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    Is Yik Yak The New Weapon Against Campus Rape Culture?

    In the 90s, women stood up to rape culture on campus by writing the names of alleged culprits on bathroom walls. Is this anonymous message board the next protest stall? [A submission to BuzzAdemia: a Like-reviewed academic journal]

    I recently saw this Yik Yak post about a rape on campus

    Yik Yak

    Yik Yak is that juicycampus-like, anonymous messaging board that is typically the site of bathroom humor, complaints about bad campus wifi, and occasionally some netprov. It's that place where undergrads find out where to turn up to turn up. Posts are anonymous and can only be contributed by those living in a 10-mile radius (though you can "peek" at yaks in other locations).

    This particular post seemed to be tied to discussions stirred up by philanthropic events organized along with a "Title IX Week," which included a valuable and imminently necessary sexual assault workshop.

    And reading this anonymous post got me thinking about last year's UVA/Rolling Stone Rape on Campus story and its aftermath, which was also discussed on Yik Yak.

    But of course Yik Yak responded to that, too.

    Which all just points to a widespread rape culture that persists on campuses

    These Yik Yak posts gave rise to a conversation, a dialogue, anonymous though the participants may be.

    And the inevitable sense that an anonymous shout is beyond reproach.

    oh, and remember, that little number on the side shows the net approval rating (upvotes beating out downvotes here by 42. Yep...).

    In the 90s, rape lists appeared on the bathroom stalls at Brown...

    The facilities maintenance crew kept scrubbing them away, and yet they kept reappearing.

    Those lists and national conversation they roiled made an impact on how cases of sexual assault were handled.

    Here's a similar rape list that appeared in a bathroom at Columbia more recently. Unlike Yik Yak, as Kim Knight has pointed out to me, the women's bathroom stall is a place where men might not be expected to go. Unlike Yik Yak, visitors have an expectation of privacy or that the space will be segregated by gender.

    However, the story of these lists demonstrate that these charges, for all their implications legal and human, are so explosive that they lose the scrim of privacy the moment they are written. No bathroom stall has a door when it comes to charges of rape, even if the victim has found that in other ways she (or he) is trapped behind soundproof walls. And perhaps knowing how this graffiti will fly off the walls is one of the reasons this tactic of resistance becomes so effective.

    Until sexual assault is treated more fully by colleges and universities, while victims are still blamed, shamed and silenced, these kinds of anonymous protests, with all their potential danger, will continue to be necessary.

    On Yik Yak, posters cannot name names because the maintenance crew have automatic scrubbers, but in these bathroom stalls, visitors can cast their vote on the graffiti, voting off bad behavior and voting up what they support. It's not a perfect system. But it is another kind of bathroom stall wall.

    Could Yik Yak be a bathroom stall with protest potential?

    Anonymous platforms aren't perfect. Anyone could have written these posts. And yet, since names cannot be named (victim or assailant) due to Yik Yak's terms of service, this could be a space to just spread awareness. Imagine reading messages from victims of sexual abuse and rape before heading out to that next rager.

    Would it prevent sexual assault? Perhaps not. Would it give one pause? I'd hope so.

    But could these be false? These could be mere fictions. Isn't that the worst attack on a victim's claim? To suggest that his or her story might not be true? Because of the anonymity built into Yik Yak's platform, that truthfulness is called into question even more. But the question for me in a space that does not name names is not did this happen but could this have happened? Has this happened? Is this happening? Statistics suggest as much.

    Anonymous posting boards have been decried for facilitating cyberbullying and racism, but cannot they also prove useful in the long tradition of outcry from victims and the truly vulnerable?

    We might not know if these particular rapes ever really happened or even if they were posted by students. But we do know one thing without a doubt: as of Friday afternoon, no rape has yet occurred Friday evening. Let's creatively use whatever tools we can find to keep it that way.

    Mark C. Marino teaches writing at the University of Southern California with degrees from and great affection for Brown, Loyola Marymount, University of Notre Dame, and UC Riverside.