Like many places of higher learning, the University of Wyoming in Laramie has a student-organized ‘Crushes’ page on Facebook. The premise is simple: students who have the hots for a coed but are too shy to do anything about it message the page’s anonymous moderator their crush, and the moderator then posts the gushy declaration on the page without giving away the author’s name. Everyone loves a secret admirer and the page was a big hit, until an alleged hoax came along and ruined it.
Last weekend, a message appeared on UW Crushes that was a good deal darker than the usual drooly horndoggery seen on the page. It read, “I want to hatef**k Meg Lanker-Simons so hard. That chick that runs her liberal mouth all the time and doesn’t care who knows it. I think its hot and it makes me angry. One night with me and shes gonna be a good Republican b**ch.” Lanker-Simons, a campus activist, quickly responded with a wall of text and then called campus police. She also publicly spoke out against the statement, calling it a rape threat. “I’m a rape survivor myself,” she told the Laramie Boomerang. “That is one of the worst things someone can threaten.”
After an investigation, authorities learned that the post allegedly came from Lanker-Simons’ own computer. Tuesday, campus police released an official statement announcing that Lanker-Simons has been cited for interfering with a police investigation. According to the statement, “UW police obtained substantial evidence verifying that the offending Facebook post came from Lanker-Simons’ computer, while the computer was in her possession.” It is unknown what, if any, other sanctions will be imposed against her by the university. As a result of the commotion, the UW Crushes page was shut down. Fortunately for the shy (or just gossipy) students of the University of Wyoming, another one, called UW Crushes 2.0, quickly sprung up to take its place. This one, allegedly under new management, doesn’t allow sexually explicit postings, to the disappointment of some students.
As for Meg Lanker-Simons, it’s likely that she won’t be a popular figure on campus. If Lanker-Simons did indeed send the Facebook page a rape threat about herself, then she is a very troubled young woman, and the blowback from this hoax will only trouble her more. On her blog, she responded to the events by stating simply: “In regards to recent allegations, I’ve retained counsel and entered a plea of not guilty. Any further questions can be directed to my attorney of record, Charles Pelkey of Laramie.”
The previous posts on her blog show photographs of a small rally at which she spoke out against rape and rape culture. There are also many photographs of signs made by Lanker-Simons and other students which denounce rape jokes. One reads, “Wanting to hatef*** someone until she shuts up is a rape threat.” If Lanker-Simons wrote the threat as a catalyst for an anti-rape rally on campus, it was a hideously misguided stunt that undermines her entire message. Instead of educating students about campus rape, Lanker-Simons’ rally will now serve the function of making rape jokes even funnier for many students.
If Lanker-Simons is not guilty of posting the message, then campus police made a serious blunder by outing her as a rape hoaxer prematurely. Whatever the outcome of her court proceedings, Lanker-Simons, if not expelled, will likely remain a campus pariah.
Fortunately, no specific student was targeted as the alleged perpetrator of the threat, which could have led to dire consequences for an innocent young man. Lanker-Simons’ alleged behavior–whatever the intention–diminishes the seriousness of campus rape. Hopefully this incident will be regarded as a fluke occurrence and future rape threats will not be dismissed as hoaxes and handled properly.