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ROUILLARD: The girl that ratted - The Vanderbilt Hustler: Opinion

ROUILLARD: The girl that ratted

How one online thread brought out the worst in Vanderbilt

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Posted: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 10:15 am

“Rape culture” is a vague term. What is “rape culture”? How can we have a culture centered around the act of rape? Where can we find it, if it exists? What does it look like? Who is a part of it? And how can we at Vanderbilt even define this term if we don't even see what it’s supposed to be describing?

Well, it’s out there, online. It looks like thin black text on a gray background. It lives in an anonymous college gossip forum.

In a thread on CollegiateACB.com (an anonymous discussion board fueled ostensibly by members of Greek life) entitled "girl that ratted," the elements that make up rape culture are on full display. The discussion within deals with a charge of rape at AEPi that was filed in February and reported on by The Hustler last week. This one thread seems to have unearthed all of the unsavory and dark and dangerous aspects of Vanderbilt's campus culture that persist in preventing this place from being a safe place for women.

In the thread, the original poster (OP) begins by asking the anonymous user base to post the name of the girl who "ratted" on AEPi  and "got them on probation." The anger over the destruction of a way of life is palpable.

What evolves in the subsequent posts goes beyond the usual “frat-tier-rankings hottest freshman best ass Sig Nu” drivel that usually dominates the site — the thread is a potent and revolting mixture of speculatory ad hominem attacks, victim intimidation, Greek Life chest-thumping and debate over whether or not the victim was, in fact, raped by someone at the AEPi fraternity house.

Over the course of the thread's three pages, the victim is referred to as “crazy,” a “crazy bitch,” “manic depressive,” “psycho,” “NASTY AS SHIT” and “a no good CUNT,” among other things. Posters call into question her truthfulness, her mental stability and her sexual promiscuity, all while rumors swirl amongst the electronically-shielded posters. A Vanderbilt student is named in this thread, and these words and names target her. And to be clear, she is a target: A user on the second page asks for confirmation of the name posted on the first.

The focus of the thread quickly jumps to matters of real concern for its participants: the implications for AEPi and Greek Life, a focus that is maintained throughout 44 posts. The consensus seems to be that the victim has “snitched.”

This repeated use of the word “snitching” in the thread implies that the victim has revealed a secret that should have been kept hidden behind closed doors — under the rug and on floors that stick like flypaper and stink of old beer. She has tattletaled and transgressed against an entity larger than herself, an operation to keep Greek Life's stimulant-fueled heart beating while the perceived vultures circle overhead. The OP issues a rallying cry: “we need to stick together and prevent shit like this from being ok.”

She would seemingly be better served to allow the party to continue and keep her secret under wraps for the good of the Greek community. The message is: Force a smile, grab another beer, look your assailant in the eye — and don't say a word.

It would be "fucked up" to do otherwise. The story would be enough to "get IFC to fuck all frats over."

What's especially "fucked up," apparently, is the allegation that the victim went “unprovoked” to IFC to file a report. She wasn't caught stumbling drunkenly down Kensington, brought into student accountability and asked to supply the name of the place where she was drinking — in which case, according to some posters, it would be understandable to throw the fraternity under the bus. No, this victim did the unthinkable: She was assaulted and reported the crime to someone who could help her seek justice. To quote one poster, “its honestly a shame this is what the school has come to. have some integrity ladies.” It reads like cruel satire.

It gets worse: The thread has a sickening self-reinforcing logic. Several posters in the thread allege that “nobody got raped” because the news would have been so major that anyone paying attention would have heard about it.

If this thread is any indication of the response that awaits a rape victim at Vanderbilt who comes forward, then it is easy to understand her keeping her painful secret locked up tight. To do otherwise is social suicide at best, and a living nightmare at worst. What incentive could she possibly ever have to make her story public? Come forward and your name will be posted, your secret revealed, and your sexual history put on display. You will be viciously ridiculed and discredited — and there is nothing you can do about it.

And despite the debate over the actual events that occurred at AEPi on Feb. 14, a discussion of the “he-said, she-said” dynamic of sexual assault allegations is beyond the scope of this column. What matters most is the fact that this thread was created to publicly identify, shame and intimidate this victim by a community of which she is a member. It sends a public message. It says, “We know who you are and what you did, and this is what we think about it.” If a victim hasn't pressed charges, does anyone think that she will now? What is this thread whispering to the other women who will be sexually assaulted during their time here?

If all of this isn’t rape culture made manifest, then I don't know what is. I'm not going to waste my limited word count railing against the enabling power of anonymous message boards and social media, the insularity and cliquey-ness of Greek life, or other favorite targets of those who write on this subject but who don't pay witness to it. This single, 44-post thread is a glimpse into a rape culture that is alive and well here at Vanderbilt. It's alive in dorm rooms, Greek houses, classrooms and public spaces. It is a culture that commits rape and then comes together to shut down its victim.

“Consider yourself lucky if no one finds this thread,” warns one user. Well, now no one can: The thread was deleted from the website yesterday after 8 p.m. However, you’ll be able to find the entire thread saved here, with the name redacted.

It is plain now that there are groups of individuals at this prestigious, beautiful, diverse institution darkening its classrooms and hallways and making it a less safe and accepting place for the women in attendance. After all of the steps forward that Vanderbilt has taken in my four years here, this thread represents one hundred steps backward. I am deeply ashamed to share classrooms, professors and the name on my soon-to-be-printed diploma with the students represented in this cesspool of destructive gossip and self-serving intimidation. I’d like to think we at Vanderbilt, the lucky few, are better than this — but now, I’m not so sure.

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5 comments:

  • Hustler Editorial Board posted at 2:39 pm on Sat, Apr 19, 2014.

    Hustler Editorial Board Posts: 1 Staff

    The saved copies of the thread can be found in a gallery to the left of the column's text on InsideVandy.com. If you're reading the mobile version, it might not show up.

    Here is the link to the web version of the column: http://www.insidevandy.com/opinion/article_ecb2248e-c52b-11e3-b7d6-0017a43b2370.html?_dc=403106714366.00385

    And here is a link to the gallery: http://www.insidevandy.com/opinion/article_ecb2248e-c52b-11e3-b7d6-0017a43b2370.html?mode=image&photo=1

     
  • CassandraToday posted at 12:17 pm on Sat, Apr 19, 2014.

    CassandraToday Posts: 1

    I don't know whether it was an editorial decision or a typo, but the link to the saved copy of the thread is missing. ("...you’ll be able to find the entire thread saved here...")

     
  • Vanderbilt Student posted at 3:58 pm on Fri, Apr 18, 2014.

    VandyVan101 Posts: 5

    My point is that the topic "reads like cruel satire" because it IS a cruel satire. That is EXACTLY what it is.

    It is full of "sickening self-reinforcing logic" because all the posts come from two or three people who are trying to give the appearance that multiple different people are chiming in.

    It's fine if you want to spin this story to make it look like the Greek community is full of self-serving low lifes who don't support this girl. In reality, its two or three people are posting obnoxious comments to get reactions exactly like the one you have posted. Outside of AEPi, the Greek community is in full support of this girl, no matter what the repercussions are for other fraternities. Just take a look around the remaining ACB topic or around Facebook for proof.

     
  • posted at 3:56 pm on Wed, Apr 16, 2014.

    Posts:

    @Vanderbilt Student, thanks for commenting. However, I challenge your assertion that my column is "terribly misinformed." I will try to address your concerns in turn.

    I do not treat CollegiateACB as representative of majority student opinion — I am well aware of the dynamics of the board and its capacity for trolling, and I even state early on that the site is "fueled ostensibly by members of Greek life." And I do not wish to indict all of Greek life with this statement. Perhaps I should have made clear that the board is populated by a small subset of individuals.

    I use the word "alleged" victim and "allegation" numerous times in the article to make clear that the charge has not been settled. The article linked to in this piece also shows an "investigation" is taking place. No one is guilty yet.

    I also state that the nature of "he-said she-said" allegations of sexual assault is not important. Neither is the legitimacy of the sentiment behind the posts, and neither is the actual number of people posting in the thread. What is important though, is that this thread was created to intimidate a potential victim. If the rape did not take place, then this threat simply intimidates future victims. If the rape did take place, it intimidates the current AND future victims.

    Again, thank you for you engagement with this topic.

     
  • Vanderbilt Student posted at 3:32 pm on Wed, Apr 16, 2014.

    VandyVan101 Posts: 5

    This article is terribly misinformed. Treating CollegiateACB, an anonymous posting board, like a legitimate source of student opinion and concensus is a huge mistake. I would estimate that 90% of the posts on that website come from the same 4 or 5 people. They troll and make inflammatory statements for the sole purpose of getting reactions like this. On this topic in particular, I can guarantee you that every post calling this girl a liar or other rude names came from 2 or 3 individuals. It does represent the opinion of the entire Greek community or the entire school-- it is absolutely absurd to suggest that is the case.

    Worse, the article overlooks the topic criticizing AEPi for the rape scandal and supporting the victim. For some reason the author has chosen to ignore this completely, even though the responses on that thread are overwhelmingly in support of this girl and condemning the behavior of AEPi.

    Finally, no details have been released on this case. Don't be one of the infamous "Group of 88" who rushed to judge those accused when the accusations actually had zero merit. That very may well be the case here, in which case the CollegiateACB posts just represent frustration with a baseless accusation.