(CHICAGO) — The mother of a 15-year-old girl who authorities say was sexually assaulted in an attack streamed live on Facebook said Wednesday that her daughter has received online threats since it happened and that neighborhood kids have been joking about it and harassing her family.
The woman was reunited with her daughter on Tuesday, two days after the girl went missing and a day after police learned of the attack. She said her daughter is staying with a relative and is scared to come home, and that she shares that fear.
“This is just disturbing and to think the kids think it is funny,” the mother, 32, told The Associated Press. The AP isn’t naming her to protect the identity of her daughter.
She said that since the attack, people have threatened on Facebook that “they are going to get her” daughter and that neighborhood children have been laughing about the incident and ringing the family’s doorbell looking for the girl. She said she’s shocked by the callousness people have shown since the attack, which was viewed live by about 40 people on Facebook Live — none of whom reported it to the police.
“I can’t stay here,” she said of Lawndale, the West Side neighborhood where her family lives. “I have other kids, too. I let them walk to school and now I have to take them.”
Police have questioned several people but haven’t named any formal suspects or made any arrests in the attack, which involved five or six men or boys, said department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. He said the girl knows at least one of her attackers and that investigators are making good progress identifying those involved. He also said investigators have begun looking into the mother’s claims about the threats and harassment, and that the head of the police department, Superintendent Eddie Johnson, reached out to the family to check on their wellbeing.
Police only learned of the attack on Monday afternoon, the day after the girl went missing. Her mother went to a Lawndale police station and filled out a missing person report, then spotted Johnson outside the station and approached him. She told him her daughter had been missing since Sunday and showed him screen grab photos of the assault that friends of her daughter had sent her.
Guglielmi said Johnson immediately ordered detectives to investigate and the department asked Facebook to take down the video, which it did.
Andrew Holmes, a local activist, said a friend of the girl’s mother called him Monday asking if he could help find the video online and get it to the police, which he did. He said to him, the video showed that the girl was frightened and trying to get away.
“You could see where she was fearful. … You could see the look of fear and where she is resisting, pushing back,” he told the AP. “It looked like … she was in total shock.”
Holmes said the video shows someone pulling the girl to a bed as she struggled to get away. He said he was struck by the indifference of the others who were there.
“Other individuals were there standing around and talking and someone says, ‘Cut the lights off,'” he said, adding that the lights kept going on and off during the video, which was several minutes long.
The mother said her daughter was still terrified after police found her.
“She went to the hospital, but she was so scared she didn’t want anybody to touch her,” the mother said. She said her daughter had bruising on her neck but she was told of no other significant bruises or cuts by the doctors.
The mother said she thinks the attack happened Sunday night, and that she learned of it from friends of her daughter who saw the video, recognized her daughter, a high school freshman, as a basketball player they know, and called her, the mom.
“They couldn’t send me the video so they sent screen shots,” she said.
A spokeswoman for Facebook, Andrea Saul, declined to comment on the girl’s case, specifically, but she said the company takes its “responsibility to keep people safe on Facebook very seriously.”
“Crimes like this are hideous and we do not allow that kind of content on Facebook,” she said.
The video marks at least the second time in recent months that the Chicago Police Department has investigated an apparent attack that was streamed live on Facebook. In January, four people were arrested after a cellphone footage showed them allegedly taunting and beating a mentally disabled man.