UChicago misogynists threaten sexual assault survivors and activists over release of ‘rapist list’

Last year, the Department of Education opened an investigation of the University of Chicago after a complaint alleged that gender-based violence and harassment were rampant on campus, and that the University was doing little to stop it. Yesterday a group calling itself the UChicago Electronic Army (UEA) provided a good case in point. The UEA hacked the University of Chicago MODA fashion website in order to send a threatening message to campus survivors, activists, and allies:

UEA’s message, which is no longer online, was a response to the release of the Hyde Park List. As Dana reported on Monday, “concerned citizens” posted the names of several “people known to commit varying levels of gender-based violence” at the school. (After initially being removed by Tumblr, the site was back up for a time yesterday but is down again now. Based on a spokesperson’s statement to Jezebel, it seems the university asked the organizers behind it to remove it.) Singling out the activist they believed to be responsible for the list, UEA claimed to be keeping the “community safe from people who publicly accuse other people of committing varying levels of gender-based violence without any proof whatsoever.” Because nothing just screams “innocent” like using intimidation and, um, actual rape threats to silence survivors who speak out. 

I personally can think of no better case for naming and shaming than UEA’s reaction to the list. Although more and more brave survivors–on campus and off–are coming forward to tell their stories these days, we still have a tendency to speak of gendered violence in the passive voice. We hear from “survivors” and learn what they survived but only rarely know who exactly inflicted that violence. We increasingly know the faces of “abused women” but not those of their abusers. We talk so damn much about the 1 in 5 women raped during their lifetimes. But they weren’t raped by some abstract “rape culture”–they were raped by actual individual people. Some of these people made one mistake, but, research shows that many of them go on to commit the same abuse again and again.

The fact that the perpetrators of gendered violence so often remain nameless allows us to indulge in the comforting myth that they are “other people,” monsters that we don’t know. They’re not. They’re our family members and our friends. And, too often, they remain our friends. As Alexandra has written before, serial offenders are often well-known in college communities–after all, you hardly need an official “rapist list” to spread the word on smaller campuses–but still are only rarely socially ostracized. I think the discomfort many feel about efforts like the Hyde Park List likely stems in part from a nagging fear that someone we love could end up on such list. But that’s exactly why naming names is so important–as long as it’s easy to look away, we’ll never really and truly grapple with the fact that gendered violence is a cancer, not a contained infection, in our communities.

And it’s also important because it exposes the lie that “everyone” agrees that gendered violence is a bad thing that “no one” condones. In fact, as UEA’s hostile response shows, there are people–actual individual people–who are deeply threatened by the idea that rapists and abusers should face consequences for their actions.

Maya DusenberyMaya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.

New Orleans, LA

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. Maya has previously worked at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health and was a fellow at Mother Jones magazine. She graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. A Minnesota native, she currently lives, writes, edits, and bakes bread in Atlanta, Georgia.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

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