Seeking Safety and Accountability Online

The internet is a place where survivors can call for public support, share stories and build community with other survivors. It is a place where communities can generate responses to the violence that has happened in their midst, and because the internet is so public, where some level of accountability can be pursued at least on the level of transparency of information about people’s harmful behavior.

However, it can also be a place of renewed trauma for survivors. There are no shortage of examples of survivors calling for support and receiving ridicule, victim blaming, and cross examination instead. Also, because it’s so public, once that information is out there, it is impossible to reel it back in and that story may continue to follow a survivor long after they wish to be done with all reminders of it.

Here are a few recent examples of how people have chosen to respond online to sexual assault(s) in their community, call for accountability for the person/people responsible for the assault(s) and build their community up to be a safer place.

Trigger warning: Both of these links go to sites where people are responding to direct experiences of sexual violence. Both contain graphic descriptions of the assaults they are responding to.

Linked here is an open letter to the administration of Steubenville High School responding to a recent and highly publicized assault involving members of that school’s football team. This letter asks stakeholders in that community to take account of ways the school and town’s culture not only allowed for the assault to occur, but also allowed for many of the young men who participated in the violence to feel justified in their actions, as if there were no negative consequences for what they were doing–and it demands that the community take steps to change this culture.

One important thing to note: this letter is not from the survivor of the most recent assault or from any other individual having survived violence at the hands of the young men in Steubenville. In light of that it is important that this letter leaves the survivor’s identity unknown so at least outside of her immediate community where people already know who she is, she can choose how involved she wants to be in any kind of larger public response and doesn’t face additional backlash or negativity directed at her based on this internet call-out and their set of demands.

Linked here is a public call-out from a survivor local to the Philly/West Chester/Newark, DE area who has asked that her story be re-posted and made public on the internet. She is asking for people in the area especially people who go to shows and parties to be aware of and make public the name and behavior of the person she is calling out in order to keep those spaces safe from someone who has caused a lot of harm to her and others. She has chosen to make her story public and has received a lot of support from other survivors and community members in response to her blog post.

There are many many more ways that survivors and their communities can, have and will use the internet to call for accountability, justice and change. And still more folks will not turn to this medium, but will work in different ways publicly and privately to heal from the violence of sexual assault in their lives and communities. We hope that sharing these couple of examples can help keep folks informed and creative in generating healing and supportive responses for themselves and their communities.