News & Opinion

Instagram Network Shares Stories of Abuse Across North Carolina

The survivor's account

Instagram accounts allow for survivors to share stories of abuse
A network of Instagram accounts detailing sexual assault allegations has had a huge impact across the state. (Adobe Stock)

Each Instagram post is a carousel of graphics, starting with one that provides a trigger warning with whatever words can be used to describe the following traumatic account being shared anonymously; abusive relationship, sexual assault, physical assault, rape, child pornography are a few from recent posts.

Across multiple North Carolina Protection Alliance Instagram accounts, you’ll find detailed accounts ranging from the grooming of underage people to emotional, mental and sexual abuse or a combination of all three.

Queen City Nerve recently spoke with L.E. (for the safety of the women that run the Alliance accounts, we are referring to one by just their first name and the other by their initials), who launched the Raleigh chapter of the North Carolina Protection Alliance (NCPA) earlier this year.

Originally called the North Carolina Safety Alliance, the Instagram account gives sexual assault and abuse survivors a platform to share their stories anonymously.

When L.E.’s close friend, an eventual cofounder of the account, shared her story of abuse on her personal Instagram account, she mentioned her abuser by name, fully aware that some people may not take it well. More and more people followed suit by sharing their own stories of abuse and harassment, which led to the creation of the North Carolina Safety Alliance in July.

What started as a couple of accounts aiming to shed light on abuse in the Raleigh and Greensboro communities grew into what is today a network of similar accounts sharing stories in Charlotte, Asheville, Durham, Chapel Hill and Wilmington. Each Instagram account shares the same mission of keeping communities safe through accountability. With the help of the volunteers that run the accounts, people are now coming forward about events that happened years ago that they were too frightened to share before. One story dates back to 1999.

Ashley, who runs the Charlotte Protection Alliance account, told us that when stories came flooding in, she started recognizing the names of the abusers. People that she’d known and befriended for years now seemed unrecognizable due to allegations against them.

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As a survivor of assault herself, she couldn’t help but wonder if she should have known. She felt sad for being in the dark about people she considered friends and felt empowered with the knowledge that Charlotte Protection Alliance could save someone from future harm.

“People are on their phones and feeds most of the day anyways, and now we can try and help bring awareness about those posing a danger to our community,” says L.E. of the Instagram abuse accounts.

Accountability in a Digital Landscape

Both account organizers have battled with the effects of the one-sided stories they share. According to L.E. and Ashley, few of the abusers mentioned in the posts have directly responded to allegations against them.

L.E. recalls that a Raleigh-based tattoo artist was fired after being featured in one of the accounts, despite the story being about an assault that he had already served time for. L.E. worried that sharing the post would only serve to punish someone that already dealt with the consequences of his behavior. That thought quickly subsided as more messages flooded in, all of which describing eerily similar situations with the same artist.

The local account has called out business owners, yoga instructors, and leaders in Charlotte’s art scene, though Queen City Nerve cannot confirm or deny any of the anonymous accusations, so we will not name them here. 

Both women agreed that their respective accounts receive a majority of messages from the partners of abusers.

One account shared via the Raleigh chapter was removed due to harassment of the survivor from the family of the abusers.

When it comes to holding abusers accountable for their actions, the women that run the account have seen people lose their jobs, their businesses, their political appointments. They often receive messages asking, “Don’t you feel bad?”

And to that, they say, “We believe survivors.”

Navigating the Comment Section

The NCPA does not directly push for those facing allegations to be fired or charged with crimes. The purpose of the network is to facilitate the conversations that have long been silenced while empowering survivors to share their stories and their healing processes.

“There is always the small minority of people that try to bully, harass, or intimidate survivors and our page into silence, but we continue on,” L.E. says.

Like any other social media content about sensitive topics, the comment section can be a grab bag of supportive and empowering messages mixed with those that are just the opposite.

To protect the survivor, the North Carolina Protection Alliance moderators delete comments that invalidate the story or the survivors’ right to be believed.

Instagram accounts in North Carolina sharing stories of abuse
Screengrab of post from Charlotte_NCPA page

After one of the alleged abusers threatened to take legal action against the organization, the women refused to back down. Instead, they registered the organization and its branches as an LLC under the name North Carolina Protection Alliance so as to protect themselves from being held personally liable in court. (The Greensboro and Winston-Salem account organizers opted out of the LLC and remain independent entities.)

Standing with Survivors

Since the organization began in July, businesses and community members have reached out to see if they could lend a helping hand.

“The community response has been overwhelming,” says L.E.

And the impact has been undeniable. A state board of elections appointee even had his nomination rescinded after stories about him surfaced on the Raleigh account, as was described in a recent INDY Week story. 

L.E. and Ashley say it wouldn’t have been possible to reach the audience they have without a platform like Instagram. Both women believe social media offers another avenue to protect and support one another when it comes to recovering from abuse.

Along with the first-hand accounts, each chapter shares resources for survivors that want to take legal action, advice for friends of outed abusers and tips for navigating strenuous conversations. The volunteers also use social media to facilitate discussions amongst survivors about reporting their assault, providing educational material set up for future survivors.

“It is important to remember that there are human beings behind this account that aren’t getting paid and have full-time commitments outside of running the page — but many of us are survivors ourselves and know what it is like to be silenced,” says L.E. “As long as the community still feels the need to speak out about abuse and harassment by those in our community, we will continue to post their stories.”

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