Anna Gensler, the woman behind the GranniePants project where she drew the pictures of men who aggressively propositioned her over Tindr in a "sad-naked" style, posted a piece yesterday about the abusive and threatening responses she's received since her project went viral and her experiences with law enforcement in dealing with them.
It has been over a month since these threats started and the police were notified. I have kept quiet in the hopes that the system put in place to protect us all would act competently and with care, but that has not been the case. Violence against women is too prevalent to take threats lightly and to not act swiftly against them. I am lucky that my threats have not been acted upon, but too many women are forced to silently deal with violence, abuse, and rape without any real support. Fear is the greatest weapon in silencing people, but it is important to remember that our voice is the greatest tool in enacting change. So yes, I am afraid, but I need my voice to be heard.
In the piece, she talks about working with a detective to handle a set of threats that came from a particular subject she depicted. On her own, she determined that the subject was local to her and could pose a more immediate threat. The picture she paints of law enforcement is not a great one. In one example, the detective she is working with tries to dissuade her from continuing her project, claiming:
"...just so you know, we can't just keep coming in to protect you if you keep trolling these guys and they keep threatening you. That's not what the police are set up to do."
I can't believe my ears. The police department isn't set up to protect people? You can't protect me against a person who has clearly broken the law? If a person needs your help more than once, you can't provide it? You believe that I am the problem in this situation, the "troll", when this man started by sending me rude messages online, I drew a doodle of him naked, and now he is threatening my life? I want to shout all these things to the officer, but finally my Dad peaks his head out from the back seat.
The detective she works with left a response for the abuser and ended up being a target of a threat himself. She also tells of how the detective sent a subpoena for more information on the abusive user to Google because the account was registered with a gmail email address, when she had already instructed him it should have been sent to Verizon as that was the source of the IP address.
This isn't really at all surprising or out of line with what a woman online can expect. Amanda Hess' piece from the beginning of this year on Why Women Aren't Welcome On The Internet documents plenty of cases of similar online abuse and threats, and how law enforcement isn't well equipped to follow up on such instances.
In Hess' case, detectives weren't familiar enough with twitter to understand how to retrieve evidence that had been scrubbed from public viewing:
Luckily, I had taken screenshots of the tweets, but to the cops working with a limited understanding of the platform, their sudden disappearance only confused the issue. The detective assigned to my case asked me to send him links pointing to where the messages lived online—but absent a subpoena of Twitter's records, they were gone from law enforcement's view. If someone had reported the threats before I got a chance to see them, I might not even have been able to indicate their existence at all.
Gensler's account indicates her case is still unresolved. Her last point is the most powerful one to me, since it pins down the potential of where these threats could end up should they continue to go unchecked by law enforcement:
This issue of violence against women has been at the forefront of the news lately, but it took the tragedy in California with Elliot Rodger for that to happen. This issue should be important enough to not only address after the fact. After the fact does not save the lives lost in California. The police were warned in that instance and they didn't do a thing. They went to the man's house, he seemed nice enough, and they left him alone. He openly admitted that had the police investigated further, his plan would have been ruined. Those innocent people would not have been killed. Yes, I am thankfully alive and unscathed, but for that I thank God, or fate, or pure luck. I do not thank the Police department, because if this man had decided to act out on these threats like Elliot Roger had, I would be dead and the police didn't do a think (sic) to prevent that.
(h/t to Nadia Kamil for tweeting about this)