In the past week two young girls, Audrie Pott (read Audrie’s story here) and Rehtaeh Parsons (read Rehtaeh’s story here) have been featured in the media for committing suicide. Both were sexually assaulted, and to make matters worse, had photos of the alleged assault go viral. Following the assault both girls were tormented and harassed via social media. No charges have been formally filed and no witnesses have stepped up in either case. Unfortunately in today’s society this is becoming a common occurrence raising the question, is society heading for a dangerous social media overload?
In such cases social media has not only become a way to show inappropriate behavior, it has become an avenue for victim-blaming to go unchecked. The high-profile nature of these cases has proven that law enforcement may be learning this now — maybe a little too late and under scrutiny — but learning nonetheless. If you looked on the social media pages of these two girls’ prior to their death their peers were calling them “slut” and “whore”. Not one message asked them how they were dealing. Not ONE message saying I support you or I have your back.
This leaves the question: why are our youth passing around evidence of a violent alleged sexual crime on social media? And what bothers me to the core is that young people think it’s ok to pass around these type of photos as well as cyberbully their peers. They need to realize that when memories, especially of rape, go viral they can lead to death. And words do actually hurt.
But what we as a society need to think about is how to keep this from happening again. It’s abundantly clear that some young people aren’t capable of using social media in a positive way. However, we can’t make new rules now because young people will definitely find a way around them.
We need to figure out what we can do to make social media safe for young people again.