There’s no question – the internet has done some great things. Right now, it’s providing me and other writers at Care2 with the opportunity to bring interesting and crucial news and issues to a wide range of people – I’m not going to begin to list the ways that it’s transformed the way we live. But the anonymity of the internet has also proved to be a serious danger, as when the mother of a teenage girl’s friend, in the wake of a falling out between the two girls, created an online identity and manipulated the young woman to suicide. Now, the news of a rape case from Wyoming city of Casper shows the extent to which violence can be sparked through the internet.
A woman in Casper was reportedly raped at knife point after being assaulted at her front door, and left bound on the floor by a man who claimed that he thought it was invited. Now two men are charged in the crime: the man who committed the rape, and the woman’s ex-boyfriend, who posed as the victim online and claiming that she had a rape fantasy and wanted to be assaulted.
The New York Times reported that a few days before the Casper woman was raped, “she had complained to the Natrona County Sheriff’s Department that someone had made a false Craigslist posting about her, including photographs and personal information. The ad read, ‘Need a real aggressive man with no concern for women.’” Craigslist took down the ad when the woman complained, but apparently it stayed online long enough to attract the attention of the rapist.
This of course has reminded many of the “Craigslist killer” Philip Markoff, who used Craigslist to arrange meetings with women who he later attacked or killed. Craiglist reportedly tightened security after the Markoff story broke, but it seems not to have worked. The Casper prosector says that Craigslist has been cooperative with them, but added, “I would prefer that they maybe not run these ads. You know somebody’s going to do it even if they don’t.”
It’s hard to put my horror over this story into words. The idea that a man would actually believe that he was doing something asked-for by entering an unknown woman’s house and violently assaulting her is disgusting – and that he found the idea of committing a stranger rape appealing. But the ex-boyfriend’s role is, if possible, more egregious. I can only hope that Craigslist begins to take the implications of its lax standards seriously, and that law enforcement officials start to focus their attention on violence begun on the internet, if only for the sake of people like this woman in Casper, Wyoming.
Photo from Xdmag's Flickr photostream.