“I will do what it takes”: On Charlie Rogers and Activism Gone Awry

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A SYTYCB entry

On July 18, Charlie Rogers, a former University of Nebraska women’s basketball player, posted the following update on her Facebook profile:

So maybe I am too idealistic, but I believe way deep inside me that we can make things better for everyone. I will be a catalyst. I will do what it takes. I will. Watch me.

This Tuesday, it came to light that what Rogers meant by “do[ing] what it takes” involved staging a homophobic hate crime against herself.

Four days after Rogers’ now-notorious Facebook post, she was allegedly attacked in her home by three unidentified men. She reported to police that the men “bound her wrists and ankles with zip ties and proceeded to carve anti-gay language onto her abdomen” and that they spray-painted slurs in her basement and tried to burn down her home. In the initial weeks following the incident, Rogers received an outpouring of support from Lincoln’s LGBT community, and over 500 people attended a vigil in her honor.

But this week, Rogers was arrested and charged for falsely reporting the incident. Forensic evidence disputes her claims — under investigation, her wounds show no sign of struggle. Additionally, her testimony is inconsistent and lacks sensory and personal descriptions. Local LGBT organizations are now backing the charges against Rogers and confirming the reports against her. (For detailed information on these recent developments, Autostraddle has an excellent analysis.)

In light of the new evidence in Rogers’ case — and thinking back on her July 18th Facebook posting — it would appear as though she faked the crime in order to make a larger statement about anti-LGBT violence. I can’t blame her for wanting to take a stand. Anti-LGBT hate crimes are rampant in the U.S., and there is no sign that such violence is decreasing. So Rogers isn’t wrong in thinking that the attacks against queer people represent a serious epidemic that needs to be stopped.

But the tragedy of this story is that Rogers’ actions are not going to raise awareness about the gravity of anti-LGBT hate crimes. In fact, she’s done the opposite of what she set out to accomplish. I can’t see into the future, but I have a strong feeling that the next time a lesbian really is brutally stabbed by three anonymous men, people will not take her claims seriously. People will not remember the truths about anti-LGBT violence that prompted Rogers to take the action she did in the first place. Instead, they will question those who come forward and seek support. Rogers wanted to “make things better for everyone.” Instead, there’s a chance that she made them far, far worse.

We need to fight against anti-LGBT hate. We need to stand up for victims of violence when attacks occur. But we can’t do so at the expense of the community we’re trying to protect.

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