Tom Acton, 16, was subjected to a false rape accusation (circulated as a rumor) after contacting police about drug dealers in his neighborhood. Despite the absence of any evidence, any news story, any police report, and apparently without even a specific alleged victim, the rumors sparked enough local outrage that his schoolmates and other residents of his community threatened, harassed, and bullied him into an apparent suicide.
Some discussion on the story has highlighted the relationship between feminist "rape culture" claims, and the environment of credulity and knee-jerk reactions which led to Acton's death. The first response I saw to that discussion by a self proclaimed feminist is as vapid as one can get, acknowledging that the story is tragic, but ignoring the existing discussion to simply deny responsibility "as a feminist." That's expected; given that the modern feminist victim complex relies largely on hypoagency, it would be out of character for a feminist to take responsibility for any negative result of the movement's advocacy. It's also a steaming load of bullshit.
Feminists, this tragedy is your fault. It's a direct result of feminist promulgation on rape and rapists.
No, the social response to rape accusations wasn't balanced prior to feminist advocacy. No, there has never been a time when a man could be genuinely believed by his community to be a rapist, and consider himself safe. Even other criminals will take vigilante vengeance upon a presumed rapist.
However, thanks to feminists, the existing reaction has been exacerbated to the point where no evidence is needed to spark the kind of outraged harassment and abuse faced by Tom Acton. Society's strict stance on the crime has evolved into a hair-triggered hatred not just of known rapists, but of the accused in general. This isn't a natural extension of society's response to rape. There are other reasons for this, and none of them has anything to do with the society's view on the nature of the crime, or the nature of those who actually commit it.
One reason is the decades of feminist agitation for societal adoption of a "believe the female accuser (feminists say victim) mentality. Once a woman alleges a sex crime, we aren't supposed to ever doubt her story. All rape allegations must be presumed true unless proved false, and often even after proved false. Feminist-presented statistics all rely on the presumption that female accusations of sexual misconduct are rarely false, including popularly used statistics about frequency of occurrence, reporting, arrests, and conviction. This has normalized presuming any man or boy accused of rape guilty.
Another reason is feminist capitalization on male disposability. Any time there is a discussion about the falsely accused, arguments put forth by feminist ideologues rely on taking as a given that imposing adverse conditions on an uninvolved or innocent man can be made acceptable by arguing that doing so will benefit a woman. Feminists impose a false competition upon allegations of sexual misconduct, wrongfully pitting the rights of the accused as a group against the rights of actual crime victims (in part by treating all accusers as victims, as described above, and also in part by treating all accused as perpetrators) as a group. They base arguments on the topic of due process on treating the rights of the accused as a barrier to recognizing the rights of the accuser. This generally includes treating attainment of a conviction as "justice," and that brand of "justice" as an accuser's right by virtue of being presumed honest. This normalizes ignoring the humanity of the accused, which facilitates inhuman treatment of them.
A third is predatory feminist exploitation of female proxy victim status. In order to maximize the mileage feminist advocates get from trotting out female victimization as lobbying material, fundraising fodder, and a ploy for social power, mainstream advocates, academic activists, and grassroots debaters have worked to distort the perception of rape into a belief that the crime is worse than even murder. In fact, many feminist advocates respond to the idea that any crime might be worse than rape with eye-bulging outrage, as if acknowledging that there are crimes more damaging than rape somehow excuses or reduces the crime itself. Treating rape in this manner normalizes the kind of overreaction that incites ordinarily reasonable people to vigilante violence.
A fourth is the hard push by feminists to make all of society responsible for sex crimes committed by male individuals. The "teach men not to rape" and "don't be that guy" campaigns are examples of this. So is the feminist version of "rape culture" theory. The concepts used to support all three of these rely on holding everyone but perpetrators responsible for the crime, while imposing an image of complete and utter helplessness on the entire female population, who are all treated as victims-in-waiting. Feminist advocates use these concepts to try to shame society into adopting their ideological perspective on sex, sexual relationships, and sexual misconduct, and to normalize violence against men accused of misconduct against women.
The effect of this set of approaches, when combined, can lead to a completely warped response to an accusation, or even a rumor, as in Acton's case. Guilt is presumed by reason of accusation. The humanity of the accused is eclipsed by that presumption of guilt; now that he's labeled a rapist, his humanity isn't important any more. Since rape is the most heinous of crimes and the worst experience one can have, so horrible one would prefer to be brutally murdered rather than experience it, the accused is now a terrible monster. He must be stopped, punished, or at least used as a convenient receptacle for everyone else's guilt and outrage. Being an inhuman monster, his bodily autonomy is null and void. It's acceptable to assault him, harass him, threaten him, stalk him, anything to achieve a personal sense of accomplishment in the name of "justice."
It doesn't matter if, as a feminist, you don't feel responsible for Tom Ashton's death. In supporting the ideology that enabled drug dealers in his neighborhood to manipulate his own community into badgering and harassing him to death, you might as well have committed he attack against him and every other innocent victim of rape-accusation triggered social vigilantism yourself.
If it's your tendency to use the word "victim" to describe a rape accuser whose case has not been tried, much less proved, you're responsible.
If it's your tendency to use the word "rapist" or "perpetrator" to describe a man accused of rape or any other sex crime when his case hasn't yet been tried, much less his guilt proved, you're responsible.
If you're offended at the idea of questioning a rape accuser's story, you're responsible.
If you've ever argued in favor of feminist-advocated legal protection from judicial scrutiny for female accusers using statistics that are based on the assumption that all or most rape reports are true, you're responsible.
If you've ever argued against prosecuting proved false rape accusers because you think it might discourage other women from filing rape accusations, you're responsible.
If you've ever argued against taking measures to discourage false accusation on the basis that it is rare, you're responsible.
If you're offended at the idea that the potential for severe penalty in a sex crime case merits a high standard for proof of guilt, you're responsible.
If you've ever argued that "it's better to jail an innocent man than to let a rapist go free," you're responsible.
If you've inflated the number of "rapists going free" to make that argument sound more valid, you're responsible.
If you've ever responded to statements about the experiences of the falsely accused by describing the experiences of rape victims, you're responsible.
If you think of obtaining a conviction as justice and a right for a female rape accuser, you're responsible.
If you believe intervention programs for sex offenders work, but you still want to put them on a state-sponsored, publicly available registry after they complete those programs, you're responsible.
If you've ever called rape a worse crime than murder, you're responsible.
If you've ever used the concept of "Schrodinger's rapist" to describe the experience of being female in public, you're responsible.
If you back the use of male-demonizing, society-shaming advocacy such as the "teach men not to rape" or "don't be that guy" campaigns, you're responsible.
If your personal ideology includes a belief in the feminist concept of 'rape culture,' and you've ever defended or advocated that others adopt that belief, you're responsible.
If, upon hearing or reading an unsupported, context-free accusation like the one to which Tom Acton was subjected, you'd believe it, you're responsible.
If you're offended at seeing responsibility for Acton's death attributed to feminists, instead of concerned with how you can help reverse the feminist-led trends that led to it, you're responsible.
If you feel inspired to argue "Not All Feminists Are Like That" in response to this post, and then proceed to tell me what "real feminism" is all about, you're responsible.
If you believe you can fit one of the above descriptions and not be responsible, you're responsible.
If you're not comfortable with that responsibility, then take some responsibility for reforming your activism, and stop supporting an ideological push designed to create the conditions which cause terrible tragedies like this.