Craiglist taking heat after rape; victim traumatized

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Mitch Weiss
Associated Press
KANNAPOLIS ó Craigslist is again under scrutiny after a North Carolina man was charged with using the popular online classified site to fulfill his own fantasy by finding someone to rape his wife at knifepoint while he watched.
The woman said Thursday she has been “traumatized” by the attack, which she did not know about ahead of time. It happened a month after Craigslist agreed to overhaul its policing of sex ads following a slaying in Massachusetts.
“You don’t know what I’m going through,” she said, shaking her head as she stood on her front porch. “This is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.”
The woman spoke to the Associated Press a day after her husband was ordered held on $200,000 bond on charges including first-degree rape. The AP, like the Post, generally does not identify victims of sexual assault and is not naming the man to avoid identifying his wife.
Police in Kannapolis said the husband told them he found his wife’s attacker by responding to at least two personal ads on Craigslist and acknowledged that she didn’t know about it. They couldn’t say if the attacker was paid.
“The guy is just a freak,” Police Capt. Chuck Adams said.
Experts say the case is likely to lead to more questions for Craigslist, which has faced criticism for its “erotic services” section.
“We share the public’s horror that such a crime was committed, and our heart goes out to the victim,” Craigslist spokeswoman Susan MacTavish Best said in an e-mail Wednesday.
A phone message and e-mails seeking answers to specific questions weren’t returned Thursday. Police have said Craigslist is helping with its investigation.
The company agreed to do away with the erotic services section last month after a Boston medical student dubbed “the Craigslist killer” was charged in the death of a woman who offered erotic massage through the site. The company has pledged to screen submissions to a new “adult services” section before posting them. Investigators could not say which section the ads the husband responded to were in.
“Craigslist is suffering a little bit from a pile-on effect here because of all the criticism that they’ve gotten before this,” said Matt Zimmerman, a staff attorney for Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based digital rights advocacy group. “If this was someone who met someone through a Yahoo personal or any other place that allows people to communicate directly without a background check, I don’t know if they would be getting the same level of criticism.”
Some people will always use the latest technologies to seek out people for risky behavior, he said, but if something goes wrong, companies like Craigslist shouldn’t shoulder the blame.
But Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who has been fighting to curb Craigslist’s erotic ads, said the company isn’t doing enough. He said Craigslist is supposed to be monitoring all ads and blocking ones that promote prostitution or are sexually explicit. He said he would ask Craigslist for information about the ad in the North Carolina case.
“I want to know how the ad was articulated… I think this instance, like others, simply supports the demands and requests we’ve made over time for stronger oversight and scrutiny,” he said.
Blumenthal said he will take Craigslist to court if it doesn’t turn over the information.
That could mean another legal battle for the company, which sued South Carolina state Attorney General Henry McMaster over what CEO Jim Buckmaster viewed as the prosecutor’s overzealous campaign against it.
The woman who was raped said she didn’t want to discuss details about the case because it was too painful. She said friends and family members were helping her.
Police said she called 911 Sunday to report a man with a knife had raped her in the bedroom of her home. Police said the husband was in the room and the couple’s two young children were home but unaware of what was happening. The woman was treated at a hospital and released.
County court records show he waived appointment of a public defender at a first hearing Wednesday, the day he was arrested.
Police are still looking for the attacker.