Imagine seeing that you'd been sexually assaulted on Instagram. That's what allegedly occurred to a Ohio University student last weekend: According to police reports, the female student filed a rape complaint after a video of her receiving oral sex on a sidewalk was plastered all over the Internet, particularly on the photo-sharing app Instagram and Twitter. The reported rape occurred Saturday, between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., and the student identified the man involved as a stranger.
Athens, Ohio, Police Chief Tom Pyle told OU student newspaper The Post that a case involving video sharing is unprecedented for the city. “Obviously, Steubenville comes to mind, but each case has to be judged on its own merits. This case may share some similarities, but it is also distinct and has to be handled as such,” he says.
If convicted, the man faces a felony charge that could accompany three to 11 years in jail. The local police have confirmed that they know who the man is, and that both student and alleged perpetrator are "cooperating in the investigation."
According to BuzzFeed, the alleged assault — which occurred in front of a bank sign that declared, “Welcome Students” a block away from Athens police headquarters — was live-tweeted during Homecoming Weekend. The following is an example of one such tweet (which was deleted as we wrote this post):
One video and various photos from Instagram and Twitter account users, which have now all been deleted, were forwarded to Hunter Moore, founder of revenge-porn website Is Anyone Up?, and a Twitter account geared toward OU students called Athens Tonight.
University Police Chief Andrew Powers called out students for participating in the alleged assault, instead of doing something to stop it. “What is more disturbing are the social implications of what it means for someone to have been standing there watching this thing happen, videotaping it with their phone instead of getting involved and trying to help the victim,” Powers told The Post.
Because alcohol was involved, some students have questioned a male-female double standard when it comes to incidents like this. But because of the seemingly meteoric rise in sharing videos of assault, as seen in the recent Steubenville and Halifax cases, Elizabeth Plank at PolicyMic points out the consequences could be dire:
We now live in a culture where there is inherent virality in female rape and it spreads for all the wrong reasons. Whether it is the assailant who shares the video-graphic evidence, or whether it is by-standers, the reasoning behind capturing and sharing the sexual assault of a woman or girl is usually the same: it is in an effort to humiliate the victim, rather than shame the rapist.