The Social Media Lynching of Justin Toro
In the middle of December 2015, Clementine Ford participated in raising national media attention to a domestic violence case that appeared to be being ignored by the NSW Police Force. Ashlee Savins was allegedly assaulted by her boyfriend, Justin Toro. Ashlee’s housemate, Ellie Sutton, provided Facebook messages between Ashlee and Justin, in which Justin appears to admit his guilt, to the police. The police refuse to act on the messages and say that it is simply a case of “he said, she said”.
Ashlee Savins was allegedly assaulted by her boyfriend, Justin Toro. Ashlee’s housemate, Ellie Sutton, provided Facebook messages between Ashlee and Justin, in which Justin appears to admit his guilt, to the police. The police allegedly refused to act on the messages and say that it is simply a case of “he said, she said”.
A social media campaign was then launched to hold both Justin and the NSW Police accountable. This led to wide mainstream media coverage.
The following is from an article published in The Sydney Morning Herald.
Several friends followed suit, posting similar messages of disgust to the page. Fairfax Media columnist and outspoken feminist Clementine Ford posted details of the case to her 94,000 followers on Facebook, triggering a barrage of complaints of police inaction.”
But Ms Savins and Ms Sutton said the police only acted after the onslaught of Facebook messages.Ms Savins said when she was called in to St Marys LAC to give another statement, she was told that the renewed inquiries were due to the Facebook comments.”
Fairfax Media understands the investigation will include an inquiry into how police initially responded to the incident.Mr Toro was served with an AVO on Monday night.”
Is Justin an Innocent Victim of Domestic Violence?
There is a really, really big twist in this story, Justin actually appears to be the innocent party in all of this. And to make things even worse, Justin appears to be a male victim of domestic violence ( allegedly he had an AVO against Ashlee at the time of the incident), and the police also appear to have been right in their assessment to disregard the Facebook messages (they may have been fabricated in order to make Justin appear guilty).
Was a male victim of domestic violence, instead of being supported and helped manage a difficult situation, publicly outed in the media as an abuser resulting in an AVO being taken out against him? The NSW police were put under pressure to charge Justin with assault, even though the evidence strongly suggests that he may actually be the victim.
I became aware of the story when it appeared in the media in December 2015, I noticed that the Facebook messages had issues and appeared to be fabricated. It took very little research to establish the possibility that the messages were indeed falsified and there was a lot of other evidence that strongly suggested that Justin was innocent, or at the very least no judgement could be made either way.
Reaching Out to Clementine Ford and the Australian Media
Given the strong evidence suggesting Justin’s innocence, my fears about his health and well- being in the circumstances, and the fact that Clementine Ford was a big part of the campaign against him, I sent an email to her (as well as the Editor and Deputy Editor of Daily Life, Candice Chung and Amy McNeilage). I outlined the evidence that I had, expressed my concern for Justin’s safety, and asked them to please consider making a statement that they had either gotten it
I outlined the evidence that I had, expressed my concern for Justin’s safety, and asked them to please consider making a statement that they had either gotten it wrong or that they were hasty in their judgement and there wasn’t enough evidence either way. I received nothing from them, not even an acknowledgement that they had even received my email.
Over the past month-and-a-half I have approached many people in the Australian media to try and get interest in this story, I have been told that it is “too controversial”, that “sorry, it doesn’t fit the narrative”, or in the vast majority of cases I have received no response at all. The fact that what appears to be a clear case of a calculated character assassination and public lynching of an innocent man is of no interest to the Australian media establishment is deeply saddening.
Around January 25, 2016, Clementine made a Facebook post asking for honest responses from followers who didn’t like her or some of the things she said as to why their reasons for doing so and why they posted comments that were critical of her.
On January 27, 2016, I made a reply to that post outlining the evidence that strongly suggests that Justin Toro is innocent. I included a link to the screenshot
of, what I believe to be, a fake profile, and let her know of the fact that she has been aware of all of this (and so have her editors) since mid- December and has remained silent. She asked for an honest answer and I gave her one.
On January 28, 2016, I noticed that my comment had been removed and my account was blocked from being able to make posts to her Facebook page. There was no name-calling, no abuse, and nothing otherwise offensive, just a simple statement of the facts as I saw them.
Not long after she had removed my comment, she unpublished her Facebook page.
What all this now leads me to believe is that she never even read the email I had sent her and her editors in December (or she did and hoped that it was all going to just go away) and that by unpublishing her Facebook profile the evidence of her involvement all of this disappears. It’s my belief that she unpublished her profile in order to cover up the extent of her, or simply in preparation for a large amount of criticism and anger towards her (and rightly so) as a result of the story of Justin’s apparent innocence becoming public knowledge.
Either way, it doesn’t look good and her behaviour was entirely predictable. It’s time to hold Clementine accountable for her actions, exactly the same demands she makes to others.
The Facebook Profiles and the Messages
Justin and Ashlee had a tumultuous relationship. After a history of suffering abuse at the hands of Ashlee, Justin ended the relationship. Ashlee didn’t handle the break-up well resulting in AVOs being issued against her by both Justin and his mother.
From a post on the St Mary’s Police Station Facebook page (where Ellie made her initial complaint).
In the same post, more than one person acknowledges that Justin had an AVO taken out against Ashlee.
And a December 16, 2015, article published in The Sydney Morning Herald refers to the AVO taken out against Ashlee by Justin’s mother.
The Night of the Alleged Assault
Supposedly Justin had been invited to a party taking place at Ashlee’s house, keeping in mind the AVO he had out against her, he only decided to attend the party after assurances were made that she wouldn’t be there. Allegedly, Justin and his friends arrived at the party not only to find out that Ashlee was indeed there, she was drunk, naked, and in bed with two men. Justin was upset at both the fact that she was there and the circumstances in which he found her, Justin decided to leave.
Supposedly, Ashlee chased him to his car, arriving just as he was about to drive away. She reached for the rear driver’s side door handle, got caught on something (or more likely was actually holding onto the handle itself) and when he drove off, she lost her balance falling to the ground resulting in her injuries.
Justin, after realising that Ashlee was injured, returned to the house, took her to the hospital and stayed with her while her injuries were attended to, all this in spite of the fact that he had an AVO out against her.
From the post on the St Mary’s Police Station Facebook page referred to previously.
At some point between Ashlee being injured and Justin taking her to a hospital, she had a conversation with her housemate, Ellie, regarding what had just happened. Following that conversation, Ellie took photographs of Ashlee’s injuries.
The Facebook Profiles and the Messages
Supposedly, the morning after, someone who knew of the previous night’s events created fake Facebook profiles for both Justin and Ashlee and fabricated a discussion between them that showed Justin acknowledging his guilt and blaming her for his actions.
This is Ashlee’s current Facebook profile.
This is “Justin’s” Facebook Profile, apparently created the day after the alleged assault.
And this is Justin’s real Facebook profile.
That this is Justin’s actual Facebook profile appears to be confirmed by Ellie liking the comment that includes the screenshot (in a reply to her Facebook post about the incident).
As a result of Ellie Sutton’s social media posts, several media outlets published articles calling Justin the abuser. The screenshots of the messages published are the following.
A closer look at both the Justin and Ashlee’s profiles and messages allegedly sent between the two of them following the assault raises some significant questions.
The conversation is between two Facebook profiles using the names of “Justin Toro” and “Ashlee Savins”. Had this been a conversation using Justin and Ashlee’s real user profiles, the screenshots would show a discussion taking place between “Toro Juzzy” and “Ashlee Elizabeth Savins”.
A previously referred to post also refers to Ashlee’s full name which matches the name she uses on her Facebook profile.
Could she have changed the name on her Facebook profile from Ashlee Savins to Ashlee Elizabeth Savins? Yes, but given what was going on in her life at that point in time, it seems highly unlikely.
The “Justin Toro” profile was allegedly created the day after the assault. There is no profile picture (consistent with the screenshots of the messages), there are no photo’s, no details about the user (where they live, went to school, etc), and there are only two friends (Ashlee and Brodie). The claim that it is a new Facebook profile is entirely consistent with the profile’s actual appearance of having been very recently created.
If the profile was created the day after of the assault, why would Ashlee accept a friend request from Justin who allegedly assaulted her the night before unless “Ashlee Savins” isn’t actually Ashlee? We know who “Ashlee Savins” is supposed to be, but who is Brodie and what is his part in all of this?
All the available evidence points towards these two profiles being created for the sole purpose of fabricating evidence against Justin.
The messages are quite revealing in their own right.
Consider this message from “Justin”:
“Ashlee please don’t tell anyone I can’t get done for this I’ll lose everything”
Then compare it to all “Justin’s” other messages, such as:
“ok ashlee. do i acept(sic) you feel you didnt contribute to this in any way? maybe not allowing me to vent”
“you cant hold on to negative, thats (sic) how you create the endless circle of depression and traps you mind into think bad in situations”
“you wont(sic) forgive me?”
Do you notice anything? The spelling, punctuation, and grammar are significantly different from the first message and all the others (Ashlee vs. ashlee, can’t vs. cant, wont and didn’t, I vs. i). The messages from “Justin” appear to have been written by two separate individuals, with vastly differing linguistic ability (or on two separate mobile devices, one with predictive text and autocorrect, the other without). The inconsistency between the first message and all the others gives this away.
If you compare the first message from “Justin” with all the messages from “Ashlee”, you will see the complete opposite. They are entirely consistent with having been written by the same person (or on the same mobile device).
There are two people having a conversation here, the evidence here shows that at different points in the conversation they both took turns at playing the roles of “Justin” and “Ashlee”. It’s all down to the lack of consistency in the both messages and the profiles that go to prove that the entire Facebook conversation could be a complete fabrication.
Here’s how a conversation between the real Justin Toro and the real Ashlee Savins should have looked (assuming correct profile names and differences in linguistic ability).
Toro Juzzy: ashlee please dont tell anyone i cant get done for this ill lose everything
Ashlee Elizabeth Savins: I’m not forgiving you for it, it’s not okay. But I’ll let it go and get over it
Toro Juzzy: then you will be forever holding into it
Ashlee Elizabeth Savins: No. I’ll get over it. But I won’t ever forget it.
So who created the profiles to falsify the conversation between Justin and Ashlee? Ellie and Ashlee? Ellie and Brodie? Ashlee and Brodie? A combination of these individuals? None of them? And, if Ashlee wasn’t involved in the conversation, at what point did she become aware of it? There are far too many questions to be asked here, drawing any definite conclusions would be pure speculation.
The Buzzfeed Story
In an interview with Buzzfeed reporter Brad Esposito, published on December 15, 2015, Ellie had told him that the police had told her to remove the post as it could compromise the investigation and that she had refused.
Ellie had told previously told her followers on Facebook that she had checked with the police before she made her post and was assured by them that it wouldn’t affect the case.
So which is it? Is she telling the truth about having been told that it was okay to make the post to her followers, or is she telling the truth about being told that it could compromise the case to Brad Esposito? Only one of these statements by Ellie can hold true, she can’t have it both ways.
Clementine Ford’s Role and Accountability
Ford pushed the story hard both in the social media space as well as writing an article about it in her Daily Life column. The outrage generated by this story led to the accusations against Justin, as well as his name and photograph, to be widely distributed in both traditional (print, television, radio), online, and social media.
From Clementine’s article:
Based solely on the allegations and evidence provided by Ellie Sutton, Ashlee is the victim, Justin is guilty, and the police didn’t do their job as they didn’t just believe the evidence and allegations as made. Clementine’s apparent answer to this, mob justice and trial by media.
What could possibly go wrong with that?
A vendetta against a presumptively innocent young man unquestioningly driven by a prominent Australian feminist using fabricated evidence. The destruction of a young life through horrific allegations and depictions of the violence he allegedly caused brought about the widespread publication of his name and picture by the local and international media. Intense pressure place on the NSW Police Force for actually doing their job by having doubts about evidence they deemed of questionable value.
So what should be done about it? Clementine has the answer for this too, people need to be held accountable for their actions, the words that they write, and the views that they hold. She wrote just such an article for Daily Life in December 2015 titled “Clementine Ford: Why I reported hotel supervisor Michael Nolan’s abusive comment to his employer”.
Here’s an excerpt:
Facebook’s methods for responding to abuse are useless, and the company has made it pretty clear that their scope for community standards lies squarely on the side of free use of sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic and ableist slurs. The only recourse possibly left to the women ritually targeted by gendered harassment is to try and create consequences for people in their everyday lives. The alternative is for women to remove themselves from the online world – a space which is not separate to the ‘real world’ but now intrinsically enmeshed with it – and be silent. And while I know that’s the preferred outcome for the boys and men who have never been made to take responsibility for their actions, it’s also complete bullshit.
Over the past 24 hours, I have been (unsurprisingly) berated for “ruining a man’s life” and “causing him to lose his job”. But I didn’t force Michael Nolan to come to a post in which a woman shared a screencap of a man telling her she’d “jibber less with a c–k in [her] mouth” and make his support for that kind of misogyny known by simply writing “Slut”.
I didn’t tell him to include his employer’s linked page on the Facebook account where he had also joked about migrants being lazy, unemployed welfare cheats and thrown around the word ‘n—–‘. He is responsible for the words he chooses to write and the views he chooses to hold. What’s telling is how outraged and irate hundreds of people become when they get a whi that a man somewhere might be being held responsible for his actions. That’s not allowed! Women are just supposed to suck it up and let him do what he wants! Sure, it might not have been great what he said, but aren’t you just as bad IF NOT WORSE for going out of your way to RUIN HIS LIFE?
I’m sick and tired of women being held responsible for the actions men choose to take. Don’t report abuse because it might have detrimental e ects on a man’s reputation or career. Think of his family. What about his employers? Why are you doing this to him? It’s not fair. Why can’t you just suck it up and take the bullshit, misogyny
and abuse that men think is their right to express every day? Why can’t you just do that? Why do you have to be such a f—ing bitch about it?
Women have tolerated this kind of abuse for too long. But out there on the vast ocean of men’s tears, the tide is turning. Get on the boat or drown.”
My Message to Clementine Ford
Clementine, if these are the standards that you hold others to, then these are the standards to which you should expect yourself to be held, and you should be well aware of the consequences.
Your words and actions online ruined the life of a young man based purely on your strongly held view that any allegation of abuse from a woman must be believed no matter what and to do otherwise is placing the blaming the victim for something that is not her fault.
By your own standards, you should be held accountable for the actions you take, the words you choose to write, and the views you choose to hold. I didn’t tell you to take what Ellie Sutton said at face value, I didn’t tell you to share her post with your nearly one hundred thousand followers, I didn’t tell you to leave the offensive comments from your followers with threats of violence towards Justin Toro on your Facebook page, I didn’t engage in abusive or hostile behaviour towards you, I simply chose to try and hold you accountable.
I tried to hold you accountable out of the public eye, I gave you every opportunity to do it solely on your terms, I gave you more than enough time to actually take some action to address any of this. All you seem to be doing is pretending that this whole big mess doesn’t exist and given enough time people will forget that it ever even happened. Unfortunately that’s not how accountability works, for accountability to work then someone needs to be held accountable, and in this case, it’s you.
You are right, the online and everyday worlds are “intrinsically enmeshed”, and the consequences of accountability can detrimental effects on an individual’s reputation or career. I’m not thinking of your family or your employer. I know why I am doing this, it’s about justice for Justin, his family, and his friends.
It’s because I care about equality, and at the end of the day isn’t that what feminism is all about, that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities, including the equal opportunity to be held accountable?