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Next to Julie's posting is a picture of "Guido," whose real name, according to the photo caption, is Erik. Dressed in a crisp white button-down shirt, he is shown seated behind a desk, his five-foot-ten-inch, 210-pound figure visible only from the waist up. Light brown eyes and short, dark, spiky hair frame his round baby face. Chubby cheeks, which boast a healthy pinkish glow, give the 25-year-old Italian-American a boyish charm, making him appear more porky frat boy than sadistic rapist.
Julie's posting claims she was too embarrassed to report the alleged rape to police. But according to an anonymous entry posted on DDHG a few days later, living with the memory of the ordeal drove the humiliated young woman to desperation, and she overdosed on antidepressants. "I had been aware of how depressed she was," the note reads, "but I never thought she would end her life. As far as I am concerned, that bastard Erik killed her."
Printed adjacent to each listing is a visitor tally: Guido/Erik's profile and photo have been viewed more than 1000 times. "This son of a bitch deserves to be in jail," one angry reader writes. "We need to circulate his picture everywhere and let everyone know what he did."
Indeed Guido/Erik sounds exactly like the kind of scumbag 34-year-old Pinecrest resident Tasha Cavelle Joseph had in mind when she launched DDHG one year ago. She hoped it would be a valuable tool for women fishing for a partner in the murky dating pool: a dating credit check.
Problem is, Erik didn't actually do anything unless resembling a porky frat boy is a crime.
"The story about Julie is a total fabrication," the real author of the posting who declined to disclose a real name or participate in a phone interview explained to New Times via e-mail. "I posted it myself after my friend Erik put me on the Website as a joke."
So there was no barbaric rape, no disease-infested sexual antics, no tragic suicide, not even a Julie. The torrid tale is a complete lie, told to prove a point: "The bottom line is that the Website is dangerous...," the author explains in the e-mail, "and the chances of [a visitor] reading some bullshit story like the one I posted about someone they know are great."
See, none of the allegations about men on DDHG requires any proof. Rapist, pedophile, deadbeat dad, thief, drug addict, lousy lay, violent abuser, hung like a light switch all are admissible, as is sliming someone anonymously. Skeptics demand it be shut down, claiming posters are allowed to hide behind the Internet's wall of virtual anonymity and publish damaging tirades with no regard for the truth or fear of retribution. Indeed New Times found a number of the scathing allegations to be unlikely and others not even remotely accurate.
Yet Joseph has amassed an impressive following, thanks in part to her touting of the site on most major TV news networks, including Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC, and CBS. In addition, DDHG has been featured in publications such as USA Today, People, and England's The Independent. Joseph has also made forays into TV talk-show land: as a guest on the Montel Williams show and the Dr. Phil show. (The latter is set to air September 20.) The day she appeared on NBC's Today Show this past April, the site logged a record 1.2 million visitors.
This past June a Pennsylvania lawyer who was described on DDHG as a diseased philanderer filed a defamation suit against Joseph and seven anonymous posters, seeking damages in excess of $50,000. The case is still pending. Last October another man who is equally furious with DDHG created www.classaction-dontdatehimgirl.com to solicit males enraged by their online profiles to file a class-action lawsuit. So far no legal action has ensued, but the site's unidentified creator makes his objections clear. "If the target was your father your husband ... your lover ... and the words were being spread in a public display of hatred, how would you feel?" he asks.
To date, little has been publicized about the deceit and exaggeration that permeate some of the profiles. And even less has been divulged about Joseph's checkered past, which she has deliberately tried to conceal; this raises interesting questions given that she has been nationally celebrated for publicizing the dirty details of other people's personal lives without their consent and with little regard for truth.
"I find that Website to be completely irresponsible and reprehensible," writes the person known as Julie. "There is nothing to stop [someone] from slandering a guy with impunity.... I would guess the vast majority of the 'stories' posted are completely full of shit."