There’s nothing we can’t poison

Hate and ugly criticism. If we try harder, as a species, we can eventually convey it to everyone thanks to tools like the Internet.

It’s not enough to threaten non-violent or non-hurtful women who campaign for bank-notes depictions; it’s not enough to threaten complete strangers with death, hate, pain for changing stats in imaginary weapons on a video game. Disproportional reactions, anchored by animosity, can target anyone.

For example, how about a woman kidnapped and sexually assaulted for a decade, whose recent discovery was greeted by universal joy. Amanda Berry, Gina Dejesus, and Michelle Knight were kept as rape prisoners for years by an Ohio man.

Mary Elizabeth Williams, from Salon, describes recent events as Berry tries to take active to move on with her life.

Over the weekend, Berry made her first public appearance since her escape this spring. At Cleveland’s annual RoverFest, WMMS radio host Shane “Rover” French told the crowd, “I want you to give this person a bigger round of applause and cheer than me, anyone on the show, any of the acts that are here. I’m going to bring out a family that you probably know.” And then, acknowledging her very recent past, he said, “I told her she had a little bit of time to make up on the partying, and you guys would help her out tonight.” Berry, surrounded by friends and family, came out waving and smiling, and later returned to dance on the stage when rapper Nelly called her back to dedicate a song to her. It was just one day after her accused captor Ariel Castro entered a guilty plea to 900 criminal counts, “including kidnapping, rape and attempted murder,” a plea that will carry a prison sentence of life without parole. 

Then “the Internet” found out.

“It’s just odd given the years of abuse she suffered. Normally she would not have that kind of trust or comfort. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t make sense,” wrote one concerned ABC News commenter, while another more bluntly decided, “It seems to me she was enjoying it and is gonna use her ordeal to cash in.” Many were concerned that she appeared with a man who stood behind her and warmly put his arm around her and kissed her neck while she was onstage. Or, as some of the ABC commenters decided, he was a “dirt bag hanging all over her,” who “groped” and “pawed” her. A CBS News commenter more generously decided she looked “pretty hot.” And 645 comments later on NBC, Berry had plenty of well-wishers but also comments about her eyebrow piercing, and how she doesn’t look like “a real victim….lol.” And of course, if you want to plumb the absolute bottom of the barrel, there’s YouTube, where Berry is being  accused of “milking everything she’s getting.”

I’m not going to speculate on why people would say such things. It’s pointless. When you use the comment sections as your diary, when the thoughts that pass through the darkest recesses of your mind which you would never utter aloud appear as pixels, it’s quite clear this isn’t about communication. This is about getting your opinion out there; putting thoughts to… something.

Let it be known that something is fishy about this women who suffered more than probably most of us will ever know. She’s just not being “victim-y” enough! She’s not crying all the time, being isolated and afraid of everything! Why is she not acting the way I want her to act! Therefore, she must want something. And all she could want is money.

Forgetting that what she could be wanting is to move on, to feel normal again, to not let the horror continue to imprison her. That would just be ridiculous! She’s obviously a bad person because reasons!

Oh no, anonymous Internet commenters: You’re speculations are top notch, as always! You’re giving us even more reason to fall to our knees, wish for a vengeful god’s existence and Her thorough smiting – because right now, I feel kind of embarassed to be a human person.

Amanda Berry is incredibly brave, worthy of our utmost respect and admiration. Being in the spotlight brings with it the nitpicking, lecherous perspective beloved by rubbish-searching, breast-focused, fat-sifting tabloid media. Almost always. If Amanda Berry, survivor and hero, can be poked and prodded with the stick of dirty suspicion, there’s no hope for anyone.

However, we must never let such a view poke us into silence, submission or fear. They are a minority and we must not forget it – no matter how vile you might feel as a human, as no doubt you did after reading about this.


  1. CaitieCat says

    Thanks for writing about this, Tauriq. I hope she finds happiness in whatever ways she can, for as long as she can.

  2. smrnda says

    Even if she were milking this for money, after what she went through I’d say she’s kind of entitled to.

    On the ‘real victim’ – if you actually seem devastated, people will just complain that you’re ‘not getting over it.’ No way to win with some people.

  3. The Cuckoo Child says

    I think she is brave and it must be really difficult to get accustomed to being free and not constantly doing what her abuser instructed, after so many years. I really wish that she has lots of people around who love her for who she is and not use her as a way of getting publicity by her going to something. I wish all of the women found, the very best. Thank you for writing a really good article.

  4. resident_alien says

    Natascha Kampusch, who had been in captivity for almost 10 years (more than half her life, she’d been abducted at age 9) wrote about this phenomenon; how people want to dictate to her how she is to be a good and proper victim. How people spit on the pavement when they see her walking by. How even her own father tried to paint her as a collaborator to her kidnapper. Sometimes, people are just repulsive.

    • CaitieCat says

      resident_alien, do you have a link to that writing? I’d be very interested. I’m good if it’s in German, too. 🙂

      • resident_alien says

        Sorry, CaitieCat, I don’t have a link. She wrote a book about her captivity and the aftermath, I skimmed though it at the library (no money to buy books at the mo’ ,boohoo!) and this article reminded me of what She wrote.

  5. maudell says

    [TW – victime blaming]

    The worse I have read about Amanda Berry is that because she dares to try to have fun and have a life, because she doesn’t appear broken enough, she must have wanted to be a sex slave for this human waste of a guy. And since it took 10 years to find the women, it must be because they didn’t try hard enough to leave. It’s so weird how people want to codify proper ‘victimhood’. I understand that Berry doesn’t want her whole person to become a unidimensional victim. Just live, after having lost such an important decade of her life. Is it me perceiving things wrong or is this a treatment pretty much reserved to victims of sexual assault? I never read stuff like that about people getting mugged. But I could be wrong.

  6. says

    People who don’t grieve “enough” can get this kind of treatment. Never mind if you wake up crying in the middle of the night, when no one can see.

  7. LicoriceAllsort says

    The same characteristics that made Amanda Berry a hero are now being held up as proof that she’s not victim enough. She was imprisoned for 10 years by someone who could have easily killed her if her escape attempt hadn’t been successful. She knew that and yet chose not to be paralyzed when she saw an opportunity to run for the door. She took it. How brave was that? And now she’s choosing not to be paralyzed by fear but to go out in public and to live a live that she wants for herself. Daring to have fun in public is just more evidence of her resiliency, IMO.

  8. says

    I remember hearing comments like this on the radio when Canadian citizen Maher Arar was given a big (multi-million $$) settlement from the Canadian government by way of apology for its role in his rendition by the US to Syria (I think) where he was tortured.

    Suffice it to say such commentary made me very angry.

  9. says

    Back when stories were published on paper, a woman who was horribly mauled by a bear, after more than thirty reconstructive surgeries, was callously and casually described by a reporter as “Looking too good to have been the victim of an attack.” Apparently she didn’t look maimed enough to suit that airhead of a reporter. I later read the woman’s biography, and she was devastated by the comment, which made it that much harder for her to recover, feeling that she was always being judged about what kind of a victim she was.

  10. Paul Timothy says

    What’s the harm of little blaspheming idi*ts?

  11. extinct_arachnid says

    I’m sure we can all agree that if any of these internet commenters met Berry in real life, they would be as polite and concerned as the rest of us. The façade of anonymity the internet provides allows people to express socially unacceptable opinions or theories they may have. Kind of like this one. So, why do you feel enraged on her behalf? If Berry were to see such scepticism of her actions, wouldn’t she sweep it into the mental file that Jewish people use for Holocaust-deniers? They’re out there, but the majority of this ‘hate’ is applied solely to events (like this one) where we can simply dismiss it as a quirk of the internet and safely assume most of these imbeciles are only lunatics when they think nobody is watching.
    The ABC news commenters are a different story, but I think that they may be the exception that proves the rule (don’t quote me on that).

  12. says

    So, why do you feel enraged on her behalf?

    Because she f@##ing-well merits it!

    Okay, that was my knee-jerk response. Here the actual answer…

    People feel enraged, but its not necessarily “on her behalf”. People who passionately value justice tend to get enraged when they see injustice, regardless of the target. People who passionately value compassion tend to get enraged when they see cruelty. People who feel genuine empathy tend to become enraged when they encounter genuine insensitivity toward those who need it most.

    I’d like to give you the benefit of the doubt that you don’t fall into that this category, but your entire comment doesn’t bode well for you on that.

    If Berry were to see such scepticism of her actions, wouldn’t she sweep it into the mental file that Jewish people use for Holocaust-deniers?

    If she had your specific psychology, your specific education, your specific frame of reference, and your specific life experiences, then perhaps you’re right… perhaps she’d file things away mentally exactly as you might. Or other people.

    But since none of that is true, would you allow for the possibility that maybe she won’t have the exact same responses to situations and social encounters as you (or others) might?

    They’re out there, but the majority of this ‘hate’ is applied solely to events (like this one) where we can simply dismiss it as a quirk of the internet and safely assume most of these imbeciles are only lunatics when they think nobody is watching.

    No, I do not excuse that behavior. If people blank out the fact that their comments are going to be read by real people with real feelings, then they will earn my condemnation and lose my respect.

      • says

        Thanks brother. I’ve grown increasingly impatient with the cavalier manner in which people blank-out the fact that they are addressing human beings when they talk on the internet.

        I have a friend whose attitude is that at no time should one take internet dialogue seriously. Nothing anyone says means anything – anything goes.

        I can understand this error having been made in the early days of the internet. Hell, I leaned that way myself at first. But after this many years of data… after enough careers are affected, friendships lost, and teen suicides, there is hardly an excuse at this point for anyone to believe that the things they say to people online can’t possibly harm or affect anyone. And there’s never an excuse to believe that someone else will or even ought to have the same responses to situations that we would have.

        As far as I’m concerned, there is no degree to which Berry, Knight and DeJesus can “over-do” their response to what they’ve suffered. If they milk their ordeal for financial gain, I say go for it. More power to them. No amount will be too much. They’ve endured enough to merit every cent. If they desire PTSD counseling for the rest of their lives, they ought to have it, and at the expense of Ariel Castro.

        And if they feel the need to, in any way shape or form, live out the childhood and teen years they missed – even if it means making the mistakes a teen might make – then I also support them on that. Let them facebook themselves silly. Let them post a thousand selfies on their walls. Let them have a friends list with 10k people on it. Let them write memoirs. Let them heal in any way they need to. Do offer advice and assistance. Do not offer condemnation or make demands. And whatever you do – do not ever presume that their response to any situation ought be gauged by what ours might be.

        Great post, by the way. I find your blog to be one of the best that FTB has to offer.