We’re all too familiar with the inherent dangers of Internet vigilantism—the false leads on social media sites following the Boston Marathon bombings, the attempts to seek digital justice motivated by nefarious intent. But every now and then, online vigilantism precipitates civic justice.
Such appears to be the case with a now-viral video posted to YouTube and titled “A call to my childhood rapist teacher.” A woman identifying as Jamie X claims she was a 12-year-old student at Chemawa Middle School in Riverside, California when a former teacher, Andrea Cardosa, allegedly began molesting her. Jamie, now 28, says she only recently came to terms with the alleged sex abuse and was planning on reporting it to authorities when she discovered that the statute of limitations on the alleged crime had expired. So, according to Jamie, she took matters in her own hands, exposing her alleged abuser to everyone with an Internet connection.
"She gets away with everything she has done, so I decided I'm going to call her to get some answers from her," Jamie says on the video before ringing up Cardosa at Alhambra High School, where Cardosa was serving as an assistant principal (she resigned hours after the video went live).
"Do you realize that you brainwashed me and that you manipulated me and that what you did was wrong?" Jamie growls at Cardosa, who replies “yes” and calmly expresses regret on the other end of the line. The more emotional Jamie gets, the more Cardosa stumbles. Enfeebled by her former student’s accusations, Cardosa replies, quaking, “I just wanted to help you.”
Jamie’s anger escalates with every accusation: “Are you doing this with other students too? Is that how you help them?” She ignores Cardosa’s quiet response (“no”), shouting in contempt at the woman who “ruined” her life and childhood and “disgusts” her before abruptly hanging up.
"She gets away with everything she has done, so I decided I'm going to call her to get some answers from her," Jamie says on the video before ringing up Cardosa at Alhambra High School.
“It took a lot for me to come forward,” Jamie said during a press conference on Monday, “but I kept thinking about my own kids and how I didn’t want anything happening to them.”
By Tuesday afternoon, “A call to my childhood rapist teacher” had been viewed more than 400,000 times and an investigation into Cardosa’s career was well underway (the school reportedly contacted law enforcement on Friday). It wasn’t until reporters swarmed Jamie’s home on Monday that she hired attorney David Ring, who told The Daily Beast that the alleged abuse began when Cardosa was Jamie’s eighth-grade athletic coach and continued sporadically until she graduated high school. He added that the school looked into Cardosa’s behavior when Jamie was in eighth grade, and that she changed schools at the end of the year.
As of press time, Cardosa had not publicly responded to the allegations.
Despite evidence that social media can increase exposure to sexual predators, Jamie isn’t the first self-identified victim to use the Internet and social media to turn the tables and do expose an alleged sexual predator. In 2013, Anna Michelle Walter, a 24-year-old high school teacher in Virginia, was outed on Twitter by an underage student with whom she had “inappropriate contact” (she was later charged—and convicted—of sexual battery). And it was the digital trail left by students at Steubenville High School that helped authorities build a sexual assault case against two football players accused of raping a 16-year-old fellow student.
What makes Jamie’s case unique is both the manner with which she exposed her victimizer and the fact that the trusted authority figure who allegedly molested her is a woman. And authorities are trying to determine if Jamie was Cardosa’s only alleged victim. “There are rumblings that another female will probably come forward and substantiate that this coach attempted similar acts with her,” said Ring.
That an eight-minute YouTube video could be used as damning evidence in court—Cardosa apparently did not realize she was being recorded when she offered up her explanations—is precisely what makes Jamie’s rogue interrogation so riveting. Rarely do we see justice, vigilante or otherwise, dispensed in real time with such clean results.