Firstly I want to say a huge thank you to the hundreds of people who have reached out in support of me in the last month – it has been overwhelming and emotional to say the least.
I am asked many of the same questions across all my social media platforms, so I figured I’d answer them all here.
What has happened since your blog post went viral?
A little and a lot. Due to the media coverage in Lawrence, I was put in touch with an officer (by someone outside the Lawrence PD) to make my complaint officially. It was acknowledged that I was given incorrect information by the dispatcher I spoke to and I could make a complaint with Lawrence PD no matter where I was physically located.
It was also acknowledged that there is some international call block of some kind – which is why no one could call me back.
Because I had mentioned in my email to the Chief of Police that I may contact the FBI (as I had no other avenues to pursue as Lawrence PD would not take my complaint), the Lawrence PD interpreted this to mean I was in contact with the FBI and did not respond. I find that an interesting interpretation of my email – yes I did have the phone number of the Kansas City FBI who I was prepared to call, but considering I was informing Lawrence PD that I had been told I could not make a complaint and they knew that to be incorrect, I am surprised they didn’t feel the need to reach out to correct me and advise that I could make my complaint.
However, the complaint was eventually made and graciously handled by those involved.
Has Veritas Christian School contacted you?
Nope. Veritas has not contacted me. I have had parents and students reach out to me and tell me what has happened in the last few weeks, but the school has not made contact with me. I have been advised that the student involved has been expelled, which was “driven by the school’s commitment to serve the school in a Godly manner, with a full understanding of the relevant facts” and not driven by pressure. I’d like to point out the school has received no evidence from me, just a vague outline that their student was acting inappropriately online, because they didn’t give me an opportunity to provide any. So I’m not sure which facts they are referring to. In my opinion, this outcome was 100% driven by community pressure.
What has the response been from the Lawrence community?
Overwhelmingly positive, supportive and fantastic. When the story first went viral in Lawrence, I received my share of messages from angry 15-19 year old boys. Many of whom attend Free State High School and who very naively use their full names as usernames. After a particularly rough week on Twitter, I did tweet that I would be writing a blog about those boys as well. But considering the abuse almost immediately stopped after that tweet (and that I have come to the realisation that I can’t fight everyone, and I don’t want to) I have decided not to write that post. I instead emailed Free State High School about a specific incident and a specific student but did not receive a response.
One of the more humbling and sobering parts of this story was the number of women who reached out to tell me about the time they were harassed online or in person, and that they would fight for me on the ground in Lawrence, for the right to make my complaint and the right to be heard. I would be sitting at lunch, making dinner, walking the dog, in the supermarket, brushing my teeth and story after story was rolling into my inbox of women who had been harassed, how they wish they had stood up to their harasser but were too afraid, hoping ignoring it would make it stop. I am so not in a position to offer wise words to these women but my god, there were some feels.
To the young women, the teenage girls, who told me stories of their own harassment at the hands of the same person and of others, I am so sorry that you also have gone through this. I am sorry you didn’t know what to do about it, I am sorry you were put in that position, and I am sorry that this kind of harassment is still a secret shame that some people would have you believe women should just quietly accept and take responsibility for.
Not only the women, but the men of Lawrence messaged me to say that what happened to me, what happens to women online is not ok. That they wanted to tell their teenage boys about this, that they wanted them to know it wasn’t ok, that they wanted them to see what potential consequences there could be, if they made the mistake of treating someone in this way.
However a special mention must be made to the Free State High School Feminist Club – these women, so articulate and intelligent, were tweeting me frequently when the story broke. I attended an all girls’ high school and I couldn’t tell you if we had a feminist club or not, but I seriously doubt it. These young women made me so proud – and Lawrence should be proud of them too.
Are you happy with the outcome so far?
It’s not over yet. However I guess the answer to that is that I am not really happy and can’t ever be truly happy with the outcome. Initially what I wanted to achieve was for the school and family to address the concerning behaviour of a 19yr old man. And that in my opinion did not happen.
The school bowed out firstly by not taking my complaint seriously, and then by allegedly expelling the student. As recently as last week I was receiving messages from people purporting to be family of the student – so that suggests neither parties are addressing the actual issue.
What about the media coverage?
Of the more negative responses I have received, there has been a theme of being accused of seeking attention, or infamy. I mean really, who wants to be known as the plus size blogger who was harassed online? And in terms of followers, or followings… this situation has probably resulted in an additional 200-300 followers who will more than likely drop away once this situation is resolved or dies a natural death. Hardly a winning social media strategy.
The media attention is something I didn’t really expect, which was possibly a little naive in hindsight. I thought community pressure and a police complaint would be enough to have the issue addressed by the school and family, but it wasn’t. And as time went on and myself and my followers became more and more vocal, the story took on a life of its own.
If you know me in real life you would probably be aware of the fact that I hate being the centre of attention. I hate speaking in front of groups, I hate being scruntised or observed. I am reasonably anxious in many social situations. So the media attention was a huge challenge for me.
I don’t even really like making phone calls, so each phone call I have made, each interview I have done is something I have to really push myself to do and examine whether it is the right thing to do or not before committing.
What happens next?
My complaint is navigating its way through the system at the moment, I believe on its way to a District Attorney. I don’t really know what the process is from there.
As far as I am aware the other party has declined to make a statement to Lawrence Police.
As far as I am aware the other victims have not made statements to the Lawrence Police – due to similar misinformation, lack of record keeping in one instance, and I suspect fear in another.
Did you really mean it when you said that Lawrence was the town time forgot?
I have been asked this one a number of times. No I didn’t really mean it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always alarming when your local Police Department’s website doesn’t work and they are unable to make international calls, but it was tongue in cheek. As was my comment about it being a woman harassing holiday destination.
What is my advice to you?
If you happen to receive insulting, degrading, sexually explicit message from someone online, firstly record the incident and take a screenshot. Check if they have location services turned on and screenshot that as well. You never know when those images will come in handy. Be aware that messages can be sent and deleted as soon as the receiver has read them – screenshot any suspicious message immediately, while the Police can request the full history from Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr etc, it is easier when you have the evidence recorded yourself.
Secondly tell someone – I like to post my messages on Facebook, in an album that inspired my first blog post called Being a woman on the internet. For me it is a great way to educate my friends and family on the types of messages they may not know are being sent and received online, but also sometimes you need to hear someone else say that something is not ok.
Get informed – in the state of Kansas, it is a misdemeanor to harass someone via telecommunications device. Check what your local laws are when it comes to digital and online harassment.
In New Zealand there is a new piece of legislation called the Harmful Digital Communications Act which unfortunately does not quite yet help someone who was in my position but will eventually involve international agencies.
And lastly, it is not your fault if you are harassed online. It is disturbing the number of people who think that because my blog is resource for women and because I have a small online presence that it is acceptable that my safe use of the internet should come second to someone who wants to send me explicit and objectionable content.
It wouldn’t be ok to harass me at the beach in a swimsuit, it’s not ok to harass me on the internet because I’m in a swimsuit.