When Sabrina Prater posted a simple dancing video to TikTok, she could never have known that within weeks she would be at the centre of a transphobic serial killer conspiracy theory.
But for some reason, one video of her dancing the kitchen of a dilapidated house went viral.
The video became meme, with users writing captions like “when you’re the last person to leave a party”, but light-hearted jokes soon became much darker.
TikTok users began scrutinising all of Prater’s videos, branding them “creepy” and picking out details as “evidence” of a bizarre and completely baseless conspiracy – that she was a serial killer.
The theory spread like wildfire across the app and beyond, with thousands of TikToks, as well as multiple Facebook groups and sub-Reddits, analysing Prater’s posts and hurling horrific accusations.
Social media users speculated that a computer monitor seen in the background of some videos showed photos of her “victims”, that water visible on the floor was “blood”, and some even began trying to link her to missing persons cases in her local area of Flint, Michigan.
The viral conspiracy also began to have dangerous real-world consequences, as TikTok users began reporting Prater to the police, and even doxxing her by sharing her address online.
Abbie Richards, a conspiracy theory expert and TikTok researcher, told Rolling Stone: “[It was] like watching true crime, internet sleuthing, conspiracy theories, and transphobia collide in a horrific car crash.”
Sabrina Prater is ‘sick of being hurt’ by the groundless conspiracy theory
The conspiracy theory spread so rapidly that Sabrina Prater was actually forced to defend herself online, despite there being zero evidence of wrongdoing, telling viewers in a livestream that she is “not a serial killer”.
She also explained that the house she had filmed the videos in was currently being renovated, and that images on her computer screen were of her children.
In a now-deleted video, she appeared tearful, and said: “I didn’t do nothing wrong. I’m sick of being hurt by this. I’m just like anybody else.
“I want to be loved and accepted, man. And I’m not. I’m getting treated worse than anybody coming out like me.”
Luckily, the accusations against Prater seem to have slowed. Some TikTok users are even posting apology videos for promoting the serial killer conspiracy theory, and Prater has not been dissuaded from continuing to post dancing videos.
But her horrific treatment is indicative of a society that treats trans women as dangerous and scary.
The stereotype that non passing trans people are secretly monsters is one that kept me closeted throughout my teens and 20's. Leave Sabrina Prater alone.
— Mischa Coldwater 🌌🦄 (@RainbowOfRed) November 28, 2021
The fucking Sabrina prater shit on tik tok is infuriating seeing ppl talking Abt 'better safe than sorry' but what are u basing ur assumptions on outside of the fact that it's a visibly queer person in a run down house
— Make Mine Moxie (@anti90smovement) November 28, 2021
(tw mention of transphobia) #that demographic of people turning Sabrina Prater into some ‘true crime’ spectacle is one of the worst displays of classism and transphobia I’ve ever witnessed.
— 🧍🏽♀️ (@cheIIIIsea) November 28, 2021
“When you ‘otherise’ them, villainise them and portray them as criminals, it does get ingrained in the culture.”
PinkNews has approached Sabrina Prater for comment.