

Victim Blaming…across generations?

“CEOmike” was very active on the comments today. Call me crazy (he did) but I’m a little skeptical that he’s a CEO. He took victim blaming to another level by blaming my family too:

I would bet, dollars to donuts, this woman is from a single parent family living almost exclusively with her mother, who brought a series of boyfriends home, some who stayed for varying amounts of time.

What this is here is really an example of the breakdown of families for the safe and secure upbringing of children as whole people.

If I’d have bet this guy a donut that we’d maxed out on ridiculous for the day, I’d be out a donut. Just when I thought we were there – he takes it a step further and blames the fact that people in Canada have TOO MUCH ACCESS TO HIGHER EDUCATION. He also calls me “highly articulate”, (thanks, dude, you should really try it).

Did this women not have parents that would have made the effort to make sure their 16 year old daughter was not going to underage drinking party?

Again she decides to get so drunk she has to sleep it off in a place not her own, expecting others to look after her safety.

And the third she thinks she is drugged, but instead of trying to get herself out of there, asks someone else to look after her.

And why did she not report these assaults? Because she could not manipulate the police and the law. This woman is a complete narcissist manipulating others around her and now the media. She is now trying to manipulate the law.

The problem with Canada is higher education is now so freely available, affected people are highly articulate.

Thank you

I’d like to thank the commenters on today’s post for supporting the When You’re Ready Project by providing current, relevant examples of the reasons why this Project is necessary. If it weren’t for people like you, I’d probably shut my feminist mouth and go back to blaming myself. But you folks have inspired me to keep fighting. Take a bow, trolls.

After getting my thoughts out onto virtual paper, I’m feeling much better than I was earlier. So I’ll end it on a high note by pointing out the positive comments submitted today. These aren’t all the nice comments, but there were only a total of 4 people who didn’t hate women (i.e. some of these people commented many times):

“A.Outrage” was active all day with well stated, intelligent arguments that supported women. I tried to write a thank you note, but couldn’t figure out how to get in touch without joining the message board which I’ve promised myself I won’t do (so if you’re reading this AO, thank you”

“Who the heck gets raped three times . . . . “.

Very interesting. Interesting in that you didn’t start your comment by saying, “Who would rape someone?”, no, no, no . . . . you said, “who the heck gets raped three times”.

Classic! You are a perfect example of why women don’t report rape because they know, and you proved it, they will be victimized all over again and will be made to feel responsible for what happened to them. You and all your fellow supporters on this thread should be absolutely ashamed of yourselves.

Good for her! With misogynists like you around no wonder she has felt compelled to develop an anonymous rape database.

Melissa Ozzyland:

May I ask, sir, what exactly you know about the statistics of rape? Assuming all three rapes took place – as I believe it’s statistically very, very unlikely that a bright young woman would elect to expose herself in such a way other than out of sheer bravery and hope that she can make a positive change for other victims – you have done an excellent job reinforcing why people DON’T come forward. It’s out of fear of being doubted, ridiculed, and judged…all 3 of which you have just done, for which you should be utterly ashamed of yourself.

Jessica Lavery:

Are you serious? Here is a woman bravely coming forward to tell her story, with the goal of helping others who have had similar experiences, and your reaction is to say that she’s lying?
You are part of the problem.
Do you have any idea how difficult it would be for someone to share these traumatic experiences? To publicly put her face and her name out there, and open herself up to dismissive comments from ignorant people like you? This woman has had horrible experiences, that many of us (yourself included, judging by your attitude) couldn’t begin to imagine, and now she is taking these horrible experiences and trying to turn them into something positive – something that will help other women who have been hurt in this way to feel comfortable coming forward.
To me, your comments read as a pretty pathetic attempt to dismiss the serious issues of rape and sexual assault by saying that you don’t believe her. Is it any wonder that women are afraid of coming forward, when there are people like you out there, just waiting to shoot them down at every turn?

Locutus ofBorg:

Gents…give this lady her due for doing this…perhaps this is her way of exorcising her demons…take her at face value…she found herself in the situation of having non-consentual sex forced on her 3 times in her life…now leveraging her skills she wants to do something of value…to help…
the issue with her plan is that we are such imperfect beings, that it would be contaminated from the start with malicious, false reporting.
the big issue in all this is the education of girls and boys to learn a simple concept…respect for others and respect for self.

I wish I could hug all four of you.

I’m going to try to stop reading the comments, really. Thank you to all of my friends & family, new & old – I feel supported and loved and your words of encouragement keep me going through days like this one.

Author

Lauren

Lauren

Lauren Reid is the founder of When You're Ready.org, a three time survivor of rape who built this community to let other survivors of sexual violence know that they're not alone. When you're ready, I'll be here.

Related