Viral images led to suicides of teenagers in Halifax, Saratoga, families say

Three California boys were arrested Thursday in connection with the sexual assault of a girl who later committed suicide, reports the Associated Press:

“After an extensive investigation that we have conducted on behalf of the family, there is no doubt in our minds that the victim, then only 15 years old, was savagely assaulted by her fellow high school students while she lay on a bed completely unconscious,” [family attorney Robert Allard] said.

Allard said students used cell phones to share photos of the assaults and the images went viral.

Santa Clara County sheriff’s Lt. Jose Cardoza said two of the teens were arrested at Saratoga High School and the third, a former Saratoga High student, at Christopher High School in Gilroy. The names of the suspects were not released because they are minors. Details about the assault were also not released.

In a similar case, a Canadian girl died in Halifax on Sunday. She hanged herself, her mother said, 18 months after she was reportedly raped by four boys at a party. One of the alleged perpetrators took a photo of the incident with his phone, and that photo was publicized on Facebook and distributed widely via e-mail, according to the victim’s father. Royal Canadian Mounted Police declined to prosecute the case after a long investigation, saying that the evidence was insufficient. The provincial justice minister has said he is looking to review how the police handled the case.

This isn’t an isolated case,” Diana Reese writes. The rape conviction of two Steubenville, Ohio boys last month has focused national attention on the combination of rape and social media, and on the shame victims of rape experience when images of their assaults are made public. Cellphone photos shared online by the accused in the Steubenville case were part of the evidence against them.

Melinda Henneberger excoriates journalists covering that case for sympathizing with the defendants:

On NBC, Lester Holt told viewers, “In many ways, tonight stands as a cautionary tale to a generation that has come of age in the era of social networking.”

Hello, Mr. Holt? That almost sounds as though you think the takeaway is that rapists should have sense enough not to implicate themselves. Good thing there were some women covering the story. Oh, but they included CNN’s Candy Crowley, who said to the reporter covering the trial, “I cannot imagine, watching this on the feed coming in, how emotional that must have been sitting in the courtroom” when the judge handed down the verdicts. (Read the rest of the column here.)

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Max Ehrenfreund is a blogger on the Financial desk and writes for Know More and Wonkblog.
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