Safety Sync: New Ways to Hold Perpetrators Accountable

Aug 21st, 1970

By Sarah Prager, Program Coordinator Distributing Mug Shots on Pinterest Pinterest is the fastest-growing social network on the Internet, with over 10 million users. While many police departments are getting a presence on Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest is the newest frontier for law enforcement agencies using social media. NPR ran a story last month on how the Pottstown PD is using the virtual pinboard to bring suspects into custody. Pottstown, PA is a small town 50 miles from the Maryland border, but their “Wanted by Police” Pinterest board has well over 1,000 followers. Maryland law enforcement departments looking for ideas on how to use Pinterest can view these accounts as examples: Agencies can create a Pinterest business account here and learn Pinterest 101 here. MCASA is on Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/mcasaorg.   Recent Findings on Meeting Strangers Online A study published on Monday in the Pediatrics journal found that teenage girls who had experienced abuse were more likely to engage in risky behavior online, such meeting strangers from the Internet in person. A researcher from the study spoke with the website LiveScience:

Jennie Noll, a psychology professor at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, had been studying abused teens when she began noticing their online profiles were markedly different.

"They would, more often than some other kids, post racy photos of themselves or sexual utterances," Noll told LiveScience.

To test that observation, she and her colleagues studied 130 girls ages 14 to 17 who had seen Child Protective Services for sexual and physical abuse and neglect, as well as 125 demographically similar teenagers with no abuse history. The girls answered questions about online behavior. A year later, Noll asked how many of the girls had met an Internet friend offline.

Thirty percent of girls (both abused and not) reported an in-person encounter with someone they first met online. About 10 percent of the girls experienced something negative — often creepy sexual overtures or intimidation during that meet-up. Only one prosecuted rape occurred as a result of the offline meetings, Noll said.

Consistent with her anecdotal experience, abused teens were likelier than non-abused teens to have racy social media profiles or report fielding sexual advances from strangers — behaviors that were separately tied to meeting strangers offline.

The full story with additional data can be found here. One case that has been in the headlines that exemplifies this trend come from Canada. 21-year-old Alexander Kennedy has been sentenced to 14 days in jail to be served on weekends only for having sex with a 13-year-old girl he friended on Facebook. (She was already a survivor of child sexual abuse before this incident.) The case is notable because there are records of the Facebook chats where they both state their true ages before they met in person, proving he knew she was 13. According to the Daily Dot, the prosecutor in the case “said the police didn't properly secure computer logs or requested information from Facebook.” Part of Kennedy’s sentence is that he is no longer permitted to have any more contact with girls under age 16 through social media, though his profile has not been taken down.   Using Twitter to Defend Female Protesters in Egypt Groups of hundreds or thousands of anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo has become commonplace over the past year, but the space has not been safe for women. Now a group has taken it upon themselves to help change that. According to the website Gawker:

Witnesses powerless to intervene against the horde in a mob sexual assault can tweet the location to @TahrirBodyguard, which immediately dispatches several uniformed volunteers to respond. [On November 30, 2012,] over 300 men and women volunteers donned the reflective neon safety vests, helmets, and T-shirts proclaiming Tahrir a "safe square for all." They stood at every checkpoint, atop watchtowers, and in the crowd. Members of another new group, Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment, passed out hotline numbers and instructions on handling rape trauma victims. A 22-year-old named Yasmine Abdelhamid said it was the first time since the uprising that she felt it was safe for her to protest in Tahrir Square again.

  This article appeared in the Winter 2013 issue of Frontline.

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