In one of my favorite feminist movies—the 1996 flick Girls Town—a group of fed-up young women write the names of the men who raped them on their high school’s bathroom wall. Other students join in, listing their attackers from schoolmates to teachers—warning other women and reclaiming public space.
Today, a Kentucky teen is facing jail time for doing much the same thing: naming her rapists on Twitter. Seventeen-year-old Savannah Dietrich was sexually assaulted by two acquaintances while unconscious—her attackers took pictures and sent them to friends. After the young men pleaded guilty to the attack and agreed to a plea of felony sexual abuse and misdemeanor voyeurism, the judge ordered that no one speak about the court proceedings or the attack itself.
“I was crying as she was reading that,” Dietrich told a local paper. “They got off very easy…and they tell me to be quiet, just silencing me at the end.”
Dietrich ignored the order and tweeted their names. “There you go, lock me up,” she wrote. “I’m not protecting anyone that made my life a living Hell.” Deitrich now says she ready to go to jail to stand up for the right to speak out. As Amanda Hess at Slate writes, “The criminal justice process can also rob the victim of control over her own narrative.”
Hess also points out that Deitrich is not the first young woman to use social media to out rapists:
In 2010, 19-year-old American University student Chloe Rubenstein took to Facebook and Twitter to out two men on campus she said had victimized several of her friends (“ATTENTION WOMEN,” she wrote. “They are predators and will show no remorse for anyone.”) In 2007, a group of women at Portland’s Lewis & Clark College, led by sophomore Helen Hunter, created a Facebook group calling one of their classmates a “Piece of Shit Rapist.” When the administration caught wind, it suspended the man for just a semester. But five years later? Google his name, and the online rape allegations still register as the fourth hit.
Thanks to a widespread culture of victim-blaming and rape apologism, attackers usually have it pretty cushy. Victims are still not likely to report the assault and when they do they’re very likely to be blamed for it—an awful reality that re-traumatizes the victim and paves the way for future rapes.