Thursday, May 15, 2008

Teenager seeks help from YouTube

Finding no help or answers, a 16-year-old girl from Florida turned to YouTube to find sympathetic ears. According to Jezebel, the 23-year-old who allegedly raped her was not prosecuted because the girl was a month shy of turning 16, the legal age of consent, and it turned into a case of "he said/she said."

CNN's Ashley Fantz reports that with 5 percent of Florida cases never even reaching a prosecutor's office, many women who've survived sexual assault turn to other sources to find someone to hear their story, like Facebook, Myspace, or even, as we see here, YouTube.

"What you hear from every rape crisis center from Pensacola to Key West is that there are hardly ever any prosecutions," she said. "Most sexual violence is acquaintance rape, and unfortunately, a lot of juries still think that if a victim had a relationship with their attacker, then they cannot be raped by that person." (Emphasis mine.)

The question is quickly becoming, are they finding the help they need? Luckily, Crystal's plea may lead her to better support than she received in the past, but check out the responses to her posting - not exactly what she was hoping for:

Good acting and good story, go somewhere else for attention.

if anything she should be liable for court and municipal costs related to her bullshit claim

Another woman, Stacy, 25, was raped by an acquaintance and soon found herself in a similar situation. She reported it to the university authorities, but instead of treating the accusation with the gravity it deserved, they allowed her attacker to continue going to class (which she shared). Not finding the help she needed, she started looking elsewhere.

She began instant messaging in chat rooms but quickly realized that many people who initially seemed sympathetic were only pretending.

"The next thing you know, they are making it seem like they are turned on. They were asking me for details of my rape. It was very disturbing," she said. "I had to block several people. After that, I thought the worst of the world. I thought everyone was a perpetrator, and I trusted no one." Via CNN

Should the take-away message here be “trust only thyself”? No, of course not. If you have been sexually assaulted, here’re a couple of things you can do:

*Report the incident; if you’re not comfortable, confide in someone you trust and ask them to help you.

*Check out the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline; they’ve got people trained to listen to you and hear your story, as well as the resources to help you. You can also call them at 1.800.656.HOPE (1.800.656.4673). It’s anonymous, so you don’t have to share your identity if you don’t want to.

*If you decide to tell your story through online forums (Myspace, YouTube, LiveJournal, etc.), carefully consider how much information you want to give out. It’s a serious concern that a lot of women are giving out too much information about themselves, which can be really dangerous:

Advocates worry that victims are divulging too much information. CNN found several Facebook and MySpace profiles on which young people say they have been raped. The postings include their names, photographs and hometowns. Via CNN

*Along those lines, also think about the future when posting:

Because anything posted on the Web is available forever through an Internet search, a rape survivor must consider how they would feel if that information were dredged up in the future, counselors said. By making themselves -- or their IP address -- available, victims open themselves to unreliable and unprofessional advice and the harsh judgment of their peers.

Perhaps worst of all, they could give their perpetrator a chance to find them again or gain more satisfaction. Via CNN

Always, always protect yourselves.

If your loved one is the victim of sexual assault, here’s what you can do to help:

  • Listen. Be there. Don’t be judgmental.
  • Be patient. Remember, it will take your friend some time to deal with the crime.
  • Help to empower your friend or family member. Sexual assault is a crime that takes away an individual’s power, it is important not to compound this experience by putting pressure on your friend or family member to do things that he or she is not ready to do yet.
  • Encourage your friend to report the rape to law enforcement (call 911 in most areas). If your friend has questions about the criminal justice process, talking with someone on the National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-HOPE, can help.
  • Let your friend know that professional help is available through the National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-HOPE, and the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline.
  • If your friend is willing to seek medical attention or report the assault, offer to accompany him or her wherever s/he needs to go (hospital, police station, campus security, etc.)
Encourage him or her to contact one of the hotlines, but realize that only your friend can make the decision to get help. (From RAINN)

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