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Where Does Personal Responsibility Begin and End?


The recent news about being sued by a woman who was raped on a date with a man she met on has brought about the question – “Who is liable” here? First off, let me say that under NO circumstances is rape ever OK. It is a horribly violent attack that is never the fault of the attacked no matter how she is dressed, what she says, where she is, etc. With that said….

The Internet is used to “find” everything including a mate. The same way one checks out reviews about products before buying them, shouldn’t someone seeking a mate on an online dating site also do some checking before they go on that date? has a disclaimer on their site that clearly states:

“ is not responsibl­e for the conduct, whether online or offline, of any user of the Website or Member of the Service.”

According to Annenberg TV News, the plaintiff is not asking for monetary damages, but wants all of’s members to be run through a national sex offender database before allowing them to join the site. And what if this is the person’s first offense? How will this help? People can snap at any time and/or can have deviant tendencies that might be laying dormant. Where is the personal responsibility, good judgment, and common sense?

In a similar vein, how many times do you hear adults blaming their parents for their misfortunes, character flaws, and inadequacies? At what age do “adults” start taking responsibility for their own lives? 18? 25? 45?

The Internet has made everything easy and immediate. However, as adults, it is our responsibility to use it wisely. This goes for dating sites, social media sites, forums, and any place online one either visits or posts.

How is this relevant for small business marketing? It serves as a reminder that the Internet provides a huge arena for brand exposure, but each business owner needs to be aware of the effects and consequences of everything they do and don’t do on the Web. The responsibility is ours to make sure we are true to our brand promise, transparent, genuine, professional, and courteous – even if someone else is not. Have you ever seen professionals behave unprofessionally online and use the excuse that the “other” person started it or was rude first? Personally, I don’t subscribe to this line of reasoning. Blaming others as a reason for bad or unprofessional behavior is not, in my opinion, a good response. We have no control over what others say or how they behave, but as adults, we do have control over what we say and do, on the decisions and judgments we make, and on the actions we take or don’t take.

What are you thoughts on this topic? I started an interesting conversation on Facebook about this case. The consensus of opinion is that the case is full of holes, and no matter how horrific the crime, it is not the fault of and they are not liable for this act of violence. What do you think?

About the Author

Julie Weishaar We will work with you to increase your online visibility by leveraging the latest in Internet and video technologies while helping you grow your business. We provide video marketing services and offer video marketing products for those who like to “do it themselves”, specializing in camera-less animated video production. We also provide consulting services for those who are just starting out on the Internet or with Video Marketing and need help with their Internet and Video Marketing Strategy.

37 Responses to “Has the Internet Taken Away Personal Responsibility?”
Read them below or add one

  1. 4C Creatives says:

    Great Article, keep up the good work! Thanks

  2. Hi George – I agree with you – “Russian Roulette” is a great description :)

  3. Yes Julie, exactly. Internet can be very dangerous because of other people on the Internet but also off – in the real life. Internet is a russian roulette in my opinion, hehe.

  4. @Cori: If you have to tell people how to be behave on Facebook (with your great post, you are pretty much lending credence to my post. I think people under 25 tend to behave more from a reactive posture and don’t necessarily think of the far-reaching consequences of their behavior. I believe that is where maturity starts to kick in – or not :)

    @George: That is a good one – the Internet can be dangerous because of other people … on the Internet and also off, right?

  5. Hello,

    Internet cuts both ways, Internet can be the most ‘cool’ way to earn money – by working online, but also can be very dangerous because of other people who are everywhere on the internet.

    Keep up the good work!

  6. Cori Hughes says:

    To quote you: “The responsibility is ours to make sure we are true to our brand promise, transparent, genuine, professional, and courteous.”

    No one could have said it better! It is absolutely crazy to me the way some people conduct themselves online these days, especially business owners. I just recently read a survey result that said that 50% of people age 25 and under have regretted something that they posted on FB and the sad thing is that regrettable thing they posted is going to be so easy to dig up for the rest of time. Hopefully people wise up a little and think twice before posting something or engaging in a certain activity that is on the internet.
    Thanks for writing this post, I hope tons of people read it!!!


  7. Hi Jovy, you are right – the Internet is the communication platform – it is not the communicator!

  8. Jovy says:

    I bet it’s really the responsibility of the person how are involved with it. Internet is only playing its role as a medium of communication. It’s up to the people if you’re gonna use it wisely.

  9. Nancy says:

    With the advent of technology, people somehow takes for granted its effect on our society. People are the ones who create their actions. And internet, being globally used, is just a way on helping people communicate and connect with each other effectively. There are a lot of guidelines to safety that one can find and keep in mind in order to prevent being in a tragic situation such as raped.

  10. @Ben: Thanks for your input. I agree that safety rules should be applied by the person and not the source. I was actually just having this same conversation today about teenagers and the blame game. So many people say “they will grow out of it:”. NO they won’t – it they did – the majority of adults today would be accepting responsibility for their own actions – which as we know – is not the case.

    @Rick: good point about the long memory of the Internet. I know a gal whose name was mentioned – she wasn’t even involved – in a scandalous case years ago. She came into the picture AFTER the event so had no involvement what-so-ever. Even with that, when you Google her name, this mention comes up FIRST in Google. There are also reputation management companies out there who help businesses get those negative comments/reviews pushed down in the SERPS by adding fresh content but from what I have heard, that takes a LONG time.

  11. Rick Lelchuk says:

    There can never be a justification for the rape of another, but this case does raise the question you have asked… where is the personal responsibility line draw? When all is boiled down aren’t we all ultimately responsible for the things that we do, the situations we get ourselves into and the consequences realized? We are the only ones we have control over. The Internet has a very LONG memory and comments made in anger or for revenge will always be accessible. This comment I am making right now will be available after I’ve left the planet. So, thought in what you do and what you say is a must. Your reputation is at stake, not only your safety.

  12. Ben Brown says:

    I read about this case a couple of days back. I think online daters should take their own responsibility whenever they go on dates, some people think that just because the rules to dating have changed therefore the rules to safe dating have now become obsolete-basic safety rules apply in any case, irrespective of where and how you met your date whether it’s online or in a bar or even in a church! Grow up people and learn to be responsible for your own actions, you can’t keep playing the blame game:S

  13. Hi Marquita, I was watching coverage about this case on the news and felt compelled to write about it. It is a touchy subject as is anything tragic, so I wanted to be sure to make my feelings known that at NO time is rape OK, it is NEVER warranted, it is NEVER asked for, it is NEVER the victim’s fault. It is a horrible act of violence and in my opinion, the perpetrator of the crime should be…… well – that is probably a topic best left NOT voiced! :)

  14. Very good article, and I appreciate that you’ve done such a good job of voicing things I’ve so often thought about or felt about personal responsibility.

  15. @Beth: Thanks for your examples of other situations where one could hold someone else responsible but like you said “it would be a personal judgment and not a responsibility”, I met my ex-husband through a mutual friend at that time – should I hold her responsible? LOL Hmmm maybe I should :)

    @Email Fundraising: agreed – we can’t escape personal responsibility no matter how hard we try.

    @Cheryl: Interesting point about the victim checking the sexual offender database herself – I wonder if she did. Hindsight is 20/20 right?

  16. Cheryl James says:

    It is tragic. Too many people look for blame outside of themselves. No, I am not blaming the victim here. But I bet it never even occurred to her to check the sexual offender database; that which she is imposing upon

    We cannot control how others behave. Our reaction is the only thing we can, and must take responsibility for.

  17. Honestly, it’s not the internet’s fault. It’s the person who allowed her private life to be divulged online who is responsible for it. We should be mindful of our own safety.

  18. Hi Sherry, wow – that is quite a comprehensive list of how to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe in dating situations – thanks for sharing that. I actually met my boyfriend on I did not meet him in person until we had many extensive conversations on the phone and in email – no where near the precautions you outlined above – I was lucky!

  19. You brought up a great point. In this day and age, we cannot take our safety for granted. No matter how much a dating websites strives to maintain the safety of its members, it can’t be the measure of safety we use in meeting strangers. We must be accountable to others for our safety — e.g., initially notify a roommate, friend or relative of name and address of who you are meeting, when and where — meet in a very public place and, if you feel the need, take someone with you for the first meeting; ask for a driver’s license upon meeting your new date and contact a friend or relative to notify them of the date’s driver’s license and license plate numbers. If you have a picture phone, take a picture of the date and his/her car, and send them to a friend or relative along with any changes in meeting location. Sounds exhausting, but all these measures could go far in saving lives

  20. Beth Hewitt says:

    Hey Julie,

    This is a really tragic case and perhaps Match could do more to ensure the safety of it’s clients. Although this would be a personal judgement rather than a necessity in my mind.

    You wouldn’t sue a night club for your miserable marriage or the ice-rink for your boyfriends two timing antics. That being said you could argue that a night club or an ice-rink promote a place to finding a relationship although we all know many relationships have been formed in them.

    However, you are article does bring home the need to be careful online and the take responsibility for our actions and the arenas we seek to work in.

    Thanks for a great thought provoking blog post.

    Beth :)

  21. Hi Peter,

    Thanks for stopping by here and for bringing up the example of those who overcome real hardships and come out on top. I remember watching an episode of Law & Order where Olivia (is that her name?) was on a case of a sex offender who was apparently sexually abused as a child. The last scene was her speaking to a co-worker about her life and the path she chose. She was sexually abused as a child too yet she became a cop whereas this sex offender chose to become a perpetrator of the same crime. It is all about choices and personal responsibility.

  22. Hi there Julie
    Yes….there is a need to take responsibility in many areas of our lives.
    Too many people blame circumstances they have faced for their difficulties when really it is within them overcome them and use them as a trigger to improve their lives.
    There are many instances where people overcome disability, financial hardship, abuse etc to set a light for others to follow.
    I applaud you tackling this subject. A great example of how a blog can help to bring about change in the world

    Best wishes

    Pete Chapman

  23. @Susan, oh great, you Aussie’s are picking up our bad traits – not good! :) I am curious, why can you understand woman wanting to sue As I stated hopefully very clearly, what happened to her is WRONG/BAD/TRAGIC – but why sue Match? Would you mind sharing your thoughts?

    @Jeannette: Good points about “blind dates” – the bottom line is you never know when someone is: 1) not who they pretend to be, 2) has latent violent/perverted tendencies, or 3) just ready to flip out. How about those movies on Lifetime where couples are married for years, have raised children, had a great relationship, and then POOF – one of the spouses was either pretending to be something he/she is not or literally just snaps. These things do happen in real life!

  24. Hi David, Well said – I really like the way you put it: “Responsibility begins with our actions and ends with our response to others’ actions.” We have NO control over anything someone else does or doesn’t do, we only have control over what we do and how we react to what others do. I am afraid to read your blog – don’t know if I can handle it, but will head on over………. I am blessed to have both my mom and my dad! Thanks for stopping by and leaving your footprint on my blog!

  25. The internet often gives us the illusion of anonymity. But, of course, it is as personal an interaction as there can be.

    We text each other, share intimate details about our deepest thoughts and aspirations, and even contact each other directly through video exchanges. Anonymity is truly an illusion.

    Responsibility begins with our actions and ends with our response to others’ actions. This applies everywhere in life, perhaps more so on the internet than anywhere else.

    Thanks for opening up the discussion, Julie.

  26. Julie – I admire you for taking on this touchy subject. I would agree that should probably not be held liable for this tragic incident. Back in the day, before dating sites, people would go on “blind” dates. That sounds old-fashioned but what it means that you are introduced to someone you don’t know. True, you hope it is by a friend you trust. But I remember that sometimes it would be a friend of a friend, so there is always a risk whether you arrange a date online or through a friend. And who is to say that the great guy you met at a party is any more trustworthy if you go out with him?

  27. Susan Oakes says:

    I actually hadn’t heard about this case. For me and I could be wrong but I can’t see how is at fault although I can understand the woman wanting to sue.

    What is interesting is a number of years ago you would not think of suing in Australia and now it does seem although not to the same extent that we are following the let’s sue mentality.

  28. HI Keyuri, the whole post is a digression :) I hear the parent in you in more ways than one. When children see their parents not accepting responsibility and always blaming others, how can we/they expect their children to grow up doing anything different?

  29. Keyuri Joshi says:

    Julie, Your post raises many excellent points. You echoed Catarina’s viewpoint about the US being too litiginous. I wish we would go to the “loser pays” system that England has. It is too easy for people here to point fingers and blame every one else for unfortunate outcomes. The parent in me also fears that this starts happening at a very young age in which parents are too quick to jump on board the blame game instead of teaching their kids to be accountable over and over and over again. But I digress…
    Your post is a poingnant reminder of how we business owners on the internet are responsible for how we present ourselves. If we keep it clean we’ll stay in good ranking.

  30. HI Catarina,

    Accepting responsibility is definitely not the easy way! Yes – the US is a litigious society – hopefully she isn’t reading this post or she might just have a class action suit!

  31. Good article Julie. Far too many people take the easy way out and blame someone or something else for their own mistakes. It’s simply easier and less painfull.

    Another problem is the love of litigation in the US. The people behind the dating site can count themselves lucky that she hasn’t found an abundance of people who have got into trouble because of the dating site and started a class action suit.

  32. @Dennis – I agree it is no one’s “fault” except the rapists and you are so right that this could have and has – very tragically – happened to many having nothing to do with a dating site. I also hear you that it is a touchy subject, hence my stating right off the bat – that in NO way is it the fault of the poor woman and in no way is it right. I am very sensitive to the fact that so many women have been ripped to shreds on witness stands after having been raped by discussing how they dress, what they say, etc. – a horrible experience following a tragic event – I hope I made that clear in my post. You are right on with “Every business is responsible for the things that are said through social media no matter what. You can’t blame anyone for something that you wrote or were given the green light to post. In the end we all have to fess up to out mistakes.” – thanks for your comment.

    @ Sherryl: The only one who needs to “pay” for the tragic event is the one who committed it. I have very strong feelings about how these “people” should be punished but because this is being said in public online – I will hold back. After all, that would certainly go against my point in the post right?

  33. Personal responsibility does seem to be a thing of the past Julie. This is a terribly sad story but there are inherent risks involved in dating in general. I can understand wanting someone to pay for this incident but I don’t believe suing is the answer.

    As for behaving badly online being bad for your brand, I couldn’t agree more.

  34. I don’t think it’s the sites fault or her fault. These are unfortunate circumstances that happened to someone who found the assailant by using a popular dating website. This just goes to show that the world is a dangerous place online and off. This could have happened without having been the mediator. This is such a touchy subject, that I feel a bit uneasy thinking I might write the wrong thing, so I’ll end with this. Every business is responsible for the things that are said through social media no matter what. You can’t blame anyone for something that you wrote or were given the green light to post. In the end we all have to fess up to out mistakes.

  35. Hi Jim,

    Good points about “where does it end”? People sue at the drop of a hat and are always looking to blame someone else – this is common human nature – but as you say, we need to protect ourselves and be responsible for our own lives. I like that “Are they going to have to provide a chaperone for the first date (second, third)?” That could actually be a new service someone can jump in on and make $$. :)

  36. Jim Mulcahy says:

    If this woman wins, where will it end? If does screen all of its members and, as you say, this is to be their first offense, then what? Whose fault is it, then? Is going to have require psychological profiles before being enrolled? Are they going to have provide a chaperone for the first date (second, third)? We can’t create a riskless society if we want freedom.

    We wouldn’t walk down a dark street in an unknown neighborhood at night because of the risks. We shouldn’t take undue risks in other unknown situations either. It our own lives that we are protecting, after all.

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