An Ohio University sophomore has deactivated her social media accounts and is afraid to leave her house after she was falsely identified as the woman who reported she’d been raped in an incident captured on cell phone video by a passerby.
The university’s dean of students said she was “100 percent” sure that journalism student Rachel Cassidy was not the woman shown in photos and video posted online Oct. 13 and shared across social media.
Cassidy told The (Athens) Post she was at her sorority house when the incident took place early Oct. 12, and police and university officials confirmed she hadn’t left after meeting with her Thursday.
She told the newspaper that a friend called her Wednesday and said Cassidy had been identified online as the alleged victim.
“My friend called me and said there were pictures posted of me linked to the woman in the video saying I was her, although that’s untrue,” Cassidy said. “I was nowhere near where the incident occurred. I have no idea why I was targeted.”
The university removed her contact information from the OU website at her family’s request and Cassidy was excused from class Thursday and Friday.
“(University officials didn’t know) how many people would end up knowing about it or thinking it was me, so this is the first time I’ve been out of my house in two or three days,” Cassidy said on Saturday. “I wasn’t even doing anything related to homecoming, having fun, so that’s annoying. I was probably asleep in my bed when this happened, and now I’m being blamed for it.”
After seeing the video posted on Instagram and shared on Twitter, the alleged victim told police Oct. 13 that she was sexually assaulted by a man she didn’t know after drinking off campus.
Police said they’d spoken to the man depicted in the video and that he’d cooperated, although no charges have been filed in the ongoing investigation.
University officials said they know the identity of the alleged victim, and OU’s president issued a statement last week expressing the university’s support for her.
Alleged victims of sexual assault are not typically identified by police or the media unless they request their names to be made public.
The Daily Mail reported that Cassidy was identified as the woman from the blurry video by the Twitter account @Anon_Central, which has more than 170,000 followers.
The account linked to a posting on the men’s rights message board Crimes Against Fathers that includes a clear image of the alleged victim’s face alongside photos of Cassidy, in addition to her address and links to her social media profiles and organizations in which she’s active.
“A woman named Rachel Cassidy was getting oral sex performed on her by a man on a public street, and a bunch of guys walked up and started filming it,” the posting says. “Well, the videos obviously went viral and Ohio University was threatening to kick her out, and so she changed her story and claimed it was ‘rape,’ in order to avoid getting expelled. Now the guy is facing criminal charges because this evil woman decided to make a false rape accusation against him.”
The person who posted that information, a prolific poster who calls himself JohnRambo, asked for “hard evidence” to confirm whether or not the woman in the video was Cassidy.
He also complains that Cassidy’s sorority took down a photo of her from its website, asking “WHAT ARE THEY TRYING TO HIDE?”
A subsequent posting by JohnRambo lists the contact information, photographs and disparaging remarks about the physical appearance of the university’s dean of students and urges others to demand the name of the alleged victim in exchange for removing Cassidy’s contact information.
Other Twitter users posted Cassidy’s name and accused her of lying about the sexual assault, and her parents said the experience has been a nightmare.
“Maybe it’s a reflection on where we are in society today, but people have been falsely identified and gone off to prison,” said her father, Steve Cassidy. “Not the case with Rachel; she’s been falsely identified and it’s led to a horrific attack on her reputation, and this will set the record straight and she’ll be able to move on. It’s a parent’s nightmare; it’s her nightmare.”
Cassidy says she fears for her safety, but she’s confident she can move on with her life.
“I know all of my friends and family support me, and it’s not me,” Cassidy said. “As long as I have them in my life supporting me, if people say negative things toward me, they will stand up for me. I think I’m a pretty strong person and I can stand up for myself knowing it’s not me. I think I’ll be OK.”
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