Anonymous App Exposes Sexual Assault on Campus

Warning: This piece contains mention of sexual assault on campus. If you are struggling with any issue related to this, you can confidentially reach out to Sexual Assault Victims Advocate Andrea Bucciarelli, located in Chase 223. She can be reached by calling 207-753-6996, or by emailing [email protected].

If you’re a student on Bates campus, chances are that you have either seen or were shown a post from a certain anonymous social media app in the past month. This app first became popular last Spring when students began experimenting with anonymous posts and an Instagram account was created to showcase the best ones. Most of these posts are trivial; they range from complaints about schoolwork to which parties to attend to anecdotes about funny squirrels.

However, recently, more and more posts are dedicated to a different theme: sexual assault on campus.

Although it’s difficult to pinpoint the single post that sparked the unrest, conversations around sexual assault first started when someone called out a male student who had allegedly raped and sexually assaulted multiple women. A commenter named the student, beginning an onslaught of posts warning others about the student’s behavior and calling for him to be held accountable.

This student is not the only one named on the app. Another post asked students to write the names of other students who they considered “red dots”, surfacing the names of several male students who are accused of being rapists, sexual assailants, or otherwise uncomfortable presences at parties or in classrooms.

The worst thing about these conversations is that they aren’t at all surprising, especially to many non-male students on campus. One night, a close friend of mine expressed that he couldn’t believe that a known rapist was freely walking around campus. To me, this is common knowledge; I walk around every day interacting with women that I know have been sexually assaulted, and men that I know are sexual assailants.

The anonymous social media app isn’t perfect. Even when users explicitly called for the names of sexual abusers, responses included people making dumb jokes reminiscent of elementary school bullying. Worse still, the anonymity of the app can create toxic situations where liars aren’t held accountable. I am always inclined to believe potential victims, but it’s worrying that anyone could be accused of horrible behaviors without any means to explain or defend themselves. 

However, this anonymity also means that the issue of sexual assault on campus is being addressed like I have never seen it before, and victims are provided with a platform to expose their abusers without fear of retribution or ridicule. It’s incredibly powerful – and admittedly exciting – to see this dialogue occurring, and to finally witness abusers being called out, often for behaviors that women have observed them doing all along.

This social media app is by no means a perfect system in which to address and repair sexual damage on this campus. Still, considering the widespread disenchantment in our current Title IX process and the constant “red dot” behaviors still happening on campus, anonymous posts are a pretty decent way to finally hold some people accountable.