A Vancouver news outlet is covering the story of a female teenager who was gang raped at a house party over the weekend. Authorities say that she was given some form of a date-rape drug, brought to a field behind the house, and gang-raped by several males.
If that’s not disgusting and horrifying enough for you, then take a gander at this: one of the alleged rapists took pictures of the entire incident and posted them on the internet — Facebook of all places.
Yes, not only was this girl taken advantage of and made vulnerable, but she has now been subjected to the torture of having photographic (and videographed) evidence of her traumatic experience spread virally …
… across the internet.
I won’t even ask what kind of people commit these acts of violence and violation. It is truly beyond me. But what I do want to address are the roles that social networking and the rapid file sharing made possible by the internet play in these types of incidences.
In the modern day it is no doubt easier than ever to spread information with family, friends, communities, and even entire cities and countries. While this obviously has its benefits, it opens up a entirely new method of sexual harassment and abuse. The case in question might seem extreme, but it is almost too easy for images of these sort to go viral on the internet and reach audiences that we never thought possible.
So what does this mean?
I’m not too sure. I remember the period of time about six years ago when MySpace was first getting popular. I was fourteen or so, and heavily immersed in the culture of self portraits. Before long, my parents discovered my MySpace page … and they were furious. They felt that the pictures that I had posted of myself were provocative and should not be on the internet and insisted that I deactivate my account. I was in tears over the loss of my internet identity, which felt huge at the time. And it didn’t stop at age fourteen — I was also annoyed in my senior year of high school when we were all told to edit our Facebook pages because college admissions might look at them.
But with stories like the rape of this teenager in Vancouver, I have to acknowledge the dangers of our tendency to share information so readily on the internet. It is undeniable that many of us send our friends pictures or text that we consider morally questionable. It might not seem like much at the time (I’m only sending it to one friend!), however, it must be taken into consideration that sending something to even just one person can begin a wildfire-esque spread.
I truly hope that the perpetrators of this crime are caught and brought to trial. In the meantime, I’m going to be thinking twice before sharing someone’s Facebook pictures with others.