A 16-year old girl who says she was drugged and raped at a party spoke out on Houston local TV about how it felt to have images of her alleged assault circulated around social media.
While rape victims are are usually kept strictly anonymous, some survivors are beginning to speak out against their attackers, especially when the assault makes its way onto social media. Daisy Coleman, the Maryville teen who was viciously cyberbullied after she publicly accused a fellow high school student of raping her, was one of the first survivors to publicly identify herself, but others are following suit. Some victims have even taken to Twitter to publicly discuss their experiences with sexual assault.
“Anonymity has always been the default,” said Jennifer Marsh, VP of Victim Services at Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. “But in the cases we’ve seen recently—everything is already out there. Her face was out there. So at that point it’s a question of regaining control of the narrative of what happened to you.”
The Houston teen, identified only as Jada, said she went to a party with friends where the host gave her a drink she now believes was spiked with a drug. She passed out, and doesn’t remember anything from when she was unconscious. It wasn’t until Jada saw disturbing pictures and tweets on social media, that she believed she’d been raped. “Everybody knows,” Jada told KHOU 11. “And everybody’s texting me are you OK? You’re going to be OK, and I was like alright.” (TIME doesn’t usually identify rape victims, but we are making an exception in this instance because Jada wanted to come forward.)
It’s not immediately clear who originally tweeted the photos, because the photos have been mostly removed and some Twitter handles of people close to the incident have been de-activated. But the pictures soon went viral under the hashtag #jadapose, allegedly referring to the position of her body in the photographs. The alleged rapist was reportedly denouncing Jada and her story before his Twitter account was deactivated, including one tweet that said “HOW ITS RAPE? YOU HAD 2 MONTHS TO SAY SOMETHING BUT YOU AINT SAY [SH*T] TILL YOU GET EXPOSED?”
Other Twitter users followed suit, using the hashtag to mock Jada:
The original photographs have since been reported and mostly removed and Jada’s supporters have started a Twitter backlash and used the hashtag in her defense.
And now she’s angry. “I had no control,” said Jada. “I didn’t tell anyone to take my clothes off and do what they did to me.”
The circumstances of Jada’s decision to come forward are truly horrific and no teenager should have to endure the double violation of a rape and then a social media maelstrom at her expense, and no victim should feel she has to identify herself in order to stop abuse. But maybe there’s a silver lining in this strategy for survivors. By coming forward, Jada traded her anonymity for a face and a voice, and with identity comes a certain kind of power.
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