Over the weekend a 16 year-old girl was drugged and gang raped at a party in Vancouver, Canada. It is believed the girl was given a date-rape drug and repeatedly raped by up to seven teen boys and men. The victim came forward to authorities when she viewed photographs of her rape on Facebook, posted by a 16 year-old partygoer. The Inspector on the case, Derren Lench reports the teenage girl was brutally assaulted and left with undisclosed injuries.
The victim lives with the horrors of knowing her attack is not only being viewed by people in her community but also judged, commented on and ridiculed. Anonymous comments concerning the Facebook photos include "Straight up WHORE" and "complete slut". The authorities are taking the case very seriously. In addition to already arresting two of the alleged rapists, they have arrested the 16 year-old photographer of the attack and informed the public anyone found possessing or reposting the images can be charged with producing or distributing child pornography.
In a news segment from Canadian Television News, fellow classmates made dismissive comments about the attack. One teenage boy said "We are thinking it's being over-exaggerated. I don't think she was as messed up as she's making it out to be," Another teenage boy adds "It just sounds like she's more embarrassed about it so she's trying to turn it to make it sound like she's a victim of something, rather than to say that she did something and that she knows that it was incredibly idiotic,"
Beyond the viciousness of the attack, many social and societal problems are exposed by this story. The first is one of the downsides of social networking and living in a digital age. There does not seem to be a filter when it comes to documenting one's life online. The fact that a 16 year-old boy took photographs of a gang rape and thought to immediately post them online is disturbing and shows a lack of empathy. Although the motives of the boy have not been made public, it appears that many teenagers are quick to upload photographs to social networking sites as to validate their experiences. It's as if it's not online, it didn't happen.
The immortality of online content has a dark side. It can be hard enough to get over a fleeting insult thrown at you in the hallway, now the victims of cyberbullying (and rape) can relive the abuse every time they open their laptop. There is no safety even in the walls of home. In this case, Inspector Lench said "Every time it's shut down on one Facebook (account), it seems to reappear and its been shared in several communities in the Lower Mainland, so the victim has to relive it on a daily basis,"
The comments slut bashing and blaming the victim are also deeply troubling and unfortunately common. By calling the victim a slut, she is immediately "bad" even though she was not the one to commit a crime. And despite law enforcement unequivocally saying this was rape, the teens interviewed say they don't believe it was really "that bad". Hopefully the boys interviewed will learn the error in their thinking, and perhaps one day they will become embarrassed that their comments live forever online in infamy.
The encouraging news is law enforcement officials have been quick to respond to this case and the school plans to assemble students to discuss the event and the fallout. Clearly rape education as well as sensitivity training is needed. But the life of one girl has been changed forever, and she is left to pick up the pieces from her rape and the subsequent mockery of it online.