March 29, 2005 1:00 PM   Subscribe

I need help dealing with a serial rapist.

In a bustling, university livejournal community, there exists an individual who preys on different people, and to my current knowledge, has raped at least three different individuals. This guy is able to hide behind shoddy investigations, apathetic law enforcement, and the victims' fear of public scrutiny.

The best that can be hoped for is calling him out on it to protect new users to the community. However, I'd like to avoid any sort of slander, as should this reach litigation, the victims would have to come out again, which is the last thing I would want for them.

So, what are some strategies I can use to inform the community of this individual's acts without worry of putting myself or the victims in the line of fire?
posted by Mach3avelli to Law & Government (28 answers total)
does livejournal have a policy about harassment at all? or violence resulting from posts/comments there? You could report it to them, and make sure the victims are willing to verify what you say to the company's people. LiveJournal is at risk for lawsuits too from this guy's actions--make that clear to them.
posted by amberglow at 1:06 PM on March 29, 2005

IANAL and can't begin to give you advice on how to deal with this extremely awful situation. But the controversy aroused by the Brown University rape list might be of some interest.
posted by googly at 1:10 PM on March 29, 2005

Response by poster: Livejournal isn't at risk at all. This guy befriends new people through Livejournal, AIM, or e-mail. They begin meeting in person, and not before long, he takes advantage of them.

I'd like the community at large to be aware of his actions.
posted by Mach3avelli at 1:11 PM on March 29, 2005

I... Jesus. This is probably the most disturbing thing I've read on MeFi.

I'm not sure what to say. How well-known are this guy's actions? And, I hate having to say this, how verifiable are they, how credible are the people this has happened to? My point in asking is that there's a huge difference between two people getting drunk, and one of them having regrets the next morning and calling it rape (which does happen, unfortunately), and actual sexual assault. This isn't coming out right, and pelase, people, don't attack me for it. What I'm saying is, I guess, is that you need to be absolutely and incontrovertibly certain before proceeding with any action. Given that there have been no convictions, any action could probably be construed as slander.

Your best course of action, from what I can see, is to help the victims empower themselves. They're the ones who have the power to actually do something concrete about this guy. You might want to try getting them in touch with RAINN (Rape And Incest National Network); they have (sadly) lots of experience, and from what I know have people who can help act specifically as legal advocates for the victims, to ensure that justice is served.

Further, having the victims speak out would be useful. There's probably a women's centre of some sort on-campus; they're good at support and solidarity in situations like these. Perhaps organize some sort of sexual assault awareness program. If this guy has a standard MO that he uses, you could even include steps from it in a 'behaviours to watch out for' pamphlet/flyer/whatever. He wouldn't be able to complain about them, because doing so would require him to admit his guilt.

Perhaps help the victims find a good lawyer? Start going up the chain of command in local law enforcement? Make sure newspapers do a story on the issue? TV news?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:19 PM on March 29, 2005

I disagree with the above posting about livejournal not caring. They may not be legally responsible, but the last thing they want is to see the headline "Livejournal: Internet Haven for Rapists" on the 10 o'clock news. You really should contact them about this. They don't want a reputation for being a haven for criminals.

However, I suspect that this guy would use other methods if lj wasn't available to him. The only real way to get this to stop is to encourage the victims to come forward. Have them contact RAINN for advice.
posted by unreason at 1:26 PM on March 29, 2005

Response by poster: The only thing I have going is what these people have told me, and they're friends, and have disclosed their stories privately and independently. However, they're not willing to come out and have to face their accuser and go through all the bullshit that failed the last time they went through the law. They don't want to revisit the problem, but they do want to do what they can to protect the next wave of people.

Basically, they feel I'm the perfect messenger because I hold a lot of cred in this community and I'm known for being very forward about things.

I guess what I'm looking for is if it's ok to post a picture of this guy and protect myself with the word "alleged" or somesuch.
posted by Mach3avelli at 1:27 PM on March 29, 2005

Response by poster: However, I suspect that this guy would use other methods if lj wasn't available to him.

Yup. He doesn't meet all of them online, nor just through LJ.
posted by Mach3avelli at 1:30 PM on March 29, 2005

I don't think it is okay for you to post a picture and write "alleged rapist" on it. Not unless your friends are willing to come out in court and prove their accusations, and it doesn't sound as if they are. I think possibly the best thing to do would be kind of what dirtynumbangelboy suggests, and write out a list of exactly what happened in each case, than post it as "Behaviors To Watch Out For" without posting names. Passive-aggressive, yes, but it might alert the next potential victim as well as letting the rapist know that people are on to him, without giving him anything he can sue or attack you for. If you post a pic, he can start yelling about libel and slander, and people may believe him. If you post, Please be careful about people who may do x, y & z, as occurred to my anonymous friend on such and such a date, and was repeated at this time, what's he going to do? Obviously he can't admit to it - that would be admitting his guilt, and it may be enough to chase him off.

I would, however, encourage your friends to contact a rape crisis center and reconsider pressing charges of some sort against this guy, before he does find another community and does it again.
posted by mygothlaundry at 1:54 PM on March 29, 2005

Weasel way:

Post the picture and information on a domain you've registered with Domains by Proxy using a throw away e-mail address and a disposable credit card. You need all three, because DBP will cooperate with law enforcement if charges are brought against the owner of the domain. Link to the page you "found", claiming you don't know anything about its provenance or whether it's true, but maybe people should be careful around this guy, because someone out there is claiming that he's a serial rapist.

It's cowardly, but it gives you plausible deniability.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:54 PM on March 29, 2005

I'm sorry but these victims need to step up and put a stop to this by making it public. Requesting you do it for them will not work 'cause when it gets tough (i.e. when he sues you for slander and you have to out your friends anyway) everyone will know who they were/are. It isn't your job to out him as a rapist, it is your job to tell your friends they HAVE to do it themselves. Be there for them, but they need to do it.
posted by pwb503 at 2:00 PM on March 29, 2005

The only thing I have going is what these people have told me, and they're friends, and have disclosed their stories privately and independently.

Do the women involved know of the others' existence? Perhaps if they knew it wasn't just them they would be more willing to go public, even if only to prevent him from harming anyone else. It's easier to keep quiet if you think you're the only one.
This guy will keep going until one of his victims is brave enough to go to the police. Maybe your friends will realize that when they see he's already attacked more than one woman.
posted by Kellydamnit at 2:08 PM on March 29, 2005

You don't have plausible deniability anymore Bubbah. Not with you name in your profile and your profile in google's archives, deniability but it ain't plausible.

Is this creature "working" out of one location? Or traveling around due to the nature of finding victims via the net?
Some localities have pretty good sexual crimes units within their DA's office or DA's known to be sympathetic and protective to victims in rape cases. If you can work with a victim to come forward and accuse the person the whole deal is a matter of public record once charges are filed and then you ARE in the clear to say "this person is accused of rape, beware".

Dirtynumbangelboy has it right. If you can't pull off legal action at least post the "behaviors to watch out for" list and get your friends help and counseling.
posted by Divine_Wino at 2:19 PM on March 29, 2005

This guy will keep going until one of his victims is brave enough to go to the police. Maybe your friends will realize that when they see he's already attacked more than one woman.

Kelly and others, I'm sorry, but this isn't true.

One of my friends in Seattle was raped by a serial date-rapist. She had her testimony, signed affidavits from two others, recorded voicemails from him admitting to non-consentual sex with the usual "but I thought you'd be happy when you woke up" excuses, witnesses that saw her entering his apartment and leaving afterwords under the influence, chemical analysis of the drugs from vomit, she was picked up by the police while she was still under the influence and chemical/fluid samples were taken at the hospital within hours of the crime, etc... it was the most perfect rape case possible from an evidence point of view. And nothing, NOTHING she or her lawyers (note the plural) could do would get the Seattle police interested. There's simply too many cases and too high of a standard of evidence because there are rarely any witnesses to this kind of crime.

The police are great at some things, but rapes apparently take up too much in the way of very limited resources to be a priority for any law enforcement agency -- even when it's hours after the crime, especially when it's months or years after the fact. This is a case where I strongly feel that actions like what Mach3avelli is conemplating are worthy.
posted by SpecialK at 2:20 PM on March 29, 2005 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Do the women involved know of the others' existence? Perhaps if they knew it wasn't just them they would be more willing to go public, even if only to prevent him from harming anyone else. It's easier to keep quiet if you think you're the only one.
This guy will keep going until one of his victims is brave enough to go to the police. Maybe your friends will realize that when they see he's already attacked more than one woman.

Some of the victims are male. And they do know of one another's stories.

I went ahead and made a public post warning people about a serial rapist without naming him. People are brimming with curiosity, and his name is being passed around via the grapevine.
posted by Mach3avelli at 2:20 PM on March 29, 2005

Have you checked to see if he's in the Sexual Offender Database? That's public info.
posted by agregoli at 2:22 PM on March 29, 2005

Jesus, I missed the word university there, sorry. So it is in one place. Does the school not have any kind of procedure in place for this? Counseling, counseling, counseling.

on preview,
Well that's one way to do it. Good luck. It's terribly fucking sad that most of us know someone that can tell a story like SpecialK's.

Counseling, though, for your friends. PTSD's a bitch.
posted by Divine_Wino at 2:24 PM on March 29, 2005

I'm not a lawyer, either, but it sounds like your best chance is to get one of more of the victims to file a civil lawsuit. You might want to find a lawyer who would be interested in taking on such a suit (or suits), perhaps on a contingency basis, and then have the lawyer meet with all three victims, together, to explain their options. (I suppose it's possible that the three could file a joint suit, although I suspect that these would have to be individual cases.) I suggest "together" both for efficiency's sake and because (as mentioned above) one or more of the three might be more willing to go public if they were aware of others. (The lawyer might feel differently about the advanatages and disadvantages of this, from a legal viewpoint, however.)

At mimimum, the filing of such a lawsuit would allow you to use the term "alleged rapist" with much less risk of a successful lawsuit against you.
posted by WestCoaster at 3:13 PM on March 29, 2005

If the victims for one reason or another are not able to proceed on the legal front and, as you say, you've circulated a warning and there's also a grapevine happening that's identifying the offender, then it seems to me that the best way to further the aim (ie. reduce the chance of a repeat offense) is to ask the LJ management to issue an official notification of the 'problem behaviour' to be sent to all members.

Additionally, if you know the University to which the perp. goes, then maybe speak/write with/to the powers that be there so that they too can issue a warning, outlining the guy's M.O.

To keep yourself safe in both of those forums, you couldn't name him. But it would seem a very unlikely prank for anyone to go to such trouble without foundation - I'm guessing both places would be enthusiastically cooperative.
posted by peacay at 3:18 PM on March 29, 2005

SpecialK: if someone has as much evidence as you say, and the police won't do anything, that's a department-busting lawsuit waiting to happen. Tomorrow's newspapers in your city should all have "Police Don't Care About Rape" as the front-page headline.
posted by ubernostrum at 3:26 PM on March 29, 2005

First off, I second the idea of attacking via civil court. The burden of proof is lower (ask OJ) and filing is up to the victims, not the courts.

Since you know a few of the victims, the chances are there are more than you know out there. You might want to make a poster with a "Beware: Rapist!" headline, add a "Behaviors To Watch Out For" section, and a large drawing of this creep. Do not do this with a photo, using a drawing that looks almost exactly like him gives you "plausible deniability." Posting a few hundred of these around the campus could lead to some media coverage, which might force the cops into action.

Good luck, you're fighting a good fight.
posted by Marky at 3:44 PM on March 29, 2005

With all due respect to the posters above, it's no substitute for what you really need: the counsel of a lawyer admitted to the bar in your jurisdiction.
posted by orthogonality at 4:42 PM on March 29, 2005

i guess it's too late now, but by making this a public thing, you're ruling out taking any kind of more direct action. you're number one suspect if this guy walks into a door or whatever. since i would guess that's going to happen at some point, you might want to worry about how you would cover yourself. maybe i'm being melodramatic, i dunno, but it might be a concern.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:54 PM on March 29, 2005

if someone has as much evidence as you say, and the police won't do anything, that's a department-busting lawsuit waiting to happen.

...Not to mention the basis for a pretty good civil lawsuit in the absence of prosecution. Remember that while OJ was acquitted of murder, Nicole's family tagged his ass for everything but his pension in the subsequent civil lawsuit.
posted by Fupped Duck at 7:04 PM on March 29, 2005

I don't agree with the idea that it is the victims' responsibility to come forward in order to stop this guy. Given what you know, you are ethically obligated to do something. I think making a warning online was the right thing to do.
posted by mai at 8:15 PM on March 29, 2005

Universities and colleges cover this crap up all the time. One thing that helped where I went to school was that all the womens' groups (and other interested parties) knew the "bad" places to party; you know, the frat houses you didn't get drunk in and the ones you never went to without a buddy. So, I would say that "grapevining" it is good, because it gives these groups access to the information and will protect at least some people. Also, a private report to the a dean may make some difference. Without going into details, it is possible to make a convincing enough report, particularly with any sort of witnesses to the actual event or the direct aftermath, to require someone to participate in counselling (the rapist, not the victims) and to pretty much make their lives very monitored and very, very miserable.

That said, if the school is trying to cover this up (or at least make it be very, very quiet) then I hope someone has the emotional reserves left to blow the entire thing apart, kicking and screaming.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:52 PM on March 29, 2005

Male victims? Good luck getting the cops interested in that.
posted by Goofyy at 1:34 AM on March 30, 2005 [1 favorite]

I think everyone needs to remember a basic tenet to any sane justice system: you are innocent until proven guilty.

Mach3avelli, no offense, but all you have is circumstantial evidence. You mentioned that the law was involved and failed to act (this could be from apathy or it could be because there is lack of evidence). My advice is to not in any way draw, picture, name or encourage the passing of this "possible" rapist's name or image. Just warn everyone of the MO, and other possible MOs, give information on rape survival and protection resources, as some have already mentioned, that is really all I would feel comfortable doing in this situation.

Most people, myself included, are horrified by rape, this is why we are automatically assuming that this is true, that this person that none of us, with the possible exception of Mach3avelli, know is a serial rapist. That is just about as serious an accusation as can be made and that is why we must demand serious proof before we light the torches.
posted by sic at 5:21 AM on March 30, 2005

What sic said. Except that all evidence is circumstantial, and the term generally has no meaning in a court of law, just to clarify.

Seriously. Posting a picture of this guy is a bad idea, as is namin him. Grapevine is good... getting the victims to come forward is better. It's not just protecting furture potential victims; it's empowerng the victims who already exist. Seeing this guy put behind bars will help them get past the experience.

The fact that some of the victims are male may make this more difficult. Men are less likely, statistically, to report incidents of sexual assault, for a host of reasons that should be tolerably obvious. However, seeing as you're in a fairly large metropolitan area, a quick perusal of listings and services in the gay community should direct you to specifically gay male-focused resources for victims of sexual assault. Finding a gay lawyer to take on the police department --make sure s/he's credible, and not a psychotic activist type; they're too easy to discredit and dismiss--would also help.

I can't stress enough that the victims need to find the strength within themselves to help this situation end. Point them at RAINN. Or, hell, call them yourself. The people there know what to do in these situations.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:25 PM on March 30, 2005

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