Steubenville_Twitter reactionLast fall, a teenage girl in Steubenville, Ohio, was sexually assaulted and raped. Pictures and video of the assault spread like wildfire in social media, including a disturbing video of several young men laughing and joking about raping a unconscious teenage girl. Two of these young men were found guilty of rape, which prompted hundreds of people to attack the rape victim in social media, calling her a slut and a liar.

In Chicago, two teenage boys are being prosecuted for raping a 12-year old girl at gunpoint – and posting a video of the rape on Facebook.

In California, three young men are being accused of raping a 15-year old girl, taking photos of the assault, and sharing them in social media. The victim committed suicide a week after the assault, after learning that photos of the rape had been shared amongst her schoolmates.

In Canada, 17-year old Rehtaeh Parsons took her own life because of months of vicious online bullying and harassment. She became a target of brutal bullying by her peers after coming forward about being raped by a group of teenage boys in 2011, when she was 15 years old.

All these cases involved the use of social media to not only spread photos and videos of the assaults, but also to attack the victims for having the courage to come forward. After being violated once by their rapists, these girls were humiliated and violated repeatedly in online spaces, by friends and by strangers. This is bordering an epidemic of promoting and publishing rape cases through social media.

Violence against women and girls happens every day all over the world, and with the spread of Internet and reach of social media, opportunities for cyber bullying and online threats are endless. Rape victims committing suicides as a result of shame and victim-blaming is not a product of the “information society” – in India, suicides of rape victims are sadly common, in Ghana, a 13-year old rape victim has tried to take her own life – twice, and in Morocco, a 16-year old rape victim committed suicide after being forced to marry her rapist. When we read about these events in the news, we unequivocally condemn them. When it happens in our own backyard, or through Twitter or Facebook, there are always excuses – the girl was drunk, the boys didn’t mean it, it was a mistake, freedom of speech – she was asking for it.

This is not about culture, religion, or developed countries versus developing countries. The belief that the victim is somehow to blame for rape is alive everywhere, and the Internet is filled with sites making fun of sexual assault and promoting hatred towards women and girls. Currently, a project called Women, Action&The Media is running a campaign to end gender-based hate speech on Facebook. The organizers of the campaign have written an open letter to Facebook, demanding the social media giant to take down several FB groups that shamelessly promote violence and hatred against women and girls – including groups such as “Violently Raping Your Girlfriend Just For Laughs” and “Fly Kicking Sluts in the Uterus”. If someone started a group called “Violently Killing a Black Person Just for Laughs”, it would (rightfully) be taken down in a heartbeat and considered as blatant hate speech – but when women and girls are the target of that hate speech, it suddenly falls under “freedom of expression and opinion”. This way of thinking is absolutely absurd, and extremely dangerous.

Online attacks against victims of rape and sexual assault are nothing more than a modern version of stoning, caning or whipping a rape victim.

Blaming a victim in social media and attacking them for being raped is just as wrong as is putting victims of rape on trial for their own assault. Blaming the victim for her (or his) rape also implies that most men and boys are capable of rape when given the opportunity, and that it is up women and girls to avoid setting that “inner rapist” loose through our behavior, clothing, or sometimes, mere presence. After the Steubenville verdict, several people took to Twitter to defend the convicted young men by staying that “they only did what anyone else would have done in their situation”. This notion is absurd, not to mention insulting towards vast majority of men and boys who would never, under any circumstances, rape anyone – and by blaming the victim, whether offline or online, we are providing excuses and justifications for rape and sexual violence and at the same time promoting a culture that condones that behavior.

To every girl and woman out there: Rape or sexual assault is NEVER your fault. Coming forward about what happened is NEVER wrong. For every coward who attacks you for your courage and strength, whether online or offline, there are thousands of us who support you, who believe you, who are here for you, even if you never know our names or faces. It takes immense strength to come forward after sexual assault – and no strength, nor spine, at all to spew hatred and intolerance online, often anonymously.

It is our collective responsibility to stand up against such behavior whenever we come across it, both online and offline – and stop the excuses. Because honestly – there simply are none.


Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin

Add Your Comment

22 Responses

  1. I’m sure this is a lovely article – I didn’t read it yet – but the modern day version of stoning is STONING. It still happens. It might not be common in America, but it happens all over the world every single day.

  2. I dont know what the fuck is wrong with american/canadian teens. I mean… here in my country our teens would get so outraged by this cyber bullying BS… these guys would get lynched… they would become the victims if they lived here. Their lives would get destroyed.
    But in USA and Canada things are like this.
    These societies are so barbaric!
    BTW, Im from Brazil, We may not be as rich and developed as you are, but we are a lot more humane.

  3. Hmm. Encouraging insights. I too supports all the victims out there. This cyberbullying needs to be stopped. Hurting other people is NOT something to be proud of, and people behind these absurdity needs to be highly educated. As a parent, I know how heartbreaking it would be to have your own child tortured by random people.
    I always make sure that my kids are strong enough to stand and fight against this horrible thing, as well as protected. I came across this safety application that will let my child alert me and my husband whenever she’s in trouble, and just wanna share this,

  4. Ts very encouraging 2 c tht smthng and sme action s being taken to try and eliminate ths wrld deases cz the way man carry on whn thy assult weman ts animalistic. M in SA n we dealing wth thse kinds of cases almst evrydae..f ts not d daddy ts an uncle or a frend a woman has trusted.. Enough us enough..ladies pl cme frward cz 2gethr we cn stop and eradicate ths diseas tht is killing us emotionally an physically..

  5. it warms my heart to read this article
    The victims are tortured enough
    It is unfair for them to be bullied further
    And people don’t see anything wrong with it
    The problem is that the same social media has played a strong role in objectifying women thus trying hard to devalue the worth of the average woman.
    I see young men growing up these days looking at girls as much of a conquest than a human being or equal
    I live in Nigeria,it is horrible over here,at least in the UK and US there are trials and sometimes convictions,but here you have no such,recently two rape video were posted on youtube in Nigeria,the faces were shown,and up until now,no arrrests have been made
    I have a blog where I share personal stories from rape victims,in a bid to sensitize folks on this pandemic,you can visit
    I would also like to be part of this movement.
    Thanks and great job

  6. Early age, a little over 10, as I ventured off the farm, I immediately noticed a huge difference from healthy, well treated, young ladies, from sexually abused young ladies. I vowed at that moment, if I ever have a daughter, I will be certain she is respected, have the right to explore her territory, be held accountable for her actions, enjoy every opportunity to learn at her own rate academically, be inventive and create her space.
    Let me make this clear: Young girls are the future of the human race. If you “boys” treat them badly, Our humanity becomes a nightmare that you and any future “boy” will suffer. Why is this so difficult to analyse?
    Her passed-out body should have been gently picked up and taken to her home and protected from assault by all the boys.

    1. Hi there! Thank you for stopping by at Girls’ Globe and sharing your thoughts with us. I agree – girls are the future, and so are young boys. This is why I think it is so important for us, as societies, to ensure that we not only do our best to protect them from harm but also raise them to respect fellow human beings and understand the difference between right and wrong. We hope to see you here at Girls’ Globe again!

  7. first of all ? I think we as parents and I am no parent BUT I think parents should sit down with their kids? and talk about cyber space aka facebook and other social media? the fact there sickos out there ready to strike at anytime?

    1. Hi Kelly! I do agree, parents play a big role in this – but so do schools, teachers, day care centers, nannies, and everyone who spends substantial time with children and youth. While I do think that the discussion around cyber bullying and safety in online spaces should start at home, I also believe it is a collective responsibility for us to send a message that this kind of behavior, whether online or offline, is unacceptable. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave us a comment!

      1. Emma I recall a time when I was at the public Library and some guy looking at porn ? at a public library? to make a long story short? I remember the then head librarian didn’t want to do anything? about it saying it was the dude’s right to ?? something of freedom of speech? with young children present for what the called childrens day? and this nut job looking at porn? thank god the librarian isn’t working there anymore!

  8. violence against the woman death to love inside, it’s that simple. 33% of all internet searches are porno, sex is the lowest common denominator after food, why do you think it’s easy to find a child to exploit in poor countries. if dogs in the street acted this way, we’d not be able to go out the door without a loaded shotgun. Women have a role to play in all this, if there was respect for love in the world there would be so less of it too. in a world that values the material over everything else, what can you expect, dog eat dog. Sexuality, was not supposed to be tool to use at our convenience, sadly it became so. why is no one campaigning for a single adult channel on line, rather than having it everywhere, it’s great to be dealing with problems, but it would be far better if prevention was instigated, rather than outrage.

    1. HI there, and thanks for visiting Girls’ Globe! Yes, I agree – preventative measures are extremely important in battling violence against women and girls, and it is also important to move past rage to action. Hopefully more and more people will do that, and stand up against bullying and violence, both online and offline!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Never miss a post!

Subscribe to our emails and get notified when a new post is published!

Use Your Voice & Share Stories for Impact!

SPECIAL OFFER: Enroll in Digital Storytelling for Impact by November 17, and get free coaching from our founder, Julia Wiklander.

Coming Soon!

Subscribe and be the first to
know when we launch.

The content on Girls’ Globe is created by our members – activists, advocates and experts on gender equality, human rights and social justice from around the world.