If this story hasn't hit you yet, it is time it did. However, not in the way it has for many teens and others right now who are passing along the pictures of this brutal and very public rape on Facebook. Over one week ago, a young girl's life and the life of her family were irrevocably changed as she endured rape by an 18-year-old boy and allegedly others. Meanwhile, one 16-year-old male filmed and then posted the images, sharing with people in his life and beyond (child pornography charges to be possibly laid in his case).
Despite efforts by police and Facebook monitors, it seems there is no way to stop the images from circulating, further victimizing this poor girl and her family. It is viral, and in its truest definition has infected and continues to infect our lives in ways we may not clearly be able to comprehend.
The Internet unto itself has all the markings of a good tool to better our understanding of so many things; connecting us, shaping us and minimizing the vastness of this global village. It is also used to disseminate some of the most evil and disgusting representations of human behaviour; with little to no ability to recall what has been shared once it has been loaded. The relationship we have with this technology and the freedoms we chose to adopt with its existence means we can't stop what is now developing in this story, perpetual violence.
Previous to global viewers, it was the fear of any rape victim to go to court, face her accuser and endure the barrage of questions from those that would come to attack her character on the stand. Now, a victim can potentially live out every detail of this event through social media, which holds minimal protection laws or even morality to stop the flow of information and images. Protecting victims rights no longer applies, and all the heads that created our free flow of information on the Web either can't or won't stop the madness.
We have entered into a time when people capture everything they do on film or in print with no civil/moral compass or even commonsense to light the way. Exposed to so much, so soon through television, video games, movies and the Internet, our youth (and adults) are becoming desensitized to the point that standing, watching and even filming the torture of another human being means nothing. It did not repulse the observers to view such a violent act. Instead, it apparently gave opportunity to join in. It didn't cause anyone to act on behalf of the victim. Instead, at least one individual male filmed it with the full intention of taking his porn to the socially-charged and connected market of Facebook junkies.
The willingness to broadcast themselves (and others) is mirrored 24/7, and so what recipients saw probably wouldn't shock many of them. It isn't like any of these kids hadn't seen depictions like that before; actors or animated characters have often demonstrated the same contempt for girls/women. It isn't like we could even quantify at this point the amount of verbal or visual references to victimization of girls/women that are embedded in their minds; hard-wired in without any true understanding of its significance.
That significance showed up with comments that blamed the victim or came out in the phrase that was offered by one boy in an awkward attempt to support the victim ".... she's not that type of girl." As he wanted to articulate she didn't deserve it, he implied that some type of girl would. There is no girl that would, but he hasn't seen or heard evidence to the contrary.
Instead, a steady diet of images of girls and women being victimized or playing roles of "whores" who find themselves dispensable or deserving of bad treatment is served weekly. Depictions of bondage, torture and rape are commonplace in their plugged in, supposedly non-realistic world, whereby, either someone comes to the rescue of the girl or she eventually enacts her own vigilante-style justice. Often described as "sexual content" in movie/game ratings and websites, it would be hard for any teen or even adult to discern the reality of rape from the pleasure and truth about consensual sex.
The re-victimization of this girl continues because we have a society that has broken all the tenets normally associated with dignity, civility and respect. It is not that rape or torture did not exist before; it did. It is not the breakdown of the family, as I heard suggested by some ill-informed caller on a talk show covering this very case. Single parent homes have always existed. It is not about this girl or any other. For me, it appears to be just another example of societal breakdown -- the culmination of years of anything goes, the thought that people (mainly youth) can truly distinguish between reality and fantasy when that line has become so blurred. Through everything that is viewed or read, we can see that making it look as real as possible has become the expectation. Therefore, when it is really happening has less of an impact.
The Internet and the media we use everyday is not the cause of this tragedy, but it is also not helping. As the images circulate for weeks, months and maybe years ahead on the Web, we may need to rethink what we want for our future.
How much victimization are we willing to allow in the name of protection of freedoms that currently blanket the Internet, social media and other sources of entertainment?
Can we honestly say to this girl, "It is OK, this will all die down soon, just ignore it?" How does she or we ignore this?
When it is a gun that hurts somebody we say, "Well, it is not guns that kill people, it is people that kill people." That is true -- a gun cannot change nor act of its behalf to change the outcome of a human decision. The Internet, however, and everything of the like can. There are great minds behind the sites and the emergence of this technology that I believe could change this and act in the best interest of our society.
Tell me what freedoms are we protecting that you can justify to this girl, right now? Though many use Facebook and other means to reach out to support this girl, it still seems odd to me. It is like getting consoled by the hand that continues to slap you; a passive friend one minute and an aggressive foe the next. The long reach of the Internet, social and other media never leaves you alone.
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