In debating claims of assault, the losers are the real victims

It’s a story that’s strangely common on the Internet. A woman posts something about being attacked by a man, and thousands rush to deny the story.

In this particular case, Laurie, a young woman from Bristol, U.K., claimed she was head-butted by a male attacker when she stepped into a public altercation. The post of her photo went viral, and a Tumblr user named Jacob responded with with a post detailing the reasons for his disbelief—a post that also went viral.

A victim of sexual assault herself, Laurie made her original post on Oct. 18. A picture of her bruised face precedes a triumphant statement about standing up for a battered woman. It has gotten more than 100,000 notes on Tumblr.

“This, ladies and gentlemen, is what you get when you stand up to a man who beats his young girlfriend in public. Not the black eye, not the broken nose, but the sense of being a fucking great human being,” she wrote.

The response from Jacob discrediting Laurie’s statement has gotten more than 19,000 notes. Jacob walks through most the evidence that Laurie has posted to argue that Laurie isn’t telling the truth. He claims that a medical student tells him that her black-eye photos do not look credible, and he questions the validity of her court documents because they lack any kind of seal or signature.

He suggests her allegedly fabricated story isn’t doing anything to help female assault victims, either.

“Surely preaching equality through, ‘Can we all just not hit each other?’ Rather than, ‘Men are pigs and they hit women!’ would be a better way to go, but then again, you did put make up on your face and fabricate a whole story…”

In response, Laurie posted close-ups of her broken nose, three newspaper articles about the assault, her court summons, and a video answering nonbelievers’ questions.

“It’s a shame that despite absolutely everything I have posted to prove this is a legitimate thing that happened … people are still, STILL creating (albeit weak) arguments against me,” she wrote. “Jesus, people just can’t step back and go ‘no I am sorry, I was wrong.’ They have to continue to find flaws.”

This isn’t the first time people have attempted to disprove a female assault victim’s online story with only the feeblest of excuses. Last September, Redditors claimed a battered woman created her facial bruises with makeup. She responded by creating a video in which she tried—and failed—to wash off her wounds.

This pattern regularly plays itself out on the Internet with startling regularity. On the one hand, rather than believe that humans would do such terrible things to each other—especially men behaving this way toward women—people would rather believe victims just want attention. But on the other, it can be consistently amazing what some people will do to get Internet points.

In these situations, it can be impossible to know whom to believe (though we’re checking into it). People may be empowered by the Internet to tell their story, but when they’re also empowered to tell lies, it only makes it harder for real victims of abuse to receive justice.

UPDATE: James Turner of the Weston & Somerset Mercury told the Daily Dot that the paper’s story on the alleged attack has been removed from the web pending the outcome of the trial. 

“The man involved has been charged with common assault and assault by beating, and will be appearing at court for a trial (only for the common assault charge as he has admitted the other charge). Therefore we won’t be publishing any more about what is alleged to have happened until the trial is completed, as it is potentially prejudicial,” he said.

Photo via paper-snow-a-ghost/Tumblr

Lauren Rae Orsini

Lauren Rae Orsini

Lauren Rae Orsini is a web culture reporter who specializes in anime and the business of fandom. Her work has been published by Forbes and Business Insider.