Replacing “Like” With “Guilty”

That didn’t take long, though the mob is as much in vogue at the moment as DIY was when “This Old House” hit the airwaves. And if the president can rule by twit, why shouldn’t the “survivor” vindicate her accusations by Facebook?

Facebook statuses are now being used as a way to report sexual assault, without involving authorities whom many distrust.  This cynicism follows national cases of sexual assault which share a common ending—the victim is doubted, and the assailant not only walks free, but is typically shown sympathy.

Assailants aren’t shown sympathy, but that’s not the point at all. The point is they aren’t assailants because someone’s status on Facebook says they are, not that the unduly emotional would believe otherwise. Similarly, the victim isn’t a victim, or the dreaded survivor, until the sexual assault is proven to have happened.

But it’s true there is doubt, and with some damn fine reason.

Prior to posting, Couch says she never told the police or reported her assault to the school.

When it happened I was a freshman, and I didn’t know that that was something I should do. So I just sat in my dorm and just dwelled on it. I did not report to anyone at all prior to the Facebook post.

“It’s not made clear to people who are assault victims that this is what you should do when it happens,” Couch says. “Like I was absolutely terrified, had no idea what to do, did not know what was going on until a year later when I was with an ex-boyfriend and I was like recounting it, because I got triggered, and he was like, ‘oh my god, do you realize how big of a problem, like do you realize what happened?’ Because I was in denial.”

A year later she was “triggered,” whereupon she recounted it to her ex-boyfriend, who certainly had the expertise to distinguish a crime. She never told police. She never reported it to her school, because nobody in college ever mentions Title IX, making it a huge secret, and it’s terribly embarrassing to be a female victim of sexual assault, so she kept it to herself “because she was in denial.”

But then she wasn’t, so put it on Facebook!!!

I am not normally one to do things like this, and I have debated doing this since the two years ago that it happened. But I saw something today I cannot ignore. My sexual assaulter marched in Tallahassee today. My sexual assaulter marched for women’s rights.

And what could possibly be wrong about naming your rapist on Facebook, where all your friends will totally understand every excuse? But it gets better, since the accused gets smeared and there isn’t a damn thing he can do about it!* And if that’s not enough of an incentive, there is the institutional obligation to search social media for victims, because to expect them to do anything on their own behalf, as if they were actually victims, would be an outrageous burden and probably victim blaming.

Allison Couch says she did hear from FSU’s Title IX office but didn’t see a point in responding to the university. She says it didn’t seem worth it because she was about to graduate by the time she made the post.

“They reached out to me,” Couch says. “And then I had something else, I think it was victim advocacy. They also reached out to me. I didn’t contact either of them back. But, they got back to me, but nothing from actual like authorities.”

Can you blame Couch for turning to Facebook when “actual like authorities” failed her this way? As for the guys accused in the court of social media?

Imagine being notified that a friend has tagged you in a status –claiming you sexually assaulted them. The claim is never taken to court, where you’re innocent until proven guilty. Instead, the post remains public on the internet.

The resolution seems obvious. Whoever gets the most “likes” wins. It’s the wisdom of the mobs that matters. And rules of evidence, like Blackston’e Ratio, are archaic anyways. Even old man Posner says so.

Earlier this summer, the punk band PWR BTTM’s lead singer, Ben Hopkins, was accused through Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter of sexual assault.  PWR BTTM’s tour, including a Tallahassee stop was cancelled and the band was dropped from its label.

Punk rock. Is there any doubt he deserved it?

*Sure, there is an action for defamation, but you can’t get blood from a rock.

14 thoughts on “Replacing “Like” With “Guilty”

  1. Roxanne Chester

    One thing both my daughter and I noticed when touring campuses was that there wasn’t a single woman’s room without at least 3 posters of “Have you been sexually assaulted?” And that was in 2006, so I’m sure every bathroom now has at one entire wall plastered with posters. After the first three schools, she was a little concerned about going to university in that particular region of the country. But a few more visits to a different region of the US convinced her that perhaps it wasn’t that all campuses were hotbeds of sexual assault so much as hotbeds of women who wanted to “make a difference”. University life confirmed her suspicions. In fact (at least at her highly selective university) it was often women who were the sexual predators.

  2. Erik H

    How long do you think they had to look, in order to find the least compelling accused party on the planet?


    On the one side you have someone saying “I was raped it was horrible they are evil”

    And on the other side you have someone saying “Bullshit; it was fully consensual and I never raped anyone; there is no victim here and this accusation is 100% false. In fact, the only reason I’m not suing for defamation is that she’s poor.” Oops, my error, the representative accused aren’t saying that. Instead, they are saying “I was disgusted in knowing that something I’ve done could be received in such a monstrous way… whatever the victim in the situation wants to do is the appropriate thing.”

    Great counterpoint, hmm?

  3. Keith

    I agree with the main thrust of your argument, but I question this line:
    Similarly, the victim isn’t a victim, or the dreaded survivor, until the sexual assault is proven to have happened.

    Sure, legally that’s how it works. But there’s an objective reality the two parties had, no?

    1. SHG Post author

      Is the accuser entitled to believe herself to be a victim? Sure. And you’re right, that line is from a lawyer’s frame of reference. But should the world acknowledge her victimhood because she says she’s the victim? That’s the question I address. And that’s the purpose of broadcasting her victimhood to others. It’s not about what she believes herself to be, but how others, for whom there is no information but for her announced narrative, should view her.

      As you know, there’s the “believe the victim” perspective, where simply announcing oneself to the world as a victim makes you presumptively one, and there’s the perspective that a person isn’t entitled to claim victimhood until an offense has been shown to occur (not that I don’t use the word “proven,” but just “shown,” since there is a significant question as to what constitutes a sufficient burden of proof). But here, there’s no burden. There’s no scrutiny. The only showing is one person’s narrative. So does that make her a victim as far as others are concerned?

      1. Joseph

        If I told my friends that someone had stolen my bike, most of them would accept at face value that I was a victim of theft. You’re not my friend, so there’s no reason for you to believe that my bike has been stolen – maybe I’m trying to commit insurance fraud, or trying to hide the fact that I wrecked it in a ditch like a moron, or maybe I never had a bike in the first place and am just fabricating a story for attention. But most of the people reading someone’s Facebook are that person’s friends and are likely to believe what they say.

        Inside a court of law, there needs to be clear and convincing evidence to show that a crime has occurred. Outside of the courts, people aren’t going to apply any evidentiary standard at all: whether someone believes a crime has occurred comes solely down to whether they personally think that the accuser is telling the truth or not. There’s no resorting to “I believe he did it, but the state hasn’t proved it’s case”, and who someone wants to believe when it comes down to he-said she-said can only come down to an individual’s personal judgment.

        1. SHG Post author

          Technical point: not “clear and convincing,” which is a standard of proof. I realize you didn’t mean it that way, but since you chose to use the wrong verbiage, it should be corrected.

          Your comparison to a stolen bike goes down the wrong path and undermines the analogy. Being a victim of sexual assault creates a valued status. Being a victim of bike theft does not. What constitutes sexual assault today is deep, dark meaningless hole. What constitutes bike theft is still clear.

          The incentive to claim sexual victimhood is strong. The vagaries allow a quasi-rational person (as opposed to a liar) to believe they’re victims even when others might not. Indeed, it’s almost invariably couched in conclusory terms, “I was raped,” without explaining what actually happened. Years ago, we might have assumed and understood this to be forcible rape. Today, we have no clue. So the analogy fails.

          1. Keith

            Being a victim of sexual assault creates a valued status. Being a victim of bike theft does not. What constitutes sexual assault today is deep, dark meaningless hole. What constitutes bike theft is still clear.

            Part of my initial comment was the thought about whether it should matter that the individual may not be looking for the valued status at all? I don’t think you’ll get much pushback that it’s wrong for society to break the bounds of definitions when it comes to criminal acts (at least not from the crowd here). But to the individual that calls herself a “victim” on the Facebook message, why should the actions of the crowd change how she is viewed in isolation?

            Isn’t condemnation of her self-proclaimed status (because society is eroding definitional norms) tantamount to an accusation that she is just like the whole that’s eroding athe definitional structure — seemingly without evidence that’s the case?

            Why isn’t viewing her as similar to the bike thief victim who blames the big kid down the block without evidence to back it up, the proper path to take? Maybe it happened, maybe it didn’t.

            But without the human condition (that attributes guilt because of the heinous-ness we tag on to the alleged act), isn’t pushback against self-proclaimed victimhood status merely an improper attribution of shifting public norms to some random person’s subjective view of an objective reality?

            1. tabstop

              I don’t think “condemnation of her self-proclaimed status” is where we’re at — I would view condemnation of her status as saying “she’s a bad person for being raped”, but I think our host’s point is that while *something* happened to the person, it’s hard to say what that something is without knowing her or the details of the incident.

  4. B. McLeod

    I can like see her starting like a new “social media accusations” consulting firm, like, “Couch & Mattress Chick, PC.”

  5. Pedantic Grammar Police

    This is the correct solution. If someone has drunken sex and then regrets it, what do you expect them to do? Shall they go crying to the police who will weary them with useless talk about evidence and law? Or do you prefer that they go crying to the university officials who will believe everything they say and destroy the life of the accused even without evidence? Why shouldn’t they report the “crime” to their Facebook friends? They can have their happy little Facebook circle jerk and nobody else has to care.

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