Here We Go Again…and Again…

I hate that I have to discuss this…again. Within the past couple weeks, more Steubenville-like rape cases have emerged into the public eye; however, sadly, these most recent cases have more unfortunate – and devastating – endings.

Last week, Rehtaeh Parsons, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, committed suicide. She was only 15 years old. She was gang raped at a party by four other teenage classmates over a year ago. Since then, Rehtaeh suffered not only due to the trauma of being raped, but because she was continually cyber-bullied by classmates. The rape was documented by the perpetrators who shared the photos across the internet; however, the police could not find “enough evidence” to arrest anyone. Rehtaeh lost her friends, and had to leave her school. Since the news has hit social media, Anonymous and other online activists have called for action to be taken agains Rehtaeh’s rapists; while, her mother, Leah Parsons, has asked that no one causes any more violence or harm. Thankfully, the last I read, law enforcement in Nova Scotia was looking into re-opening the case.

A similar incident occurred in Saratoga, California in September 2012. Audrie Pott, 15 years old, committed suicide after being sexually assaulted by three boys who later distributed explicit photos of her around their high school. The three boys were finally arrested last week after almost seven months of police investigation that involved interviews with Audrie’s high school classmates and subpoenas of cell phone records. Audrie’s parents are pushing for them to be prosecuted as adults. The family’s attorney was reported saying, “We’re talking about, other than murdering someone, the highest degree of a crime you could possibly do, which is to violate them in the worst of ways…and then to effectively rub her face in it afterwards.” From what I have gathered, Audrie’s family did not know about the assault until after it happened and her friends revealed the information. Prior to her death, pictures had been shared over the internet and Audrie shared on Facebook that her “life was ruined” since her entire high school knew about the incident. The assault occurred when Audrie stayed the night at a friend’s house for a sleepover when their were no parents or other adults present. Alcohol is also reported to have played a part in the case.

Jane Doe of Steubenville, Rehaeh Parsons, and Audrie Pott’s stories are devastating. It’s clear to me that cases like this have always happened; however, today social media adds an additional layer of humiliation.

In addition to all three cases have social media involved, there are other similarities. All cases happened within a social setting, with little or no parental or adult supervision, and the presence of alcohol. Already, and with little surprise, I’ve heard and read people’s comments saying that the girls were “party animals” or “promiscuous” or “knew what they were getting into.”

I think it’s time to stop this kind of language and to start educating our children and adults about rape culture, what consent looks like, medically-accurate sex education, and respect for all human beings.

It’s clear to me that we are not on this path when I hear stories of people like Pam Stenzel slut-shaming female high schoolers about being sexually active by saying:

“I could look at any one of you in the eyes right now and tell if you’re going to be promiscuous”

This kind of information being fed to high schoolers is part of the rape culture problem and it needs to stop.

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