“This became an arena where a lot of people were coming and learned that they could come and it was a safe space to talk about something that maybe they had never discussed,” survivor Ashley Rankin said.
As a survivor, Rankin said she shared her experience on the platform and later received an apology. She said it helped her to move forward.
“I thought it was a great way for restorative justice to start taking place in that arena which was occurring and that was the main focus of the page,” Rankin said.
Over the summer, several people, including some high-profile men, were accused of sexual misconduct.
One of the people named, a local teacher, is now suing Facebook and the administrators of the page for defamation, saying the allegations are false.
“People seeking justice right now feel like they deserve it. They feel like they’ve been wronged and the accused feel the same way,” Rankin said.
“I certainly know as a survivor and as someone who dealt with the police system with stalking, I didn’t feel listened to and I didn’t feel heard.”
On Monday, the Victims Voices Regina page seemingly disappeared. A post surfaced from the administrators saying, “due to the recent legal action being taken against this page, we are making the difficult decision to take a step back.”
In response, Rankin said she felt it was important to show support and created the post “I stand with survivor’s stories Regina,” along with the hashtag #webelievesurvivorsregina.
She added that she simply wanted to continue the conversation around restorative justice, education and reliable resource allocation for sexual assault and harassment.
“I was very overwhelmed by the response, the majority was very positive,” Rankin said. “People are seeing it, people are responding to it and just looking through and seeing their profile pictures changing to that, it’s overwhelming for sure.”
Then on Tuesday, a new Instagram Account, Victims Voices YQR appeared, along with a post saying the parties involved won’t be identified.
The person behind this account tells Global News, while they don’t know the administrators of the original page, they just want to keep the conversation going.
While the power of social media can both unite people and bring stories to light, experts say in cases involving social media, it can also be very damaging.
Toronto-based lawyer Gil Zvulony said if the comments are true it’s not defamatory. But that can be hard to prove, adding anyone who has a hand in sharing the information could be held liable.
“I’ve seen cases in my practice where those namings have been malicious, it could be somebody’s enemy, it doesn’t even have to be female,” Zvulony said.
“Someone’s reputation could be severely harmed, they can lose their job, they can lose their family, they could lose their life. It’s a form of online bullying if it’s an improper allegation.”
While Instagram does allow people to report defamatory posts online, unlike the United States and United Kingdom, Canada does not protect social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook from defamation lawsuits.
“Whether they’re actually liable for the posting of their users is a bit of an open question. There haven’t been any clear cases against the major social media platforms as publishers of defamatory content,” Zvulony said.
At the end of the day, Rankin said it comes down to the bigger picture and addressing flaws in the system.
“We need to do better. We need to do better for our survivors. If we were doing better for survivors, this page wouldn’t have needed to start,” Rankin said.