Early on we made a decision not to continually beat the dead horse that is Sam Pepper’s YouTube career. The initial backlash to his sexual harassment prank videos both in the YouTube community and beyond felt newsworthy, as did the revelation of multiple accusations of sexual assault and harassment in his personal life. Once Sam Pepper was officially dropped by his former network, Collective Digital Studios, signaling the end of his social media career, we felt that continuing to cover the ongoing fallout would only direct further attention toward someone clearly unwilling to take responsibility for their actions. Now, however, Sam Pepper is the subject of a new kind of attention: police attention.
According to a report from Buzzfeed’s Ryan Broderick an 18-year-old woman filed an incident report yesterday with the LAPD alleging that she was raped by Sam Pepper. She has also posted an anonymous YouTube video to warn other young women about the tactics Pepper allegedly employed to coerce and assault her. With her voice and face disguised to protect her privacy she describes the scenario through which Pepper. “Going to the police is not enough… I want girls to know what he does,” she says, explaining why she has added her voice the rising chorus of accusations from fans and fellow YouTubers.
The allegations in this video are shocking and graphic. If they are true, then Sam Pepper is accountable not just on Twitter and in the court of public opinion but in a court of law. In the world of social media it is sometimes easy to forget that actions can have real world consequences. Where a crime is committed the punishment should be more than a loss of Twitter followers are AdSense revenue. Rape is notoriously difficult to prove, especially in cases like this where the accuser may not have preserved any physical or digital evidence, but the act will hopefully stand as a warning both to future victims and to their potential abusers.
Sam Pepper is the latest in a string of YouTube creators to be accused of exploiting their fame and their position within the community to coerce fans and other young women into unwanted sexual situations. These accusations have drawn a swift response from the community, but that response usually ends along with the abuser’s YouTube career. Creators like Tom Milsom, Alex Day, and Ed Blann all saw their YouTube careers destroyed, but this is the first time the legal consequences have entered the conversation. Sam Pepper is the first case of this nature to result in legal action against an alleged abuser. Hopefully the possibility of substantial personal consequences will serve as a deterrent to other potential abusers just as threats to career and personal safety have served to silence the abuse.