I Called the Cops About a Comment on Medium

Men threaten violence against women every day. I hoped to prevent it from really happening.

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The comment above didn’t surprise me. I write about feminist issues, so I’m used to making men angry. Most of the time I don’t bother reading the pissed-off rants they leave all over my articles or tweets. I block, delete, and report when necessary.

But this time? Well, this time was different. The comment left on my Medium article was longer and more personal than anything I had previously seen. The phrasing was threatening and smug as he implied what he thought should be done with women like me — feminists who think we’re equal.

I felt alarm bells ringing in my head. I wanted to make sure this guy didn’t live near me, so I did a little internet-sleuthing. It wasn’t hard to find his Facebook page. He didn’t cloak himself in anonymity like most of the trolls I deal with. He used similar usernames and photos of himself across multiple social media platforms, and he always listed himself in the same location.

When I scrolled through the public posts on his Facebook page, I felt sick to my stomach. One folder contained dozens of cellphone videos and photos of women that he had taken without their knowledge or consent. They were taken at restaurants, parks, bus stops — anywhere in public he could conceal his phone as he followed them.

He wrote lengthily about his disturbing perceptions of women’s behavior. Specifically, he described what he’d like to do to punish women he considered unintelligent. The same theme came up over and over again: he sought to eliminate them.

I was shaking while I reported video after video to Facebook. It terrified me to think this man was somewhere out there, following around complete strangers, thinking about these things and sharing them with other disturbed men.

Yes, in the comments of these deranged posts were men agreeing with this guy. Clearly there are enough of them out there that this individual felt the need to create an online hub where men could vent the grievances women caused them. I’ll spare you the details I found in that forum.

With an audience of hateful misogynists, he shared his plans for exterminating populations of women he deemed unfit. Women like me, as he had noted in his comment on my Medium article:

“You effed up. Time to end it. An average female can never be equal and never will be. Equality is reserved for your sisters of high IQ. That is what we learned. You are not part of that. You are just a dumb angry beast of burden of no intellect. There are too many of you and too many of low quality. Time to put you back out to pasture.

At this point, I was unnerved. But I had also acquired quite a bit of information about this guy since he so generously shares his thoughts and life with the internet. I had pictures of his license plate, the town he lived in, his full name. I collected as much evidence of his disturbed rants as I dared expose myself to.

That’s when I decided to do something I haven’t done before or since — go to the police.

I made the call before class. I couldn’t find a quiet place on campus to use the phone, so I begged a random staff member to let me use a free office for some privacy. She seemed reluctant. But when I couldn’t keep the tears back as I confessed I needed to contact law enforcement, she hurriedly found a key and let me into an empty staff room.

In the silence of that room, I took a deep breath and called the local non-emergency number. I asked if I could share the suspicious online activities of a man who I believed was planning violence toward women. I wanted them to have his name on file at the very least.

A bored and huffy officer told me there was nothing they could do if the individual didn’t live in my town — I’d have to call his local police department. So I hung up, found the number, and called.

A young woman answered, snapping at me the second she answered the phone. I tried to convey what was happening: “Please, just listen — this guy, I think he’s really going to hurt someone,” I pleaded. She told me she couldn’t help but she’d connect me with one of her officers. When an officer finally answered the phone, I retold the story for the third time.

He barely listened. He reminded me that taking photos and videos of people in public is legal, and though the graphic and sexual descriptions were disturbing, the man posting them hadn’t violated any laws. The officer shrugged off my concern about women’s welfare and suggested I filed a police report with my local law enforcement if I was really concerned for my own safety.

“But I’m not, and they told me to talk to you.” I said. The officer made a noise that sounded almost like an apology and said he’d be in touch, then hung up.

He never called back. I was on my own. I opened up my Medium page and looked at the comments again, wondering if I’d blown it all out of proportion. But then I thought about the videos he’d taken, the descriptions of his violent fantasies, and fear crept up my spine.

It’s all too common for the police to shrug off women’s fears for their safety. Some women have had to sue police departments in an effort to get them to investigate their reports of rape. But I suppose that’s hardly surprising considering police are significant perpetrators of domestic violence. Then why was I so surprised the police wouldn’t take me seriously?

This guy is still out there. On December 12 of 2020, he posted the following about the recent firing of a Black female computer scientist named Timnit Gebru (which I have edited for clarity):

“What does a lesbian-feminist in a science lab run by a corporation do? The gender differences are vast. There is a real gender bias and it’s evolutionary and can’t be fixed. The result is lower research quality. Biased research quality. Her psychiatric condition is not the best. Her ‘research’ is genderist, negative sexist, inconclusive and has led to no results and does not add to Google’s bottom line.”

Perhaps what is most alarming about his Facebook page is the serene photos of his tropical lifestyle and elaborate home-cooking posted right alongside his rants about eliminating, punishing, and hating women.

He is married. He bakes homemade bread and volunteers at a food pantry. He dislikes Trump and blames women for electing him. While attending a small Black Lives Matter protest, he shared an image of “two 20 year old females” holding what he considered poor signage indicating their low intelligence.

For him, deep-rooted sexism and misogyny is simply dinner conversation. An intellectual endeavor. If he knows that his words are fuel to men who are eager to perpetuate real, physical violence against women, he probably doesn’t care. Perhaps that’s what he wants — for more men to take matters into their own hands.

In the meantime, even if he doesn’t incite violence, he’ll continue airing his frustrations about women’s liberties: “How do we get civilisation back on track and the nutters back into nunneries? End the anomalous female vote.”

As for me, I’ll keep monitoring his social media updates and wondering if my efforts to prevent an act of violence — if he dares make an attempt — will come too late. I can only hope he is too cowardly to ever act on the thoughts and threats he freely shares.

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Science writer with a multitude of interests. | she/they

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