I wanted to highlight an event that precipitated (and is still brewing) in the last 12 or so hours. Penabler wrote this post in which he exposed a commenter who doesn't understand the difference between consent and assent in regard to adults raping children. In sum, he thinks children are capable of consenting to sex with adults and it is our societal norms condemning statutory rape that are the problem. Thus, this commenter believes that the teacher who raped a 14-year-old (who later committed suicide) in Montana did not deserve 15-20 years in prison, saying such a sentence would be too harsh. Regardless of what you think of our prison system, most would agree that 30 days in jail is too light a sentence and is sending the dangerous message to other child rapists that what they do is NBD!
After Penabler brought this commenter to our attention, the discussion thread ballooned to 300+ comments and counting. As these comments went on, it became clear that this commenter was not your typical rape apologist - he has zero concept of what consent actually means, nor does he seem to have any understanding of child development and children's limited ability to make sound decisions for themselves (hence the fact that adults have made laws protecting them). He stated explicitly in this comment thread that he believes consensual sex occurred between the 14-year-old and her teacher and that children are capable of consenting to sex with adults.
Another thing to note about this commenter is that he revealed that he had sex with someone significantly older than he is, though he did not specify how old he was at the time. It was suggested by several commenters that he may indeed have been a victim of abuse himself and his view pertaining to statutory rape may be his way of coping with his past. However, regardless of the reasons for this person's views, they still exist and they are akin to the rationalizations given by child molesters time and again.
One brave commenter followed her gut and took action to report this person to his local authorities (REPORTED does not mean ARRESTED). I agree with her actions in that I'd rather be wrong and overreact than allow someone with this mindset to go undetected and possibly hurt someone.
***AMENDMENT TO ABOVE PARAGRAPH (8/29/13, 10:49pm): One of you clarified to me that the whistleblower commenter notified Gawker and recommended they notify the authorities.
Just wanted to make something clear: I do not condone doxing unless there is irrefutable evidence that someone has committed a crime. Doxing has been used against feminist internet activists such as Soraya Chemaly and resorting to this method in this case would send the message that doxing should be be applied with abandon.
However, I don't think comments such as those made by someone who sounds as disturbed as the rape apologist in question should be taken lightly.
I want to hear everyone's thoughts: What should we do when we encounter commenters who raise red flags? Before you comment, I highly encourage you to scroll through this person's comments so you understand the severity of what we saw.
How should we balance our concern for privacy with concern for people's safety?
This post has been up for about 2 hours and I feel like enough of you have voiced your opinions for me to be able to draw the following conclusions as to some potential guidelines for handling situations like this in the future. I came up with this list after consulting with Penabler and this is how we think we personally would handle this situation if it comes up again.
1) Contacting the authorities and/or doxing should be reserved for explicit confessions of crimes, confessions of intent to commit crimes, and/or confessions of intent to harm oneself, other humans, or animals.
2) If a commenter raises red flags, consider reporting said commenter to Gawker, not the authorities.
3) Related to above, give yourself a cooling off period before you report anyone - we all have unique experiences and react to things in different ways. Some of us have very specific triggers that can lead us to make impulsive decisions, so walk away from the comment thread to get your blood pressure down before you do anything. Also, consider consulting with other Jezzies before you report someone - our initial reactions to people's comments may be tempered by listening to other people's advice as to what is the appropriate action to take.
Do not hesitate to make editing suggestions for this list.