Tammy Hampshire has been divorced for six years. In that time, the Avon Lake resident has busied herself raising two children and running a successful business.
But now that her kids are grown and out of the house, she has only her dog for company. So in January, Hampshire -- who asked to be identified by a pseudonym -- posted a profile on Match.com.
One of the first men who caught her eye was a man we'll call Bill. A 54-year-old native Texan living near Pittsburgh, Bill was fluent in several languages and extremely well read.
But as big as his vocabulary was, his heart was even bigger. Bill was donating one of his kidneys to a sick friend.
Plus, he was tall.
"I thought, 'Finally, I'll get to wear heels on a date," Hampshire says.
Hampshire invited Bill to Cleveland. The date went well. Long, intimate phone calls followed. In May, they started officially dating. Bill seemed smitten, telling Hampshire that he "loved her in so many small ways."
Then, in June, Hampshire received an unexpected phone call. It came from Bill's number, but it was a woman's voice.
"Are you dating Bill?" the woman asked.
Yes, Hampshire replied.
Sit down, the woman told her, going on to explain that Hampshire wasn't the only woman in Bill's life. In fact, there were at least three other current girlfriends.
To make matters worse, Bill used the same line with all of them. "It turned out he loved all of us in 'so many small ways,'" Hampshire says wryly.
Hampshire wanted revenge, so she turned to dontdatehimgirl.com, a new website where scorned women can post disparaging dirt and "How dare he?" stories about their exes. The posting about Bill has been viewed more than 1,300 times.
Bill isn't the only man who has been trapped in the site's web. Currently, there are more than 12,500 posts on the site, 50 of them from Cleveland.
It was started by Tasha Joseph, a 33-year-old publicist from Miami, after she'd been listening to friends gripe about cheating exes.
"I thought, 'There's got to be a way for women all around the world to share their dating experiences with other women,'" Joseph says. "Online was the easiest way to create a public forum."
But not everybody is happy about the site's success. Least of all the men being publicly scorned.
One is Todd Hollis, a Pittsburgh attorney. In the spring of 2005, the mother of Hollis' son informed him that some of his exes had posted disparaging messages about him on the site. When he contacted administrators asking that the post be taken down, they refused. So in June, he sued for character defamation. The case is still pending.
He's not the only one fighting back. Several men who feel they were wrongfully vilified have started a counter-site, seeking claimants for a potential class-action suit.
The men may not have a legal leg to stand on. Under the Communications Decency Act of 1996, website publishers aren't necessarily responsible for statements made by third parties on their sites.
But that doesn't mean that the individuals who posted the messages are off the hook. If what they print is untrue, they can be sued for libel.
"The internet raises problems," says Raymond Ku, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University. "The site can be accessed by millions. It raises the chances of damaging someone much more easily."
One Cleveland man knows this better than anyone. To protect his privacy, Scene is withholding his name, but dontdatehimgirl.com didn't do him the same favor when his soon-to-be-ex-wife anonymously posted a long-winded diatribe about him.
She claimed, among other things, that the man had cheated on her while he was deployed in Iraq and that he's trying to screw her in the divorce.
The man, who didn't even know about the internet posting until Scene contacted him, claims that the woman's story is full of lies.
"Everything there was taken out of context," he says.
The man says that he's going to contact his own divorce lawyer about the post and adds, "There should be a law against this."
Site administrators insist that the site isn't entirely one-sided. Men are allowed to post rebuttals.
Indeed, after posting her message about Bill, Hampshire sent him a link to the site. But he chose not to respond.
Instead, upon hearing that Scene was planning to write a story, he sent an e-mail attacking the women who'd posted profiles.
One of them, he wrote, was "bitter because she did not find a 'man' on the internet to [suit] her [requirements]." He went on to claim that he has "never asked anything of anyone and gave more than I received in terms of support, gifts, time, and talents."
After originally agreeing to be interviewed, Bill failed to return several phone calls. He did, however, send threatening e-mails to his former girlfriends, who have since forwarded them to the police.
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