Ohio rape case shows the tragic, useful role of social media - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Ohio rape case shows the tragic, useful role of social media

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Pictures and videos you post on the internet, could help convict you of a crime.

Text messages and cellphone pictures make up the majority of evidence that led to the rape conviction of two high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio.

"There's a lot of remarks being made. I'm going...you can see, I've got at one of 'em here," said Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla.

Now, Ohio authorities have arrested two teen girls, suspected of posting threats on Facebook and Twitter against the accuser, "Jane Doe."

"Cases like ours have been so common among so many young teenage girls and you know, boys have been kind of treated lightly because you know, there's always these excuses like, they're just young, they're stupid, they're athletes," said sexual assault advocate, Savannah Dietrich.

The now 18 year-old publicly called out two boys on Twitter who took pictures of her being sexually assaulted in August 2011, after she'd passed out from drinking at a party in Louisville, Kentucky.

Savannah said, "They don't really see it as a serious crime. They just see, like, oh, this is funny. Other people are laughing, I'm laughing."

The two 16-year-olds pleaded guilty to first-degree sexual abuse and misdemeanor voyeurism.

Dietrich said, "Once it's out there you can never completely erase it. You can't take away what people have seen and it's just very hard."

Savannah says she violated the judge's gag order by tweeting the boys's names because she felt their original sentence, of community service and counseling, was too lenient.

"To have people call me a liar and not believe me and to not be able to talk about it and have my rights taken away...I just felt like... I'll give up everything just to prove a point," Dietrich said.

The contempt charges against her were eventually dropped and the boys received a stiffer punishment.

"Usually when victims do come forward, there is a backlash," said Annette Saenz, a sexual assault specialist with Safe Place.

She says she sees cases revolving around social media all too often in Travis county.

"It is becoming kind of a good versus evil...We do see the harassment, the humiliation, the degradation of the young victim... but then we also see the good side of it because...We do know that it can become evidence and we can track that down," said Saenz.

Even if you're just a bystander, you too could be held accountable.

The Ohio Attorney General says state officials have interviewed nearly 60 people---students, coaches and parents. Sixteen of them have refused to speak to investigators.

Prosecutors might consider pursuing additional offenses including obstruction of justice, failure to report a felony and failure to report child abuse.

 

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