Oregon Mom Challenges Facebook on Rape Posts, Becomes Target for Threats

PHOTO: Trista Hendren
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An Oregon woman who helped create a Facebook page to fight trolls posting violent and sexual content on the website found herself the target of vicious threats and vile material posted on her page.

Trista Hendren, 38, of Portland, Ore., founded a page on Facebook called "Rapebook," which aims to flag and report inappropriate and misogynistic content on Facebook. The page focuses on violence against women and children, especially rape.

But her dedication to removing the offensive content caused the people posting it to turn on her, she says, as first reported by ABC News' Portland affiliate KATU.

"It's a protest to make people more aware of what was happening [on] Facebook," Hendren told ABCNews.com. "I have two young kids and I wasn't political at all and assumed it was a safe, happy place where you were there with your friends and then I realized that it's really not."

Dealing with such material is not always straightforward.

The page links that posters flag to Rapebook go to inappropriate content such as pornography, graphic images depicting sexual assault, sexualization of children and photos with rape jokes on them.

As with any potentially inappropriate content on Facebook, if user wants to flag a photo as inappropriate, a pop-up window asks two questions. The first asks if the photo is about the user or a friend of the user. Then the user can select what their issue is with the image -- they don't like it, it's harassing the user or it's harassing a friend of the user.

If the photo is not about the user or a friend, it can be flagged as hate speech or symbol, spam or scam, graphic violence, nudity or pornography or drug use.

Hendren said that child pornography usually gets taken down quickly since it's illegal, but that it is harder to get other content removed, especially if it's crude but not illegal.

Facebook said that content that clearly violates their terms is removed, but content that is "distasteful" but not illegal or in violation of the terms has the right to stay up.

"There are a lot of rape jokes on Facebook," she said. "It's sad to say that some are worse than others so it's sad to say you kind of have to pick your battles."

For Hendren, the battle against ugly content took an even uglier turn when people and groups posting the material targeted her.

They posted hundreds of threatening messages and vulgar photos on her personal Facebook page and the group page. They found her phone number and email address and posted it online, she said.

"They're pretty scary. They did actually post photos of women and girls being raped in the pictures," she said. "The message was pretty clear -- either shut down this page or we are going to make you pay somehow."

One message to Hendren on the group page that was viewed by ABC News began, "I'm gonna trace your IP address then come to your house in the night in a possum suit knock you out take you back to my cellar where you'll wake up hung from the ceiling by meat hooks..."

The rest of the post was graphic and violent.

Another post ended, "LOCK YOUR DOORS, MOTHER******S. WE'RE COMING FOR YOU."

A fearful Hendren took down her personal Facebook page as well as a blog where she wrote about her children and posted photos of them. The Rapebook page is still up, but Hendren is no longer listed as an administrator.

"I felt like I could spend 24 hours a day every day and it would still be an overwhelming problem," she said. "This is a problem Facebook needs to deal with. They have plenty of money, they have the technology and they just don't want to."

Facebook explained in an email to ABCNews.com that the problem is more complicated than taking down inappropriate content.

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