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.
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.