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Student falsely named as alleged victim
Online misidentification was a ‘nightmare’ for student, family
Amid international attention brought to Ohio University and Athens in the past week, one student’s identity became a casualty in the online aftermath of an alleged rape on Court Street.
Rachel Cassidy, a sophomore studying journalism, was falsely identified as the woman shown in photos and video posted online last Sunday, OU Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones said.
Hall-Jones said Cassidy is “100 percent” not the woman involved in incident, which occurred at Chase Bank, 2 S. Court St., on Oct. 12.
Cassidy, a member of the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority, told The Post on Saturday that at the time of the incident, she was at her sorority house.
Since Thursday morning, after a meeting with OU and Athens Police Department officials, she hadn’t left her house at all, and she deactivated all her social media accounts after receiving negative comments.
“Wednesday night, my friend called me and said there were pictures posted of me linked to the woman in the video saying I was her, although that’s untrue,” Cassidy said. “I was nowhere near where the incident occurred (Saturday). I have no idea why I was targeted.”
Cassidy’s contact information — which included an email address and phone number — was removed from the OU student directory at her family’s request, Hall-Jones said. The university excused her from classes on Thursday and Friday.
After talking with OU and APD officials Thursday morning, she received the excuse from class because the school did not know what the reaction would be to the information posted online.
“(They didn’t know) how many people would end up knowing about it or thinking it was me, so this is the first time I’ve been out of my house in two or three days,” Cassidy said on Saturday. “I wasn’t even doing anything related to Homecoming having fun, so that’s annoying. I was probably asleep in my bed when this happened, and now I’m being blamed for it.”
The university is aware of who the alleged victim from the video is, and OU President Roderick McDavis, in a statement released last week, said officials with the university are supporting her.
Both the university and Athens police departments have yet to release the name of the OU student who filed a rape complaint with APD. The day before, a video showing a man performing oral sex on her circulated on Instagram.
The Post does not release the names of sexual assault victims.
Cassidy’s parents, Steve and Theresa, had previously planned a trip to OU from Long Island, N.Y. — a nine-hour drive — this weekend.
“Our daughter has been victimized by the Internet, and in this day and age it’s very hard to validate yourself,” Theresa said. “That’s our name, that’s her name, and she’s going to have to live with that for the rest of her life.”
Steve said he has kept asking himself how this could happen to his daughter.
“You hope that nothing ever happens to your child,” he said. “You can’t imagine, ever, that something could happen. It’s not your child, and somehow she’s misidentified as being a part of the incident. It goes around the globe on the Internet. The venom is horrific.”
With the release of information from the incident potentially months away, if ever, Steve said it’s important to clear his daughter’s name as soon as possible so that she can continue to lead her life.
“It’s critically important for people to know that the attacks generated against my daughter are simply because she has long curly hair and may look a little bit like the victim,” he said.
Cassidy said she doesn’t know what reactions she’ll receive once she returns to class and begins to live life as before.
“I know all of my friends and family support me, and it’s not me,” Cassidy said. “As long as I have them in my life supporting me, if people say negative things toward me, they will stand up for me. I think I’m a pretty strong person and I can stand up for myself knowing it’s not me. I think I’ll be OK.”
Some of the comments relating to his daughter online are unimaginable, Steve said.
“Maybe it’s a reflection on where we are in society today, but people have been falsely identified and gone off to prison. Not the case with Rachel; she’s been falsely identified and it’s led to a horrific attack on her reputation, and this will set the record straight and she’ll be able to move on,” Steve said. “It’s a parent’s nightmare; it’s her nightmare.”