Internet troll gets jail time for tweeting rape threats ‘in protest’ of Jane Austen banknotes
On July 24, 2013, the Bank of England announced that they would be issuing a banknote featuring the likeness of author Jane Austen. While most would see this as a rather innocuous thing to do, at least one man was furious about. Furious enough to, five days later, start tweeting disturbing rape threats to Stella Creasey, a Member of Parliament who had supported the Austen banknote, and Caroline Criado-Perez, an advocate for the campaign.
Although 33 year-old Peter Nunn did not seem to think that there was anything wrong with said threats, having tweeted “If you can’t threaten to rape a celebrity, what is the point in having them?,” his threats and harassment were taken seriously by district judge Elizabeth Roscoe, and he was sentenced to 4-5 months in prison for them. He was sentenced under section 127 of the Communications Act, which outlaws electronic messages which are “grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene, or menacing character.”
Said threats included such classics as:
“Hi, it took Twitter 30 minutes to ban me before. I’m here again to tell you that I’ll rape you tomorrow at 6pm.”
“Caroline Criado Perez you’re hot, can you blame a man for wanting to #rape you #shoutingback #shoutback take it as a compliment not abuse.”
“Best way to rape a witch, try and drown her first, then just as she is gagging for air, that is when you enter.”
Both Creasey and Criado-Perez stated that Nunn’s campaign against them had caused them extreme anxiety and to worry for their own safety. Criado-Perez reported getting dizzy spells, and Creasey installed a panic button in her home and stated that the incident had changed the way she interacted with and trusted people.
During his trial, Nunn tried to claim that he was actually a “feminist” and that he was “satirizing” online trolls who send rape threats. Which sounds like a heck of a lot of bullshit. His lawyer claimed he was deeply sorry for all the stress and anxiety he had caused, but Judge Roscoe felt his demeanor did not show that, stating that he appeared “egocentric,” stating “It was really all about you and your opinions and what you wanted to do. Although we’re only talking about six tweets, it was persistent. You moved account when one was blocked.”
Roscoe, when sentencing him, said she only gave him 18 weeks in light of his “good character,” the fact that he had no criminal record, and the impact it might have on his girlfriend and three year-old daughter. “However,” she stated, “it has to be an immediate sentence. There is no reason to suspend it. I’m not convinced that that would give the message that this is entirely unacceptable.”
What is also pretty unacceptable is for this dude to have a three-year-old daughter in the first place. I’m sorry, but it scares the crap out of me that a man who can make light about something like rape is raising a young girl. I certainly hope there will be some follow-up by social services to make sure that little girl is OK. If I were the girlfriend, I would take my kid and run.
We always assume that the men who do these sorts of things are teenage boys venting out their angst “in their mother’s basements.” I think because it makes it easier to deal with on some level. But the unfortunate thing is that these “trolls” are often adult men with girlfriends, wives and families. Who probably seem perfectly normal in day-to-day situations, and then get on a computer and threaten women over innocuous shit like who’s going to be on a damned banknote. And we’re supposed to be “too sensitive?” Shit.
It’s actually very telling that the women who receive these threats are often advocating things that are completely innocuous. The message isn’t as much about anger over a Jane Austen banknote as it is about using intimidation to make women shut the fuck up. They want women to see other women getting vitriolically attacked for minor things, and to go “Oh shit, I don’t want that to happen to me. I’m keeping my mouth shut.”
I realize it seems melodramatic, perhaps, to some, that Creasey and Criado-Perez reported such extreme anxiety over a few tweets. But just because something isn’t happening right in front of your face doesn’t mean it can’t scare you. It’s almost not even so much the actual threat of rape as the fact that it’s terrifying that someone would go to that well in the first place. It honestly does shake one’s faith in humanity to know that, lurking inside some totally normal-seeming guy, is some misogynistic dirtbag who thinks it’s whimsical or cute to pull shit like that. That’s what makes you lose your ability to trust, and that’s what causes a great deal of anxiety.
I hope that this sets an example for the United States, and that we start taking these threats more seriously here as well. It’s not whimsical, and it’s not cute, and no, women do not need to get thicker skin. If anything, we’ve got far thicker skin than some dude crying over Jane Austen banknotes. Harassing women online is not a victimless crime–if something you do hurts someone, there is a victim and it is the person you hurt. If you have this much rage built up inside of you, take it to a shrink rather than take it out on women you don’t even know.