This alarming social media story came from our Philadelphia local news (credited to Associated Press, Don Babwin). Even though this may be an unusual story, I think it represents some more violent and devastating incidents that victimize teenagers in our society.
Further distress occurred when the assault was posted on social media
Imagine how traumatic it was that the perpetrators put the assault on Facebook!
Let’s look at what happened. The news story and my commentary follows.
An arrest warrant has been issued for a second teenage boy in the sexual assault of a 15-year-old Chicago girl that was streamed live on Facebook, and further arrests are expected, police said Sunday.
A day after announcing the arrest of a 14-year-old boy on sexual assault and child pornography charges, police said they were looking for a 15-year-old suspect in the March 19 attack, which investigators have said involved five or six males. Investigators didn’t specify how many others would likely be charged, but they did say one adult male was among them.
Police were careful not to release too many details of the ongoing investigation, but they did provide some that helped illustrate why Superintendent Eddie Johnson remained visibly upset as he has been since the investigation began.
Commander Brendan Deenihan said that the victim saw one of the suspects, whom she knew, on the day of the attack. She said the suspect “lured” her into the home of one of the offenders in the North Lawndale neighborhood on the city’s West Side, where she also lives.
“She was not allowed to leave and she did not consent to what occurred,” he said.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the girl was threatened by suspects, but he would not say what those threats entailed.
Deenihan also said there were multiple cellphone videos made of the attack, not just the one streamed live on Facebook that was viewed by about 40 people – none of whom reported it.
“It disgusts me that we have people who would look at those videos and not pick up a phone and dial 911,” he said.
Deenihan declined to say if either of the teens who are already facing charges streamed the live video. But the charges against the 14-year-old—aggravated criminal sexual assault, manufacturing of child pornography and dissemination of child pornography—suggest that he shot video or took photographs of the attack, Guglielmi said.
Threats had been received
Last month, the girl’s mother told The Associated Press that her daughter received online threats following the attack and that neighborhood kids were ringing her doorbell looking for the girl, who hasn’t returned to the neighborhood. On Sunday, Deenihan said police were investigating what he called “social media bullying” and that detectives have “executed social media search warrants” in the case.
He said the girl is traumatized and reluctant to talk about the attack, and that she’s going to need help for a long time. After the news conference, Guglielmi said city officials and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office have relocated the girl to a “safe place,” but he declined to elaborate.
There are so many significant issues in this story.
First, my heart goes out to this young 15-year-old teenager who now is seriously trauma-impacted. I pray that she will get the support and counseling she needs to begin a journey towards healing. I also feel for her family who have had to deal with their own grief and loss over her victimization and theirs.
A second tragedy is to think of the lives of these offenders. They also are also teenagers whose lives will be impacted in ways never to be forgotten. They have committed violent acts that will follow them for the rest of their lives. Yes, they have committed a tragic offence and must be held accountable. However, I have to wonder about their influences: if they have had abuse in their lives which made such behaviors acceptable.
Third, it is stunning to think that over 40 individuals saw this assault and did not contact the police to report it. I understand social media desensitizes many, but we as a society need to protect those who are vulnerable. We all need to have our radar on high alert so we can be vigilant to protect our teenagers.
The added insult to injury in this story is the “social media bullying” that occurred after the attack.
This issue plus actual encounters forced a situation in which she had to be relocated for her own safety. Clearly this whole episode has revealed a very ugly side of our society and yet challenges all of us to be vigilant to protect our children.
It means that we must seriously consider the messages we are allowing in the minds of our children. It means that we must protect our children from the impact of community and family trauma. We must be involved in the lives of the children and teenagers in our care to make sure they are given healthy values and safe environments in which to live.
This event calls all of us into action. Whether in our homes, schools or communities, we must protect those in our sphere of influence by being active advocates of nonviolence and providing supportive and caring environment for our children and teenagers.
I am sure there will be support and help for this young girl. Yet, the greater way we can support our teenagers is to prevent traumatic and life-dominating tragedies like this from happening.
Sadly, I am sure there are those who now realize that this tragedy could have been prevented and regret they had not taken action to avert it. I hope we all will be active protectors of our children in every way that we can.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network