UW student targeted with violent, sexual language on anonymous web page; police investigate

Apr 25, 2013

University of Wyoming police are investigating an anonymous message posted to a public Facebook page. The message directed sexually violent language toward a UW student.

UW Crushes is a page on Facebook where users can anonymously submit messages about other UW students. They’re usually vague compliments, but some are sexually explicit or use real names.

 On Wednesday night, an unnamed poster targeted undergraduate Meg Lanker-Simons, a blogger and community radio show host who is a vocal advocate for many progressive social issues. The explicit post said her liberal messages made the poster angry, and that the poster wanted to have sex with Lanker-Simons until she became a quote “good Republican.” Lanker-Simons says she felt threatened.

 “I’m married. I don’t know you. And, honestly, I have been open about the fact on my website that I am a survivor of rape. You don’t message something like that to someone who’s been the victim of a sexual assault. Because to me, that’s saying that, ‘I’m going to have sex with you against your will until you believe what I believe,’ Lanker-Simons says.

 “You’re going to use sex as a weapon… as punishment.”

 After backlash from students and alumni, UW Crushes removed the post. Page administrators posted a statement, identifying themselves only as “Engineering students” and saying they are too busy to read all of the page’s submissions before posting them.

 UW Spokesman Chad Baldwin says UW Crushes is not affiliated with the University, and that UW is looking into whether the post “constitutes a criminal violation.”

 STOP Violence Coordinator Megan Selheim says it’s not uncommon for outspoken women to be threatened with rape, or to be told they deserve the negative attention. Selheim says “rape culture” normalizes and makes light of gender-related violence, and outspoken women are often targeted with threats.

 “It can make it more difficult for survivors to reach out for help, or they may have trouble recognizing that what happened to them is not okay and that there is recourse for them,” Selheim says.

 “It can also cause people to think it’s okay to behave more aggressively or more threateningly than they might otherwise do if they were more aware of how other people perceive their actions.”

 Selheim says anyone upset by the post on UW Crushes can call the STOP Violence offices for support. Information is available at their website: http://www.uwyo.edu/stop/