On naming, shaming and victims’ rights

Willmette Week has a fascinating, very important and very difficult story to read about the rape of a Lewis & Clark student whose rapist was exposed on Facebook. It’s a multi-layered story and there’s a lot to say, though I’m still kind of processing it myself. I strongly encourage you to read it, but warn you that it includes very graphic descriptions of sexual assault. Though I don’t plan on reproducing those parts of the article here, I will issue a trigger warning for the whole post from this point forward.

Jessica has already reported on one small aspect of the story and absolutely nailed it. Shoving your cock down the throat of someone who does not want it there and telling her to “choke on it” while she gags and tries to get you to stop is not “gray rape.” There’s no such thing as “gray rape,” period — rape is rape and always rape — but this case is also particularly violent. And spreading around terms like this, Cosmo, is incredibly harmful to women who have been assaulted and are already confused about what happened to them.

The woman who Shaw-Fox raped wrote a letter about the assault to the editor of a campus newspaper, but without naming her perpetrator.

She wrote that she had naively believed Lewis&Clark was safe.

“When I first visited Lewis&Clark, I asked Campus Safety how many rapes and sexual assaults had been reported in the last year,” the letter begins. “They told me that they had none on record, and that was a statistic that I admired.”

Another portion of her letter was directed to her assaulter:

“I have been told that the other women you’ve mistreated and I are entitled to pursue your expulsion from LC,” she wrote. “You are damn lucky that, at this moment, I am not. You deserve to have your filthy, disrespectful ass kicked out of this school, you insolent son of a bitch.”

Other students and the Womyn’s Center, though, found out that Shaw-Fox was the rapist.

“We all knew him and we were livid,” Bishop says. “We felt something needed to be said.”

It was around 3 am at the time, and they decided to do something that was both thoroughly modern and rooted in a long history of radical feminist tactics. They decided to warn other women away from Shaw-Fox.

“I didn’t know if he was going to be charged,” Bishop says. “I didn’t know if the school would do anything, but I didn’t care what the law said. I knew that he had committed violent acts. If the law wasn’t going to do anything, I would. There’s a point where you have to take your lives and the lives of others into your own hands and fight for justice.”

That night, the women created the Facebook group. It named Shaw-Fox as the subject of Hunter’s letter, featured a photograph of him without a shirt (taken from his own Facebook page), and carried a message that told women to stay away from him.

Since it was created as a “secret” group on Facebook, students had to be invited to it before they could see the contents online.

What Bishop did not know when she created the secret Facebook group was that its unsubstantiated name, “Morgan Shaw-Fox is a Piece of Shit Rapist,” would pop up elsewhere on Facebook, even with the blocks in place.

Word of the group and Shaw-Fox’s name as an alleged assaulter quickly made its way around campus. Shaw-Fox found out from a friend.

When complaints poured in from students about the appropriateness of naming Shaw-Fox, Bishop deleted the group. “They were lighting a false fire,” Erin Dees, a sophomore, told The Pioneer Log . “Students who only see him in a classroom setting don’t need to know and judge his reputation.”

Whether or not the students should have created the Facebook account is debatable. Honestly, my problem with it isn’t that they named Shaw-Fox; it’s that they didn’t consult the woman who accused him before doing so. I believe that there’s power in naming, but not everyone has the right to be the person who names.

What upsets me most — and I suggest that you do not read the comments on the article, since the comments in the article are bad enough — is the way that everyone is concerned for Shaw-Fox instead of the woman he raped. Really, strangers judge him? I guess he should have thought about that before he started raping women.

In fact, Shaw-Fox’s arrogance is astounding:

On Nov. 19, Bishop created a second Facebook group called “Students who Refuse to Shut the Fuck Up About Sexual Violence,” which she described on Facebook as a “revised edition of a previous group that was created in direct response to a specific person.” It included discussion topics and a link to the original letter to the editor.

Anyone could join, and within days 259 students did.

One of them was Shaw-Fox. “I’m glad it’s a concern on this campus,” he told WW .

. . .

On Dec. 12, Shaw-Fox was on stage at an end-of-year concert on campus that included his a cappella group Momo and the Coop. Shaw-Fox and three other young men sang a song that drew a hearty applause. A portion of the lyrics runs:

I gotta sing and I dance when I glance in my pants,

And the feeling’s like a sunshiny day.

I take a look at my enormous penis,

And everything is going my way.

The next day, in an interview with WW , Shaw-Fox acknowledged he was the subject of the first Facebook group.

But Shaw-Fox, who in person was both polite and charming, denied that anything he had done constituted assault.

“This is a bigger issue,” he says. “And what my friend said is he thought, too, that with some groups of people, I was sort of becoming a fall guy for a lot of, you know, female anger, which is understandable…. Not that I’d be a fall guy, but that they’d have [anger]. I think about it a lot in terms of just what it would be like to be a woman that got hit on all the time….”

“From my point of view, I see there’s points in my life where I’ve made mistakes, obviously. Looking back, especially after this has happened, a lot of friends have sat down with me and asked me really just to reflect on my actions. I can see there’s points in my life, you know, where I’ve maybe deserved some females’ being frustrated with me because I can see where there’s been times where I was maybe too aggressive in my flirtation. Instead of just sort of taking a subtle message…hitting on a woman more than I should have been and made them hold a stronger boundary with me. I can see where there’s a time where I could have made someone uncomfortable. I feel really sorry for that. I’ve learned a lot from it. But in terms of sexual assault or, you know, anything even close to that point, that doesn’t make sense.”

Why, exactly, do we care if Shaw-Fox is polite and charming? Here’s a clue: most rapists are. That’s how they get women into positions where it is easy to rape them. Rude, creepy guys don’t generally get women to go back to their dorms and make out with them. The polite charming guy is the one who does. And sadly, that guy also doesn’t always stop when told that making out is as far as things will go. I don’t know, maybe that was the writer’s point in including such a statement, to show that a rapist doesn’t have to act like a stereotypical rapist to be one. I can see a lot of people failing to read it that way, though. Far too many still seem to think that most rapists are the rude and creepy guys.

I don’t know what exactly Shaw-Fox sees as being “aggressive flirting.” Sounds to me like sexual harassment and intimidation. I also know that when a guy says “I should have . . . made them hold a stronger boundary with me,” he’s not the kind of guy who takes responsibility for his own actions, regardless of what contradictory statements he makes before and after. And talking about all of the things he should “make” women do doesn’t exactly help his case that he is not a rapist, it just further displays his sense of self-entitlement over women’s actions. I don’t believe a word he says for a single second.

The same day as Shaw-Fox’s interview, the woman he raped filed charges, and credits the Facebook group with providing support and convincing her that the assault wasn’t her own fault. Shaw-Fox has been suspended.

This is a great thing. And if online advocacy is a way to provide support to specific women, to convince them that the assault was not their fault and even in some cases to file charges against their rapists, I wholeheartedly support it. I don’t see these kinds of actions as vigilantism. Most rapists are never punished through the courts. That doesn’t mean women who are raped have to keep quiet about what their rapists did.

But I come back to the same concern with regards to women’s privacy: how do we differentiate between helping women and bringing attention to women who don’t want help? Telling a friend in confidence about your rape doesn’t entitle her to create a Facebook account about the assault, no matter how well-meaning she may be. Though a woman was indeed helped here, and naming proved to be vital, did the activists cross the line? Where do we draw the line? How do we expose rapists without putting victims under unwanted scrutiny? Who has the right?

I think that all of these are more than just interesting questions: they’re important questions. What about more generalized Facebook pages created by womens’ groups on college campuses, where women who want to name their rapists can do so and be provided with support? Any other suggestions? What is your take on this case?

0 thoughts on “On naming, shaming and victims’ rights

  1. BettyBoondoggle

    LIke I said at feministing – want to take bets on the type of porn this rapist pigs watches?

  2. Mortality

    I wouldn’t mind someone exposing my rapist on the internet, but I wouldn’t want someone else to expose me as a survivor. As it is I’m perfectly happy with “exposing” myself on my blog, which is anonymous. Someday I might be strong enough to tell other than close friends about what happened , but that day isn’t today.

  3. Aerik

    As if his comments and the comments on news articles about this aren’t bad enough, I submitted feministing’s post to reddit and I’m in a thread at this very moment talking to a guy who said he doesn’t know how we could ever call what the guy did rape, and commits every rape apologetic maneuver mentioned in the post itself.

  4. brandann

    i know you warned me not too, but i read the comments…as sick and outraged i am about what happened to that poor girl, and as much as i want to jump up and cheer about what they did (though, i agree, it would have been best and should have been from the victim herself) creating that group, i am sad that people can actually think that way. one person mentions that once it starts it’s too late to say no, and another one calls the victim out. it is so incredibly sad, b/c how many people have been raped and assaulted, are confused, and don’t even know they have been raped? attitudes like these are what make rape survivors afraid to come forward, and only further the confusion regarding what happened…thank-you for posting this!

  5. Rebel L

    It’s really interesting question because while normally they should of course have received the girl’s consent before doing something like that, there is also the legitimate issue of actually warning other women about the scumbag in their midst – if nobody else was going to do anything about it then he’s still out there “flirting” and putting other women at risk.

  6. healthyparanoid

    I glad someone finally gets something: that this facebook was not right.
    But it would seem that everyone doesn’t realize that this kid has yet to be convicted of rape by a court of law. Therefor calling him a rapist is a false statement.
    He was found guilty by a private institution because he had been drinking; they refused to even really consider what he had to say – as everyone else seems to be doing.
    When waiting to give his statement to the four teachers presiding over the hearing, he was told he would be suspended for 1 semester, period.
    He was guilty before being proven so.
    Even now, a private issue, has been made public without him being allowed to say anything otherwise.
    Granted, the WW asked him a question or two about the facebook group before he knew about the girl filing charges, but this is obviously a story the writer of the WW had been following well in advance of the girl going to the administration.
    It’s a shame; everyone keeps crucifying this kid, without hearing his story.
    Or mine – someone else who was there that night.
    Let me ask you – if you were in a situation where someone had just shoved their cock down your throat – or if you just simply felt very uncomfortable, out of place, and perhaps slightly threatened – would stay in someone else’s apartment for a minute longer?
    How about 10?
    Or an hour?

  7. Cara Post author

    I don’t know, fuckwad, if someone shoved a cock down your throat and fucked your face while you gagged and struggled to get away, might you be a little bit afraid of the guy? Did you ever think that maybe, when you’re raped, you are scared or freeze up, or don’t know what to do because you’ve been told your whole life by FUCKING RAPE APOLOGIST ASSHOLES LIKE YOU that if a guy rapes you, it’s your own fault? That if you get naked, a guy has the right to shove his fucking cock down your throat? Did you ever think that the sense of entitlement that you obviously feel just because you have a dick and are capable of getting an erection might skew your judgment a little?
    I would never, ever, ever wish rape on anyone. EVER. Because I understand what rape is. But it’s asshole fuckheads like you who don’t understand a fucking thing about what rape is and yet go around defending it anyway because YOUR FUCKING BUDDY IS THE RAPIST that makes the thought even cross my mind for a single fucking second. But even assholes like you don’t deserve that. So instead, I’ll just hope that your damn dick drops off.
    There’s my outburst for the day. Folks, I’ve banned him and I’ve also removed his blog link, because following it leads you to a fictionalized account of the rape and how it was all the victim’s fault. If for some strange reason you feel a masochistic desire to read such a think, you can google his handle.

  8. Cara Post author

    NOTE TO ASSHOLES: if your goal is to come here, write a really long (or short) comment about how no one is a rapist until they have been convicted in a court of law, and therefore the 95%+ women who don’t get convictions are lying whores (someone help me do the math: 95% of rape cases never go to court: internationally a generous average of say 10% of that 5% of cases don’t end in convictions), I will not approve your comment. I will delete your comment and I will ban you. So. Feel free to waste your time. It takes me two seconds to roll my eyes at you, wish that you would drop dead and hit “delete.” It takes two more seconds to copy your IP address and ban you. But I’d rather not go through the little charade. Once I read far enough to see that your comment says “stop calling rapists rapists,” I’m going to stop reading. So. Go fuck your self. Stop thinking “oh my god, I have a dick! Some lying whore could use the fact that I have a dick to accuse me of rape! What stupid sluts!” Start thinking “rape is, as a man, one of the absolute worse things that I could possibly do and women deserve justice when men lack enough humanity to refrain from committing this crime. Maybe instead of being part of the problem, I should start holding men responsible for promoting rape culture, even when I don’t think that they’re rapists themselves. I should hold myself responsible for not promoting rape culture and for beginning to promote a culture where sexual violence is treated seriously. I should stop hating women so much that I care more about some guy’s ‘reputation’ than about her mental health and about justice. If I’m not a rapist, I should get off the rapists’ side.

    But you won’t start thinking that way. So, please. Fuck off and have a nice life. And by “nice” I mean miserable.

  9. Local Student

    As a student at Lewis and Clark, I find many of the comments on both sides of this argument disturbing. I know both the victim and the accused in this case, and I am better friends with the accused than with the victim. If my comments come off as biased towards the accused then that’s why, though I’ll try to maintain a neutral position.

    The thing that bugs me most about this article is how publicly this private matter was taken care of. Helen Hunter decided to go to the press before she went to the police which in my opinion is entirely unforgivable. This should have been handled in a court of law before it should be expressed in such a final manner in such a widely circulated manner.

    I withhold judgement on whether or not Morgan is guilty. It’s not my job because I would let my feelings about rape get in the way and about the accused.

    If you can imagine for just a moment that Morgan is taken to court and found innocent (I’m not saying it may or may not happen), Morgan’s reputation will be ruined. After the publishing of this article and of his picture, Morgan will now be recognized by Portland for a crime that he didn’t commit.

    If he is guilty, then he’s guilty and the public deserves to know about it.

    This entire thing feels a bit overwhelming even from the sidelines. How would you feel if one of your friends that you respect was suddenly accused of rape. It would be confusing to say the least. We’re all people, and I think the least we owe each other is a bit of understanding and compassion. I know that even though I am not directly involved, this has been an interesting wake up call in what I believe is right and wrong.

    If you feel the need to ban me over this, then whatever I hope you’re happy in your bubble. I just wish that people would take the time to look at it from all perspectives. There have been a lot of horrible things said about Helen (attention whore, liar), Morgan, and my school, and the entirety of all the arguments are all based on hearsay.

  10. Cara Post author

    Wow, “Local Student,” I’m sure that your “friend” would be thrilled to know that you wrote this. Ass. Which is, of course, why you made yourself wholly unidentifiable. This is, of course, assuming that you’re telling the truth and not just making shit up. I’ll be generous and give it a 50/50 shot either way.
    How would you feel if one of your friends that you respect was suddenly accused of rape
    I would feel like “oh fuck, I’m friends with a rapist.” Unless, of course, the person who accused him was a mean, horrible and vindictive compulsive liar. I don’t currently know anyone who fits that bill, and have met exceedingly few in my life who would. At least one, maybe two, three at absolute most. I’ve met a pretty decent amount of people. So: “oh fuck, I’m friends with a rapist.” Or, maybe even: “oh fuck, I’m related to a rapist.” Ass.
    We’re all people, and I think the least we owe each other is a bit of understanding and compassion.
    Yeah, but apparently only if they’re rapists. If they’ve been raped, fuck ’em. Ass.
    By your rules, you think that less than 1% of rapists should be held responsible for their actions, that less than 1% of victims deserve to name their rapists.
    Here’s something that nothing is considering, fuckheads: If the victim is a stupid lying whore setting out to destroy some poor innocent boy’s reputation, why didn’t she name him in her letter to the editor? Why did she not name him after that, until his name was already out, released by someone other than her, by people she apparently does not know? Did she make up a rape but hadn’t decided who she was going to accuse yet? And then some crazy vigilante feminists decided for her? Oh yeah, that makes a WHOLE lot more sense than the idea that she was actually raped.
    Seriously. Fucking asses.
    Does anyone here have anything intelligent left to say? I’m beginning to seriously consider shutting down the comment thread. This shit is making me hate humanity even more than normal, and reminding me why there is a very small handful of feminists out there who do actually hate men. And I don’t like it.

  11. Andre

    You’re making every best effort to come off sounding intellectual, like you care about the issue, like you care about the victim, but it’s about you. You want to show the world that you, author of The Curvature, know something about right and wrong. You’ve got beliefs and they’re important! You just have to scream them out for the world to hear! But all of this screaming from people like you in situations like this is really hurting my ears. Your screaming isn’t going to create change. Action will. Blogging is not action. Blogging is laziness. If you want to really show interest in this issue, get out of your comfortable computer chair and do something.

  12. Cara Post author

    Oh noes, Andre got me. I write about rape in order to promote my blog, because if there’s one thing that’s going to make you famous and gather LOTS of media attention, it’s how women are sexually assaulted in huge numbers on a daily basis. It’s a hot topic don’t ya know.

    And damn, here I am, sitting in my chair, doing what more or less amounts to a full-time, unpaid job, being lazy. Andre is right. Maybe if cared about women’s issues, I’d go volunteer two days every week with an organization that fights for women’s rights. Maybe I’d pick one that deals with the two issues I care most about and write most about, say an organization that fights for reproductive rights nationally and also runs a local rape crisis center. Hmm. Thanks for opening my eyes, Andre. I never would have thought of that one on my own.

    But hey, maybe he wants me to go break windows. Or track down Shaw-Fox myself and beat the crap out of him. It does seem that our concepts of “doing something” are pretty different.

    For the record, I’m in no way trying to claim that I don’t have a large ego. That would just be silly; I write a blog, for fuck’s sake. And I’m a textbook Leo. But I also think that many people mistake confidence, intelligence and self-pride for arrogance, particularly when it comes to women. I like to think that I generally stay on the positive side of that line, and I know that when I don’t, someone with at least half a brain calls me on it. And it’s both highly annoying if slightly amusing when people decide to leave comments personally attacking me with wild allegations without bothering to do so much as read my tiny little bio page.

  13. BettyBoondoggle

    Hey Andre, in case the hypocrisy escaped you, commenting on blogs is also laziness. COmmenting on blogs telling women to shut up and not be offended by rapists and their assinine apologists is also useless. You don’t get to decide what we talk about.

    So, feel free to fuck off, rape-apologist.

  14. BettyBoondoggle

    Mortality – that pig’s comment still makes me sputter with rage. I wonder if he’d think it was no big deal if someone did it to him? I hope he never has to find out, the worthless ass.

  15. Mike

    I think everyone can agree that sexual assault, be it a man to a woman or a woman to man is a terrible thing.

    Yet, this world is not as black and white as we think it is. This particularly applies to realms of communication. This girl put herself in a position of sexuality, and at I believe the article says that her response to oral sex was “All right.” Moreover, her attempts to convey that things were not to her liking was by “pushing on his abdomen.” Another difficult thing to interpret.

    Now, I am about to be attacked for the views I just expressed because its not of the crucify Shaw-Fox variety. Nevertheless, can people see how there was a communication breakdown in this situation. And that at the time, both parties involved CONSENTED to the actions.

    Was he too rough with her? Yes. Was his comment obscene? Yes. Does that detract for him direct consent to the actions that then happened? No. Additionally, we have no idea of the timeline of the incidents. Did Helen become uncomfortable with the situation, articulate that discomfort through her incredibly precise manner and then he stopped? We don’t know because the timeline is absent from the story. We don’t know because we were not there.

    Although it is silly of me to try and make any attempt at showing the complexity of this issue. I figured one more man crucified at the hands of this site will be enjoyable for you and I’ll feel better that you have to result to timeless insults and attacks on my character rather than giving this debate any real thought.

    In conclusion, rape is a horrible thing; but this is for a court of law to decide, and the system must be given more credence. Otherwise Cara, your statistics will not change anytime soon and that scares me.

  16. Cara Post author

    I let Mike’s comment through simply as an explanation for why I’m shutting down comments on this thread. Because I can’t bear to read another comment like that without bursting into tears.

    Hopefully you’ll understand. If you don’t . . . I guess it’s a good think that it’s my fucking blog and not yours.

    If you’d like to remark on what an ass Mike is, and how he deserves to die a slow and painful death for saying that it’s okay to rape a woman because she put herself in a sexual situation, and also that he should learn how to read before behaving in a manner that he thinks suggests he can, pick another thread. One that doesn’t have a lot of comments. Whatever.