Facebook is a place to connect with friends, keep people updated on events going on in your life, and share photos of happy memories. However, for a group of young people in Pitt Meadows, British Columbia, Facebook became a tool to share pictures of a brutal attack on a 16-year-old girl who was allegedly drugged and gang raped at a recent house party. According to the police investigating this case, the young woman “suffered significant injuries” from “an aggressive series of assaults involving between five and seven males that lasted 20 minutes.”
So far, only one arrest has been made in this case – that of a male young offender who allegedly took photos of the attack and posted them on Facebook. He now faces charges related to the production and distribution of child pornography. According to the RCMP, the gang rape occurred early last Saturday morning in a field outside of a house hosting a rave titled “Another Night in Bangkok." Superintendent Dave Walsh said that this was a private house party “attended by a large number of youth” in Pitt Meadows, 40 km east of Vancouver. Another article on this story stated that hundreds of young people and adults were at this party. It was not until Sunday that the police learned of the attack when someone came to them and reported that photos of the victim being raped had been posted on Facebook.
There are so many issues to address in this horrible story. First, the fact that this gang rape happened at all is heart-breaking. The thought of this young girl drugged, raped by seven young men, all alone after being separated from her friends, and unable to fight back due to the effects of the drugs are almost too much to comprehend. Added to the rapes themselves are the additional humiliation of being photographed while being attacked and then the pictures posted on the Internet for anyone to see and download. Further, there were comments posted on Facebook along with the photos that suggested the young woman was a willing participant. According to police, this is completely false: all the physical and medical evidence indicate that this is a case of a large number of men sexually assaulting one woman.
Can you even imagine being raped and then having to face the fact that people were downloading pictures of your pain and then posting insensitive and false comments? It is no wonder that Ridge Meadows RCMP Sgt. Jennifer Hyland, who is leading the investigation into the rapes, said that the young woman is not doing too well, especially in light of the additional burden of the widespread circulation of the photos that are “spreading like wildfire” on the Internet. The fact that these pictures are available to anyone has made it especially difficult for police to assist this young woman begin to overcome the effects of these rapes.
Police officers are “angry and disgusted” at the large number of people who are downloading and sharing graphic pictures of this brutal attack and they have pleaded with the public to stop. Hyland underscored the horror of this attack and the subsequent events in this case when she said, “I’ve been involved in investigating sexual assaults for many years. In that time, I’ve never experienced anything like what is occurring in this investigation...The very public discussion about this victim and the taking and subsequent sharing of photos depicting this rape is disgusting, morally corrupt and criminal.”
After the attack, the young woman required medical attention. At the same time as she was receiving this medical care, the pictures of the gang rape were being posted on Facebook; they were removed on Sunday after police were notified. However, despite their removal, “copies have been downloaded and have since gone into circulation.” The fact that these pictures continue to be viewed and shared is reprehensible. Since I could not find the words to express my outrage, I have included the sentiments of Sgt. Hyland:
“I want to be clear about this: What happened after this incident and continues to happen is beyond disgusting. Those 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 photos is continuing to victimize the young girl and her family and needs to stop.”
Further, in addition to the horrific and long-term this attack has had and will continue to have on the young woman who was gang raped, other young people have been traumatized after they were shown pictures of the attack. According to police, they have received complaints from several parents whose children have come home crying and quite upset after they saw the pictures.
As mentioned above, only the photographer has been arrested at the time of this post; however, the police have stated they have leads on some of the other alleged rapists. Further, according to Const. Aaron Lloyd, the photos taken of the attack will help police identify and arrest some of the other participants in the rapes.
At this point, it is early in the investigation and police are still in the process of talking to everyone who attended the rave. However, this process has been hindered by the lack of cooperation from some. In light of their need for as much information as possible, police are urging anyone with information regarding this gang rape to come forward.
Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact Ridge Meadows RCMP at 604-463-6241. Those who want to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.