The increasingly popular website JuicyCampus.com is totally changing college life (and I refuse on general principle to either visit it myself or link to it here because of the utter repugnance I’m feeling). The site, founded by Duke University graduate Matt Ivester, is a forum for college students to anonymously post the latest gossip about their postgraduate peers. There are horrible stories coming out, some lies, some gross exaggerations, and some, worst of all, the private confidences given by classmates to someone they believed to be their friend.
Perhaps the most extreme example is that of Vanderbilt student Chelsea Gorham, who was violently attacked and raped while getting a cup of coffee on a Nashville street. The devastated young lady, whose experience has heartbreaking shades of Alice Sebold’s memoir Lucky, left college for the rest of the semester to come to emotional grips from the comfort of her home. She returned to college in the fall, determined not to let her horrible experience ruin her education.
“It was very difficult to go through the routine of going to classes, going to my different activities. I had a few panic attacks. I wouldn’t go anywhere by myself after 5, and I sort of felt detached from the rest of my friends, even the ones who knew, because there were some of them that I still hadn’t told about what happened,” she said.
“I wasn’t ready to tell anybody about it yet. My friends that knew respected my decision, and I needed to be OK with myself before I let anybody else know.”
It turns out that Chelsea Gorham’s faith in her friends was horribly misguided, as she learned to her grief that spring about her status as hot gossip on JuicyCampus.com.
At first she was shocked that someone could be so ignorant as to blame a rape victim. Then she felt betrayed, knowing it must have been someone close to her because so few people knew. She said it felt almost like a second rape — a total loss of control over her situation, just as the wounds were starting to heal.
The post started to spread, and soon the whole campus seemed to know about the girl who’d been raped, and the posting on Juicy Campus.
“That was probably the hardest part — that people would come up and ask me about the post. In one case I came up to a group of people that I heard talking about the post, and they had forgotten whose name it was, but they were talking about the post that they had read on Juicy Campus, about somebody who had been raped,” she said.
“It takes the control away again,” said Chelsea. “It’s my story to tell, and no one else has the right to tell it. And that something like this was considered gossip is disgusting.”
Wow. Just … wow. The thing is, it isn’t just like someone wrote, “This girl at Vanderbilt got raped. Sucks to be her.” No, it went like this:
“Chelsea Gorman Deserved It.”
“what could she expect walking around there alone. everyone thinks she’s so sweet but she got what she deserved. wish i had been the homeless guy that f***** her. [sic]“
Gorham’s story is especially horrific, but she’s not alone as a victim of this disgusting site that exists “under the guise of ‘entertainment’.”
Want to find out who does drugs? Who’s gay? Who has STDs? What about the most promiscuous girls? The prettiest? You can find all of this information and much more on JuicyCampus.com.
Names and sometimes phone numbers and addresses are posted on the site, which has now spread to about 60 schools around the country. It was an instant hit, jumping from a few thousand to more than 250,000 page views in a matter of months. Students across the country couldn’t get enough of what was being written, and many were constantly checking to make sure their names didn’t appear.
“People can say things about someone they don’t know and there’s nobody out there to stop them,” said Rachel Wilkerson, a student at Michigan State University. “A lot of things I read on there are calling girls fat, or saying girls are sluts. Those are horrible things to say about women, and any Web site that promotes it and any person who would say those things, I just feel like is incredibly sexist and it just plays on girl’s insecurities, and I thought we left that behind after high school graduation.”
You know, I love the internet, I really do, but …