As I was writing an introductory post about how thrilled I am to be blogging for Shameless, I was overwhelmed with terrible news of gang-rape photos “going viral” on Facebook.
According to the Globe and Mail, onlookers took photos of a drugged 16-year-old girl being raped by several men and boys at an outdoor rave east of Vancouver. The girl, who was conscious at the time, didn’t remember what happened until days later when she saw the images on Facebook. And these images are being posted over and over.
Insp. Lench said it was proving difficult to keep the photos from reappearing.
“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,” Insp. Lench said in an interview.
Equally disturbing are the cold statements made by party attendees on Facebook and in CTV interviews, as pointed out by Jezebel:
It’s not surprising, if still heinous and disappointing, that anonymous commenters would write things like “Straight up WHORE,” a “complete slut,” and “Cmon who’s not down for a gang bang” on Facebook.
But they also said so in person. Here is a party attendee…speaking to CTV:
“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,” he said. “I don’t think she was raped…. Apparently she was saying stuff.”
“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,” he said.
While police have made it very clear that the girl was raped and that anyone sharing these photos could face charges, the reactions of these attendees underscore the troublesome attitudes of youth in rape culture.
The girl’s experience has received typical victim-blaming and slut-shaming responses that many rape cases do, but what really upsets me is the detachment and insensitivity of those posting the images. That there are teenagers who think that it’s okay to post photos of someone being raped. Or perhaps, and what I think is more likely, the sharing is an attempt to shame her and “teach her a lesson.” No matter the reasoning, my heart goes out to this girl and I hope that the sharing individuals face appropriate charges.
How can incidents like this be prevented? In the Globe and Mail article, Louisa Russell of the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres notes that there is a lack of understanding among young boys about consent and suggested that there is room for education on the subject. The article also mentions a case from earlier this year:
In May of this year, the RCMP in Surrey, B.C., raised concerns about boys in Grades 11 and 12 challenging each other over Facebook to have sex with the most Grade 8 students.
The Mounties sent an officer to the school to explain the laws regarding the age of consent.
It troubles me that educators, police, and media choose to focus on clarifying consent when what must also be addressed are common attitudes toward rape and the tendency to blame and shame victims. With that, we have a long way to go.
Note: The names of the interviewed party attendees have been removed from this post.