College Gossip Crackdown: Chelsea Gorman Speaks Out

Nasty remarks on angers students, prompts investigation.

ByABC News
May 13, 2008, 8:11 PM

May 14, 2008 — -- There it was, for the whole world to see, "Chelsea Gorman Deserved It," a topic posted on Vanderbilt University's page.

Underneath that heading, someone had anonymously written, "what could she expect walking around there alone. everyone thinks she's so sweet but she got what she deserved. wish i had been the homeless guy that f***** her. [sic]"

It was a dagger to the heart of a young girl still recovering from the worst moment in her life. Her secret was so painful that only a few friends even knew about it, yet there it was tattooed on the Web for the world -- and almost worse, her entire campus -- to read, talk about, look into and spread.

In the spring during her freshman year, Chelsea Gorman, a pretty and soft-spoken girl from Indiana, was walking back to campus after grabbing a cup of coffee around 9 p.m. on a fairly well-lit street in Nashville, Tenn.

Vanderbilt has warned its students that Nashville can be dangerous, but a quick walk to get a cup of coffee was something Gorman had done many times. Yet as she returned to campus, something unusual happened.

"A man came up and asked me for some money," she said. "I gave him the change that I had, and then he started screaming at me that that wasn't all that I had."

Suddenly the man turned violent. She says the rest is mostly a blur but in an instant her life was shattered.

"He grabbed me, and I don't remember very clearly what happened after that, but he raped me," Gorman said.

The man was never caught, and only a few of her closest friends and family knew it happened. Terrified and broken, Gorman left school for the rest of the semester and returned home to get counseling and come to terms with what happened to her.

"I became really afraid of Nashville in general. I lost a lot of faith in myself. I felt completely out of control," she said.

That loss of control haunted her, and in an attempt to gain control over the situation she began to come up with reasons as to why the rape was her fault.

"I went through what a lot of people went through with blaming myself, thinking if I had done something differently, if I had gone 15 minutes sooner, if I had let my friends walk with me, that I could have avoided this happening," she said. "I think in a way that was me trying to say I was in control of the situation."

Gorman was scared. But she returned to school in the fall after spending the summer making up the work she missed, determined to take back the control she lost that night.

"It was very difficult to go through the routine of going to classes, going to my different activities. I had a few panic attacks. I wouldn't go anywhere by myself after 5, and I sort of felt detached from the rest of my friends, even the ones who knew, because there were some of them that I still hadn't told about what happened," she said.

"I wasn't ready to tell anybody about it yet. My friends that knew respected my decision, and I needed to be OK with myself before I let anybody else know."

But a Web site designed to spew anonymous gossip under the guise of "entertainment," tearing apart campuses and eroding trust among students around the country, took that decision out of her hands.

In March, Gorman got a phone call from a friend at another college, telling her to go to because someone had written about her rape on the site.