Outing Your Rapist on Twitter: Savannah Dietrich’s Fire Power

A lot has been written about Savannah Dietrich, the 17 year old girl who almost faced jail time for tweeting the names of her rapists.  After her story went viral, the prosecutor decided not to file charges against Dietrich for violating a judge’s order to stay quiet about her case.  Guilt was well proven - both boys had plead guilty, and had taken pictures of themselves assaulting Dietrich which they then showed to others.  But in a stunning twist of ironic cruelty, the court system awarded a high level of privacy to the rapists who had not only violated Dietrich but then publicized it afterward. While Dietrich’s initial action of tweeting their names appears to come from a place of hurt, anger, and frustration, her later interview showed a determined young woman who wants to right some of the unfairness that can happen to survivors when they go through the legal system.  Reactions to Dietrich have taken a wide range of viewpoints, and I want to give some props to some of what has been said already. Jessica Valenti, on re-directing shame towards the perpetrators rather than the survivors, on The Nation. Amanda Hess, on the ability for survivors to become the “the editor of her own story” and changing the way we talk about sexual assault in America, on Slate. Zerlina, on how reducing isolation can help other heal, on Feministing. And my favorite, Cara from the Curvature, who criticized some of the non-profits and spokespeople who said Dietrich should have asked the court to vacate the order instead of circumventing it.  The author discusses how problems with how sexual assaults are reported and handled in the criminal justice system stem from patriarchy, and we should be forcing those institutions to change rather than survivors to comply.   I loved Dietrich’s defiance and her anger.  Women are still criticized or dismissed for coming off angry, but sometimes we need that explosion to break through.  Whether the judge’s gag order was constitutional or not, Dietrich did what so many other women, myself included, wanted to do while going through the legal system – say Fuck You.  And get some attention and generate energy for change while saying it. Dietrich in my mind did two new things in public that could change the way we discuss sexual assault.  She claimed her right not to be raped, drinking be damned, loud and proud.  She has that right.  We all do.  But so many women still place blame on themselves.  She is young and unapologetic.  We need that. And she went nuclear with her anger.  No polite, practiced statement talking about our communal social ills.  Instead, Dietrich gave a raw, angry counter attack on the privacy of the two jerks that took hers away.  We need some of that in feminism.  SlutWalk had some of that energy too, but the message was not something everyone could get behind.  A brave woman taking a stand against an unfair court ruling is righteous anger, and I haven’t read anything that dismisses the legitimacy of her actions – just whether or not it was legal. I am disappointed that I can’t find the attackers' names after 15 minutes of searching.  Despite supporting Dietrich, many media sources are still not naming the attackers, probably because they are minors.  I sincerely hope one of the big papers that has the money to get sued does it.  That said, the boys on the bus taunting Karen Klein got a far more public shaming than these two boys ever will and that doesn’t seem fair.   To be shamed in their own community doesn't seem to be enough, since they were bragging about what they did in the first place. The legal system is only set up to protect perfect victims (from old patriarchal fairy tales), and even then the system often falls short.  Going through court proceedings or reporting an assault can be a form of brutal hazing.  Survivors feel powerless to challenge the system, especially when they’re trying to win.  Dietrich gave a shot across the bow. With a cannon.  And I hope other women start doing the same.     Image credit A1Social.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/serent Seren Thompson
  • http://www.facebook.com/BudgetJustified Lisa Schaefer Budget Justified

    Editor of my own story: A coworker at the FAA masturbated in front of me and the next day I was fired. I’m not 17 years old. I don’t drink. I don’t wear skirts. I have a PhD in engineering. Lawyers didn’t even want to take my case. So I produced a web series about it. http://BudgetJustified.com

  • DTB

    I know it’s not polite to say, but was this girl actually raped?  The only facts I can find are that there were pictures of the event (and how could those pictures show demonstrable proof of rape unless the girl was clearly being held against her will, was screaming, crying, etc.), the boys spread the photos (which suggests that they at least didn’t think what they did was wrong), and that they plead guilty for a very lenient plea bargain (what it was, I have no idea).  I have a biased opinion on these cases, I’ll admit, but I would like to know what hard evidence the prosecution has to call this rape (I know there are varying degrees of rape, and by law and depending on the state a single drink and a lack of a spoken “yes I want to have sex” that is never withdrawn can constitute second degree rape).

    Were I given the option of pitting my word against an accusers in a case like this, where there is photo evidence that can corroborate SOME of her story and none of mine, I think I’d take the plea bargain too and plead guilty, even if I knew beyond any shadow of doubt that what had happened was completely consensual. 20+ years in prison is too much to risk without certainty of victory.

    If there is more evidence that I haven’t seen (I’ve only read a few news articles), I’d be very pleased to look at it.  If this was truly rape it is a monstrous crime.  But if it isn’t, it is monstrous to denounce the boys as rapists.  The girl was shamed terribly by them, but revenge is not justice.

    • Angharakirhama

       …and this precisely is the problem. If consent was not given , IT IS RAPE. In your head, is it truly only worthy of being called “rape” if the woman in question is being held down, crying and screaming, while a gang takes turns on her? I say no – if a girl is out of it – drunk or drugged, and particularly if someone had something to do with that state – then she cannot possibly have “consensual” sex with anyone and anybody who tries to have relations with her cannot possibly do so with her consent because she was never asked for it nor is in a position to give it.  “Date rape” is not precisely what you are talking about here (the screaming and crying etc) – but are you going to tell me that date rape doesn’t exist? Really?

      The more women are bullied and shamed into silence – the more questions like this are asked (“yes, there were photos showing she was violated, but was it *rape*?”) – the more diffficult it gets for a rape victim to get any kind of justice out there. Yes, false accusations are awful and flung mud tends to stick at least a little whether or not it is aimed precisely at the correct target. But I would prefer the onus to be on the rapist to “prove” that he had consent (which he can’t, if it was not given) than for an already violated and vulnerable young woman to be second-guessed about her wishes by (mostly male) lawyers and judges smirking at her while saying, yes, but are you SURE you said no. Yes, dammit., She was sure. And anyone who made this bed should be forced to go lie in it. You don’t get a pass because you’re a “good boy”. Sorry.

      • randy5656

        WHAT REALLY HAPPENED!!!!

         reported July 26, 2012. 

        She passed out topless after a throwing up violently from alcohol poisoning ….they only took pictures. The boys plead guilty to sexual assault because it has fewer repercussions than child pornography charges. Thus why the DA accepted the plea, in cases of “rape” plea bargains are very rare because evidence so incriminating can support the crime.

         It was only when she heard about the pictures MONTHS later and decided to take legal actions. The Courier Journal, who originally published the story, is facing a lawsuit for publishing false allegations because Dietrich used the words “rapists” and such when interviewed. She was not raped and the media now is painting the boys charged as rapists.

        WAKE  UP.. 

        THE ONLY VICTIMS HERE ARE THESE BOYS!!!

    • Sick of your attitude

      You should be ashamed of yourself for even posting this garbage. YOU are part of the problem. 

    • randy5656

      WHAT REALLY HAPPENED!!!!

       reported July 26, 2012. 

      She passed out topless after a throwing up violently from alcohol poisoning ….they only took pictures. The boys plead guilty to sexual assault because it has fewer repercussions than child pornography charges. Thus why the DA accepted the plea, in cases of “rape” plea bargains are very rare because evidence so incriminating can support the crime.

       It was only when she heard about the pictures MONTHS later and decided to take legal actions. The Courier Journal, who originally published the story, is facing a lawsuit for publishing false allegations because Dietrich used the words “rapists” and such when interviewed. She was not raped and the media now is painting the boys charged as rapists.

      WAKE  UP.. 

      THE ONLY VICTIMS HERE ARE THESE BOYS!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/libby.marr.7 Libby Marr

    K. Salis: 15 minutes of searching and you couldn’t find the names of Savannah’s attackers? Really? Took me about 15 seconds. Seriously. Hint: don’t look for their names in news articles. Very good article, by the way!!!!!!!

    ”And she went nuclear with her anger.”

    Yes, indeed. Hopefully this is a shot across the bow to any future prosecutor, judge or criminal defense attorney who ever tries to gag a rape or sexual assault/abusve victim again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/krecks.donna Krecks Donna

    Don’t forget the Roman Catholic Church’s involvement in what happened.  A lot of news organizations have left that out.

    The felons who attacked Savannah are students at a Catholic boarding school; Trinity HIgh School. The felons fathers graduated from the same school. The prosecutor also graduated from the same school AND he is a member of the alumni board at the school. One of the slogans of Trinity is “brothers for life”. So no wonder the felons got a lenient plea bargain.

    • guest

       My only criticism is that it’s not a boarding school. Also, Trinity is a privately run corporation from the Archdiocese of Louisville, which-as horrible as that institution is-at least isn’t responsible in that case. I had my High School years inflicted on me by Trinity and personally have no problem with not ever having to deal with constant harassment for being queer, and rampant racism and condoning of actions like what happened to Ms. Deitrich-ever again.

    • randy5656

      WHAT REALLY HAPPENED!!!!

       reported July 26, 2012. 

      She passed out topless after a throwing up violently from alcohol poisoning ….they only took pictures. The boys plead guilty to sexual assault because it has fewer repercussions than child pornography charges. Thus why the DA accepted the plea, in cases of “rape” plea bargains are very rare because evidence so incriminating can support the crime.

       It was only when she heard about the pictures MONTHS later and decided to take legal actions. The Courier Journal, who originally published the story, is facing a lawsuit for publishing false allegations because Dietrich used the words “rapists” and such when interviewed. She was not raped and the media now is painting the boys charged as rapists.

      WAKE  UP.. 

      THE ONLY VICTIMS HERE ARE THESE BOYS!!!

      • http://www.facebook.com/cara.profaci Cara Mia Profaci

        Maybe you’re one of them or you have a rape in your own past, to be calling them “victims”.

  • randy5656

    WHAT REALLY HAPPENED!!!!

     reported July 26, 2012. 

    She passed out topless after a throwing up violently from alcohol poisoning ….they only took pictures. The boys plead guilty to sexual assault because it has fewer repercussions than child pornography charges. Thus why the DA accepted the plea, in cases of “rape” plea bargains are very rare because evidence so incriminating can support the crime.

     It was only when she heard about the pictures MONTHS later and decided to take legal actions. The Courier Journal, who originally published the story, is facing a lawsuit for publishing false allegations because Dietrich used the words “rapists” and such when interviewed. She was not raped and the media now is painting the boys charged as rapists.

    WAKE  UP.. 

    THE ONLY VICTIMS HERE ARE THESE BOYS!!!

  • randy5656

    WHAT REALLY HAPPENED!!!!

    She passed out topless after a throwing up violently from alcohol poisoning ….they only took pictures. The boys plead guilty to sexual assault because it has fewer repercussions than child pornography charges. Thus why the DA accepted the plea, in cases of “rape” plea bargains are very rare because evidence so incriminating can support the crime.

     It was only when she heard about the pictures MONTHS later and decided to take legal actions. The Courier Journal, who originally published the story, is facing a lawsuit for publishing false allegations because Dietrich used the words “rapists” and such when interviewed. She was not raped and the media now is painting the boys charged as rapists.

    THE ONLY VICTIMS HERE ARE THESE BOYS!!!

    SAVANNAH ALSO BEGAN WITCHHUNT CAMPAIGN AGAINST BOYS ON THE INTERNET: http://imgur.com/owQzy 

  • Also a parent

    Randy, It’s probably more like… They took her shirt off!

  • Jsjdheh Jan

    Douchebag