Saturday, November 1, 2014

Anonymous Strikes Again: Reopens Rape Case

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Anonymous, an international network of activists and hackers, has for a long time been at the forefront of vigilante calls for justice from Singapore to Syria to Maryville, Mo. Given the international nature of this hacking collective, their influence has spread quite a distance.

Anonymous has the defiant slogan, “We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.” With their notorious mask, Anonymous has made a name for themselves across the world. And now, with their help, Daisy Coleman might see justice for what happened to her Jan. 8, 2012.

Everything changed for Coleman on that cold night as she and a friend of hers slipped into Matthew Barnett’s car and drove to his house, something Coleman admitted her parents would not have approved of. She would end up regretting the moment she made that decision.

After sneaking alcohol into the co-ed sleepover, Coleman claimed that her 13-year-old friend was raped. The case went to juvenile court and the results were sealed. Coleman, 14 at the time, also reported Barnett raping her while his friend, Jordan Zech, videotaped part of the assault on his cellphone. Barnett denied the accusations. He admitted sex with Coleman, but said it was consensual.

Afterward, Coleman was left on the front porch in freezing temperatures, wearing just a T-shirt and sweatpants, her hair frozen by the time she was discovered by her mother. Felony charges were filed against the boys, and then dropped.

Barnett was a senior football player in high school and is the grandson of State Sen. Rex Barnett who was in charge of funding the sheriff’s office from 1994-2002, according to the Washington Post. Not surprisingly, many attributed the dropped charges to this influence, though I would be skeptical of the allegations.

Yet when Anonymous caught wind of the dropped rape case after an investigative piece was published in Kansas City Star, they descended upon Maryville with startling speed, declaring that should Maryville not stand for justice, they would.

“If Maryville won’t defend these young girls, if the police are too cowardly or corrupt to do their jobs, if the justice system has abandoned them, then we will have to stand for them,” a press release from Anonymous stated. “Mayor Jim Fall, your hands are dirty. Maryville, expect us.”

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Coleman went on to write a piece for xojane.com, a leading online magazine for women, concerning the events that took place and the toll it took on herself.

“I was suspended from the cheerleading squad and people told me that I was ‘asking for it’ and would ‘get what was coming,’” Coleman wrote. “I saw myself as ugly, inside and out. I burned and carved the ugly I saw into my arms, wrists, legs and anywhere I could find room. On Twitter and Facebook, I was called a skank and a liar and people encouraged me to kill myself. Twice, I did try to take my own life. I sat alone in my room, most days, pondering the worth of my life. I quit praying because if God were real, why would he do this?”
According to the Los Angeles Times, the case has been reopened and is being investigated by Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Baker.

I believe Anonymous can be largely credited for this, thanks to their mysterious team spearheading “OpMaryville.” A protest demanding “Justice for Daisy,” organized by Kansas City women’s activist Courtney Cole, was planned for Oct. 22 in the courthouse square. Anonymous joined forces with Cole in support of the demonstration.

Many have disputed whether Anonymous should be getting involved in a rape case like this, given the internet vigilantism nature of their group. This is not, however, the first rape case that Anonymous has brought to light. The group tweeted about a case concerning two 18-year-old football players and two 13-year-old girls March 20, 2013 and “OpRaider” was created.

Dr. Mark Shaneck, professor of computational sciences and online chair of cyber security at Liberty University, attributed their involvement to an increasing amount of endeavors.
“Anonymous seems to be expanding the scope of their operations, moving from large political issues to include more local, social issues. In doing so, they seem to be trying to bolster their reputation as defenders of the defenseless, as a group that will stick up for the everyman who can’t stand up against the system.”

No doubt Anonymous has created a mass of followers and members, offering the hacking collective opportunities to attempt operations they were not able to do earlier. But without any top brass or central figureheads — as far as I know — their aim can be dangerously far and wide.

“(Anonymous) run(s) the risk of affecting too large of a target,” Shaneck said. “Due to the nature of their tactics, they can easily affect those only loosely related to the issue, and not directly involved, as was seen in the Steubenville case. They can easily destroy the very types of people they are claiming to defend.”

As I watch with intrigue the scope of Anonymous’ actions, I see a group that is capable of swaying the minds and hearts of those in power, influencing any and all who hear their call for justice. Yet with a decentralized command, they must exhibit discipline and laser-like focus to make an impact.

My note to Coleman: Keep on fighting and do not let others bring you down. Also, do not give up praying to God. I promise you he never has and never will give up on you. He is the source of my strength and I know he can be the source of yours. When it seems like no one is standing up for you, he is.

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