How women are using social media to get revenge on ‘terrible’ men

From a British chef allegedly ghosting his wife and kids, to someone suing 50 women for calling him a ‘bad date’ – be careful who you scorn, writes Emma Clarke

Tuesday 09 April 2024 19:22 BST
This week, a Massachusetts-based woman named Ashely McGuire employed the help of social media to find her husband Charles Withers, who she says ‘ghosted’ her
This week, a Massachusetts-based woman named Ashely McGuire employed the help of social media to find her husband Charles Withers, who she says ‘ghosted’ her (Getty)

Although the reputation of internet sleuths has been tarnished of late, there’s no denying that, on occasion, they have demonstrated a certain flare for mystery-cracking. From aiding the police with Luka Magnotta’s capture in 2012 to TikTok tip-offs about Gabby Petito’s disappearance in 2021 – there are benefits to people being Very Online, and these digital communities can help provide vital information to solve real-life crimes.

Just this week the prowess of internet sleuths has once more been exhibited, after a Massachusetts-based woman named Ashely McGuire employed the help of social media to find her husband Charles Withers, who, according to McGuire, left her and their child while she was pregnant with their second.

In the Facebook post, McGuire explained how Withers had “ghosted” her and that she wanted to track him down so that she could officially divorce him, describing the process as “tough and drawn out” when you cannot get hold of the other person.

“Last year, when I was pregnant with our youngest baby he decided being a husband and a dad wasn’t the lifestyle he wanted anymore and he ghosted, like gone without a trace,” she wrote. “He has one baby he hasn’t seen in over a year, and one he’s never met. He’s moved somewhere out of state and changed his phone number.”

She then implored all the “girls out there” to help track down the British chef – and within 24 hours Withers had reportedly been located in Dallas, Texas.

“I’ve gotten MORE than enough information to locate him,” McGuire shared in a follow-up post.

Of course, it’s not the first time internet investigators and social media groups have come together to help women who have allegedly been subjected to poor behaviour by men. The “Are We Dating the Same Guy?” Facebook group has amassed a cult following over the years thanks to its users posting everything from problematic exchanges on dating apps to cheaters to questionable dating profiles.

According to the mission statement of the London branch, the group is “a place for women to protect, support, and empower other women”; “a place where women can speak freely, openly, and honestly without the fear of harassment or intimidation.”

But so big is the platform now that men have started to push back when they’ve been named and shamed.

In January, Nikko D’Ambrosio filed a lawsuit in the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois against 27 women for defamation, doxxing (revealing private or sensitive details about someone online) and privacy invasion, after they shared their experiences of dating him.

More recently, a Los Angeles-based man named Stewart Lucas Murray filed a motion against more than 50 women for defamation, sex-based discrimination and invasion of privacy after being branded a “bad date” online. The women named defended their actions, saying the group is private and they were simply warning others about his behaviour. The first case has already been dismissed.

If you’re confused about whether you should be applauding women for taking matters into their own hands and not letting “terrible men” get away with it – or if you feel everyone deserves privacy and a “fair trial”, especially when it comes to matters of the heart – you’re not alone. So, why do we do it?

Psychotherapist and spokesperson for the UK Council of Psychotherapy, Ali Ross, says sharing this type of content online can come from a place of wanting to publicly out your partner, to prompt change or even trigger an intervention – but, he warns: “Once it is out in public, anyone can form an opinion based on sparse information, misinterpret and ... cast judgements about it.”

It’s also important to be mindful of the other person’s wellbeing. “I think it would be hurtful in almost all cases being named and shamed,” Ross warns.

Then there are the legal implications of sharing such information online. Lawyer Tony Jaffa says that people should be very careful before criticising anyone else who is identified (or who is identifiable even if not named). “Libel law in England and Wales is not particularly sympathetic to those who publish defamatory material – and it’s significant many of the cases now being decided by judges arise from online posts,” he says.

“And remember, just because something has been written in America does not mean that the same post is safe under UK law. Because of the First Amendment (which enshrines freedom of expression into the US Constitution), it’s much harder to sue for libel over there than it is on this side of the pond.”

The temptation to name and shame someone you were wronged by can be overwhelming at times – especially if you’re doing so to warn others of harmful or dangerous behaviour – I should know.

When I was sexually harassed on the Tube and took photos of the culprit, I wanted nothing more than to share his mugshot online, to flag to other women that he was on the loose and potentially going to act out again. It wasn’t just a case of wanting justice for myself; I wanted to safeguard others and stop this terrible man in his tracks.

To me, it makes sense that when you’ve exhausted all other options, you might turn to social media for help tracking someone down. Especially in something as life-changing as a divorce.

Still, we all know that even the most innocuous statements on Twitter/X can cause a pile-on. They can also be one-sided and may not fully reflect events. Other people – even, sometimes, innocent people – can get dragged into the drama, too. It can swiftly become less about helping and more about mob mentality.

But perhaps the easiest way to stop this from happening in the first place is to treat women respectfully. Don’t want to be branded a “bad date”? Don’t be a bad date in the first place...

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