Earlier this week, XOJane ran an article in its popular first-person, confessional-style “It Happened To Me”series entitled “IHTM: I Live With My Abuser.” In what was clearly a blunder on the part of the editorial staff, the story was published along side the author’s real name and photo, opening her up to danger and retribution. The victim claimed that she had never reported the abuse, and that “given the opportunity, he would abuse [her] again.” Readers mobilized with a wildly coordinated and positive response, deciding to take their community elsewhere and to try to help the writer get out of her dangerous situation. Given commenters Internet-wide have a reputation for being somewhat lowest common denominator and extremely bloodthirsty, this is an extremely heartening spin on the usual Internet outrage.
When the post was published (it’s since been deleted, but you can get a sense of the comments on this post, or the subsequent and delayed post that addressed the matter), readers created a new forum for “Ex-Janers.” Multitudes of commenters said that they would not be returning to the site and would keep up with the community on the new forum, which is understandable when readers see mistakes like this as a betrayal of trust. Since the XOJane community was so important to their readers, I applaud them for setting up their own space once they decided to leave the site. If XOJ had made too many mistakes to keep their readers, at least their readers didn’t lose their community.
In one of the most impressive displays of positivity that I’ve seen from an Internet screw up, one reader started a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, with the intention of helping the victim raise enough funds to move out of the home she shares with her abuser. With an initial goal of $500, the campaign has raised an astounding $4735, all of which will go to the victim. Given that financial constraints are what kept her living in the same home as her abuser, this is quantifiable good that will have a real effect on this woman’s life. This is what the internet can do, instead of raging in comment threads (that’s not to say that the XOJ readers didn’t have a completely valid reason to make their displeasure known to the XOJ editors).