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Photos of a Girl’s Gang-Rape Go Viral on Facebook

Photos of a Girl’s Gang-Rape Go Viral on Facebook

In one of the most horrifying stories I’ve read in a while, a Canadian girl was gang-raped at a rave last weekend by seven men.  One of the attackers decided to photograph and videotape the event, and then made an even worse call: he uploaded the photos to Facebook, where they quickly went viral.  Now the images are impossible to contain, despite the best attempts of the Canadian police, and the graphic photos of a drugged 16-year-old girl being attacked in a field near a party will probably never be fully removed from the internet.  This, needless to say, is not helping the girl recover.  The whole incident raises significant questions about whether the internet creates a culture of desensitivity and its own brand of violence.

The one hopeful part of the story has been the reaction from Canadian law enforcement officials, who have made it clear that the attack was a rape, and that anyone who is caught possessing or distributing the photos is threatened by child pornography laws. 

“What happened after this incident and continues to happen is beyond disgusting, said Sgt. Jennifer Hyland, who is leading the investigation.  “These photos are child pornography. They have been viewed, shared, saved and re-posted numerous times. This is an offence and is so socially corrupt it is sickening. The posting and viewing of the photos is continuing to victimize this young girl and her family and needs to stop.”

Other teens and partygoers, however, are somehow less willing to admit the severity of the crime.  One teen 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.  I don’t think she was raped.”  The comments on Facebook were similarly disgusting and victim-blaming; they included sentiments like “straight up WHORE,” a “complete slut,” and “Cmon who’s not down for a gang bang.”

Tracy Clark-Flory has a great piece on Broadsheet, where she investigates the typical “kids these days” reaction to this piece, which she says is not really accurate.  Instead, she blames the culture of victim-blaming and the internet itself in creating a society where this kind of viral violence becomes the norm.  Clark-Flory writes,

“Technology offers us a sense of privacy, and detachment, even as we’re sharing these things with the entire Web. The online mentality is one of entitlement and total freedom, no one has ownership over anything (just ask record label execs). I would venture to say that it hasn’t even occurred to many of the kids — the ones who are not, you know, patently evil — that they are violating this girl themselves.”

She cites other violent videos, like the drowning of a mother on an Italian beach or the death of Neda Agha-Soltan during Iranian protests in 2009 as viral phenomena that were popular because they were horrifying.  I would take this a step further, though – although they were brutal, those videos lacked the participatory element that makes the virality of the gang-rape video so disturbing.  People who download these photos do, in a sense, participate in the forceful violation of a 16-year-old girl, and in so doing create a new kind of violence.  What we should do to combat that violence is another question.

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Photo from Flickr.

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646 comments

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10:13AM PDT on Jul 28, 2014

I am very skeptical of these type of pieces. One is I have no idea of Canadian law. Two i never saw the video so can't comment on that. Third is the emotional language popular today. Fourth is the power of the camera.
Because Canadian law and court procedures are so different from US it is not possible it understand the legal nuances. I think people need a more detailed account. Especially the "how did this start" question.?
Humans have a very bad history of jumping to conclusions and rushing to judgment.
I prefer an open mind.

9:53AM PDT on Jul 28, 2014

Agree with Carla V these people are human garbage!

11:59PM PDT on Jul 12, 2014

At the risk of sounding old, what the hell is going on?? Of course I know that the technology has changed, but even so I don't recall girls t parties being raped in full view of others. Yes, things got out of hand, but someone always stepped in. Now they back up to get a better camera angle. Those who commit the act, those who film and publish it and those who view but do not report it are disgusting human trash. And those who blamed the victim, called her a whore, go to hell. What are the parents of these teenage monsters doing? I'm sure most of those twits are defending their little demons. They helped make them that way.

10:34PM PDT on Jul 12, 2014

Bravo for Canadian law enforcement. They’re doing a better job than U.S. law enforcement—at least they’re calling a rape what it is: a rape.
Maybe things will change when rapists are treated like criminals and punished for the crime and not given a slap on the wrist and told “she asked for it”. No excuses. If there’s evidence of a rape (such as a video or photos), the rapist(s) should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
Fortunately some criminals are stupid enough to put evidence of their crimes on Facebook and other websites. It can save law enforcement time, money and energy tracking them down.

3:24AM PDT on Aug 1, 2012

I am a nice lady by name favour 24 year old, i need a friendship male or female friendship, please e-mail me ( favourmenaki@yahoo.com ) so that I can introduce myself better for you to know whom i am

2:48PM PDT on Aug 31, 2011

These rapists should be caught. Poor girl.

9:06AM PDT on Jul 25, 2011

Just like slowing down at a traffic accident to get a look, or going outside when an ambulance shows up in your neighborhood, curiosity will win out everytime.......even over the moral implications of not watching a crime.

8:47AM PDT on Jul 25, 2011

Anyone sharing these images and socially profiteering at the cost of this girl should be prosecuted and lose their liberties and rights of person.
What will happen to THEM in jail? Will images be posted? (Could this be a side industry to fund prisons? How about man-sex amphitheatre shows? why not? Won't tax the rich, might as well exploit the poor..

Sexual violence against women is ubiquitous in our culture, promoted 24/7 via TV crime dramas, 'reality shows', music videos, and during other leisure hours, via highly popular murder & rape interactive games. What do you expect when this is a cultural focus? Whatever a culture focuses on grows stronger. These things are pimping of soft & hard porn. Viewers are johns. Do something about it.

6:03AM PDT on Jul 25, 2011

ty

6:02AM PDT on Jul 25, 2011

ty

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