Three teenage boys were arrested today and charged with sexual battery in connection to the alleged rape of Audri Pott back in September at an unsupervised party in Saratoga, California. Images of the sexual assault were subsequently shared at school, texted, and posted online. After discovering what had happened to her and learning that the images were posted online, Audri posted on Facebook that her life was ruined and committed suicide just a few days later. In Canada, a story with similar tragic consequences has reignited open conversation about cyber bullying. In this case, a 17 year old girl called Rehtaeh Parsons was raped at a party while she was black out drunk in 2011. Images of the event were shared via social media and the ensuing humiliation and harassment was too much to bear. Moving cities and changing schools did not put an end to it. Rehtaeh passed away on Sunday April 7th in a hospital following a suicide attempt after experiencing months and months of online harassment. Unfortunately, there are too many of these stories; the Steubenville, Ohio case in which two football players were convicted of raping a teenage girl after she had too much to drink and posting picture of the incident online. In yet another case in a small town in Torrington, Connecticut three teen boys are accused of raping two 13 year old girls, with at least one victim receiving harassment on Twitter after the incident.
Role of Cyber Bullying
These tragic events reveal a myriad of issues including alcohol abuse, sexual violence, and cyber bullying. It was the combination of these issues that ultimately lead to the suicides of these young teenagers. The role of cyber bullying in these cases prolonged the girls’ pain and suffering. It is a constant reminder of the traumatic events that occurred to them. Although not all rape victims respond the same, victims of rape are more likely to suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). Having such a private and horrifying event become public undoubtedly makes a terrible situation worse and more humiliating. Many rape victims need support, counseling, and justice to help them move on with their lives. Social media in these instances did the very opposite. Many of the harassing comments in these cases accused the girls of being “whores” or “drunk hoes” casting all the blame on the victim. It is common for rape victims to already blame themselves for what has happened and it is shocking to see how unsupportive and reckless people on social media can be. Minors especially, are unaware of the consequences of their actions and words. Social media provides an easy and safe avenue to be a bully and worse. Continual torment aimed at victims of traumatic incidents is perhaps the most dangerous type of cyber bullying.
Perhaps the most troubling similarity in news of these situations is that the attackers and the victims are just teenagers. Posting a hurtful comment about somebody’s traumatic event is no different than kicking someone while they are down. I am sure many of these teenagers would never say such things in person or directly to the victim. They are hiding behind the “security” of their computer or smartphone but what they do not realize is that their words are louder, more visible, and more damaging on social media.
Get Educated on Cyber Bullying
Education on the potential consequences of cyber bullying is desperately needed. Teens, educators, and parents need to take news of cyber bullying seriously and respond accordingly. Cyber bullying takes place behind the scenes and often without the knowledge of parents and educators. There is a wealth of resources available to educate yourself on what to do if you know cyber bullying is taking place. Below are some good places to get started. Help us spread awareness about cyber bullying by sharing this article!
By Miguel Brown