A shocking online video of a young Sarnia woman being beaten up at the hands of a group of women is another example of the growing trend of cyber bullying, says a U.S. expert.
“I definitely would consider an assault video posted online as cyber
bullying, as the victim had no control and is obviously being beaten
up,” said Jayne Hitchcock, president of Working to Halt Online Abuse (WHOA) based out of Maine. “Plus, anyone who made disparaging comments about the video could be held accountable as well, especially if they encouraged nasty comments and didn't report the video.”
That's exactly what family and friends of the 18-year-old victim found online just hours after the assault Saturday.
Underneath the 37-second clip, viewers laughed and cheered on the assault of the victim, who is shown being pinned to the ground, hit and dragged by her hair out into the hallway of a Sarnia apartment building.
As soon as they came across the video, family and friends spent the weekend flagging it on Facebook to no avail.
Just hours after The Observer posted the story online Tuesday afternoon, the video was taken down from a Facebook account. It isn't clear if Facebook or the user removed the video.
“It means a great deal,” said a relative of the victim who asked not to be named. “This is something hopefully that isn't going to appear in the future and haunt the victim when she's out in the workforce 20 years from now or 15 years from now. You just hope it's not out there permanently.”
After the assault, the victim told family she didn't want to press charges, according to a relative. She hasn't been heard from since the weekend.
Sarnia police Det. Const. Sam Sulaiman said the victim's family has been spoken to in an attempt to have her come forward to police.
The victim's relative still isn't pleased by how long the video was online before either Facebook or the user took it down.
“I think Facebook and these social (media) outlets need to police this stuff a little bit better than they have in the past and be held accountable in some fashion,” the relative said.
“Facebook and other social media companies need to have strong security and abuse teams in place to look at anything flagged or reported
immediately,” she said. “I don't want to see more kids and teens killing
themselves because the video or photo or post wasn't removed right away and they feel they have no other option.”
Within the last year, the deaths of two teens – Amanda Todd in British Columbia and Rehtaeh Parsons in Nova Scotia – have been linked to cyber bullying.
However, Hitchcock said her volunteer organization hears about cyber bullying cases on a daily basis from people of all ages and all walks of life.
“There is not one type of person being targeted online,” she said. “Sometimes the bully or harasser is someone they know, but half of the time it's a complete stranger, such as in an online video game, making posts in a message board or on a friend's profile, or even an eBay auction gone wrong. Anything online can be used against you.”
Hitchcock knows this experience firsthand.
She founded her organization and its youth chapter after her own case of cyber stalking made headlines in the late 1990s.
After Hitchcock raised concerns on a message board about a literary agency operating online, she claims she was the victim of “email bombs” – a huge volume of spam – being sent to her, her husband, her actual literary agent and her employer.
She also discovered online posts sent under her email address listing her phone number and address along with a claim she was into sadomasochistic sexual fantasies.
Since then, Hitchcock has devoted her time to speaking up about the issue of cyber crimes. She has delivered presentations to the U.S. Department of Justice's Office for Victims of Crime through to school classrooms.
“It made me stand up for myself and do something about it so that
others like me would have somewhere to go to,” she said.