Trolls and a case of mistaken identity

Curator's Note

Many were outraged following the six-month sentence of convicted rapist and former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner. Some media outlets posted letters of support sent to the judge on behalf of Turner. Those supporters – his parents, teachers, and friends – were harassed incessantly online. His childhood friend, Leslie Rasmussen, of Ohio is a 20-year-old who wrote one such letter. 

I am Professor Leslie Rasmussen from Xavier University in Ohio, and I quickly became the target of harassment meant for the younger Rasmussen. I’m a professor who studies social media, public relations, and advertising. I was a first generation Latina college student from south Texas who went to college for nine years to achieve my goals. 

Depsite this, people from all over the world sent despicable messages on Facebook, Twitter, and at my work email account. The most heinous individuals were compelled to ask me what I would say to my daughter upon her eventual rape… you know, karma and all. Others simply prayed she’d be raped. Somehow it was acceptable to bring my 3-year-old daughter into a conversation about rape. I was called a cunt, coward, and an idiot. I felt the contempt in the messages. The confusing part was that many commenters claimed to be feminists, yet behaved so misogynistic. I would remind them that 1-in-5 women will be the victim of a sexual crime. If I am a victim, they’ve just revictimized me in an effort to what? Online harassment is not activism; let’s not confuse the two.

The fact that I am not the "correct" Rasmussen is irrelevant. Harassing her only perpetuates a cycle of harassment. It doesn’t help the cause. The online trolls who harass and berate as part of some diluted form of activism only dimishes their credibility as activists, and does nothing to help true activists or victims.  Please, let’s call for online civility. It’s time to stop this nonsense.

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