Before there was the internet, rapists used to stalk their victims hours, and sometimes weeks, before they attacked. Choosing a target is a complicated affair that’s as much a part of the crime as the rape itself. I’ve read of rapists who got more pleasure out of pre-emptively stalking their victims than they did from their assaults, and now, with the internet, they can get even closer to them than ever before.
Once upon a time, rapists and killers preferred victims who were known to them. The internet has changed that. Stranger homicides are rising with social media usage. There have been 101 Craigslist murders.
Sites that function around sexuality and dating are prime terrain for sex criminals, and yet when they emerge on this site, the vast majority of us are stunned.
Suspicion is not my personal strength, and nor is listening to my intuition, which warned me of my own rapist long before he assaulted me.
Writing about the darkest secrets of my life on Fetlife is a risk I’ve chosen to take. It puts my vulnerability front and centre and gives anyone looking for a victim all they need to know to earn my trust online. It also tells thousands of potential abusers that I make a good victim. It’s a calculated risk, and one that I take with open eyes.
Even so, I’ve given my trust to dangerous people more than once. I’m far too gullible online, so the only thing that’s kept me safe is the fact that I rarely meet new people away from events. Public meetings and safe calls just aren’t enough. Rapists have become bold enough to operate in such spaces.
On Fetlife, would-be-killers and rapists can become anyone they want to be. They can (and do) study their victims in enough depth to create precisely the personae that will compel them. Suspicious behaviour is easily hidden among all the sadism and consensual rape play in our midst. It’s difficult enough to tell a dominant from an abuser without the internet to disguise them, so staying safe is one hell of a task.
Shortly after I joined Fetlife, I befriended someone who I later found out was a registered sex offender. I see people being catfished that way all the time, and I’m told of rapes in my community constantly. 30% of subs have had their consent violated and you can dig into some of our history with other crimes here. In short, we’re living in a jungle crawling with monsters who look like puppies. I personally exist in this landscape as though I’m Mary Poppins and this is Wonderland.
I often neglect my safety precautions because a personae has been presented to me online that seems trustworthy. I have to constantly return to broad-spectrum distrust because I drop my guard so often. I forget about the monsters. Most of all, I forget that they don’t look like monsters at all.