National petition to stop Twitter rape threats starts in Portland

Local woman petitions Twitter on rape tweets

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Hundreds of thousands of signatures can speak volumes to someone like the CEO of social media site Twitter.

That's who a Portland-area woman is targeting in a nationwide petition to shut down accounts of people who make online rape threats.

Brenda Tracy is a beautiful, strong mother, nurse and victim's advocate. So it's hard to imagine someone tweeting messages like this to her: "Do you want to be raped?" as one man wrote a few weeks ago.

"I've been raped, so when you threaten me with rape, I know what that means," said Tracy when we caught up with her the Portland Airport.

Tracy is flying to Boulder, Colorado this week to talk with college athletes and the administration at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She started a speaking tour three years ago when she began openly sharing her story of being gang raped and drugged allegedly by a group of Oregon State football players. The players were charged and evidence was collected, but she was ultimately too scared to press charges in 1998.

Now, she has a powerful voice. And she's using it to stop online threats.

"I've been threatened with death; 'You should jump off a bridge,' 'You should have killed yourself,' and rape threats. I would say probably 99 percent of the time, I'm okay, and I push through it because I know this is something that would happen when I came forward with my story. But 1 percent of the time, I'm not okay."

A quick search on Twitter shows the horrible things people write to women. KGW found messages reading, "Trash like her deserve to be raped on a consistent basis. I'm not joking." Others say, "Doesn't she deserve to be raped and murdered?" Or, "You deserve to be degraded. To be raped and bred in front of your family."

Tracy says Twitter must shut these accounts down.

"Twitter should be listening to their female users. We are a huge part of their base," Tracy said. "It's not fair that we're being run off of Twitter. They should be doing more to protect us, especially with the specific threat of rape This should not be something that is protected by free speech."

A few months ago, she started a petition on Change.org to get the attention of CEO Jack Dorsey.

"I hope that what he sees is number one, people want this," she said.

In 2015, Twitter started to shut down over 300,000 accounts linked to terrorism, but so far, the company responds by saying these kind of rape threats don't violate their rules.

"I'm hoping the Twitter folks will really sit down with someone like me, especially a survivor. I think that knowing what rape does to you and the after-effects and consequences, I think it's important for them to understand."

Tracy was inspired by a famous singer in India, Chinmayi Sripaada, who started the same Change.org petition right before Tracy and is getting signatures from around the globe. They're now working together. Each petition says it has a goal of 300,000 but once reached, Tracy says Change.org will up the goal once again. At some point, the website will send the signatures to Jack Dorsey. 

© 2017 KGW-TV


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