Thursday, May 24, 2018
News Roundup

Cyberbullying turns a heartbreak into a horror

The story begins horribly enough, with the accusation of a teenage rape.

From there, the implications are enormous:

Lives interrupted and families torn apart. Innocence shattered and scars unseen.

And, yet, as we have reluctantly learned, there is a twisted temptation in an Internet-is-everywhere society to take a heartbreaking saga and make it exponentially worse.

By now, you may have heard of the Tarpon Springs High School sophomore charged with the sexual battery of a physically incapacitated girl at an underage drinking party.

Just to be clear, this is not an indictment or a defense of the student accused.

Rather, this is a lament of the cruel treatment too many rape victims routinely face.

Within days of when the incident was alleged, friends of the accused took to social media to insult, bully and demean a 15-year-old girl. What was portrayed as a defense of the accused looked instead like a vicious attack of the accuser.

"I really don't think kids understand the impact of what they're doing," said Dr. Tammy Zacchilli, an assistant psychology professor at Saint Leo University, who has studied cyberbullying. "The Internet has been a part of their lives forever, and so they tend to treat it like it's no big deal. It starts with one person, and all of the sudden their friends join in. It's easy to do when hiding behind a computer.

"It's a scary time to be a kid. They've found all these ways to harm each other."

Trust me, this is not an overreaction or an isolated case.

A month ago, we saw the conviction of two high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio, who sexually assaulted a girl who had gotten drunk at a party. Students at the school were sharing photos of the victim passed out on the floor.

Two weeks ago, a 17-year-old girl in Nova Scotia committed suicide after her parents say she was relentlessly bullied online following a sexual assault by four boys.

Last week, three California boys were charged in the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl who had passed out at a party. The girl committed suicide days after the attack when she discovered a photo of the incident had been circulated online.

Last week, a lawsuit was filed in Michigan by a teenager who said her principal encouraged her not to pursue assault charges against a star basketball player. She withdrew from the school because of cyberbullying, and the player was later charged with assaulting another student.

The typical rationale in this type of cyberbullying is that the victim is lying about the assault or is somehow responsible for the attack. Studies show this is nonsense.

The number of false accusations is a tiny fraction compared to the number of cases that go unreported. And that reality makes this trend far more heartbreaking than most of us realize.

Every time a girl is bullied online after a sexual assault, how many potential victims learn it is better to stay silent for fear of being victimized a second time?

This has to be addressed. It has to be stopped.

Taking advantage of an intoxicated person is not sex. It is rape. There are no gray areas involved. And attacking an accuser online is not being loyal. It is sick. And standing silently by is not good enough.

The shaming of a rape victim is not a singular event.

When we allow it to happen, it shames us all.

Comments
Calvary Christian’s record win streak ends in state final

Calvary Christian’s record win streak ends in state final

FORT MYERS — One of the most impressive streaks in high school baseball came to an end early Friday morning.Calvary Christian lost the Class 4A state championship 5-1 to Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian at Hammond Stadium in a game that ended ...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
Behind the deal: $52 million boutique hotel coming to Ybor City started with cafe con leche at La Tropicana Cafe

Behind the deal: $52 million boutique hotel coming to Ybor City started with cafe con leche at La Tropicana Cafe

TAMPA — Joe Capitano Sr. invested in the 1400 block of E Seventh Avenue in 1985, never doubting the huge potential of the property for Ybor City.But the deal to build a $52 million boutique hotel on the site didn’t start to come together until six ye...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays journal: Blake Snell, flying Denard Span finally solve Red Sox

Rays journal: Blake Snell, flying Denard Span finally solve Red Sox

ST. PETERSBURG — Having lost two straight and nine of 12 times overall to the Red Sox, the Rays needed two things to go right Thursday:First, a strong start from Blake Snell.Second, some early runs against Rick Porcello from an offense that had...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Thursday’s Rays-Red Sox game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Thursday’s Rays-Red Sox game

Home cooking clearly agrees with OF Denard Span. The 34-year-old Tampa product continues to deliver, producing at the plate, running the bases, making diving catches in the outfield, and Thursday, even going over the short sidewall twice in hot pursu...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Bucs’ Ali Marpet: NFL flip-flopping on anthem policy ‘a little bit odd’

Bucs’ Ali Marpet: NFL flip-flopping on anthem policy ‘a little bit odd’

TAMPA — This much is clear: The National Football League is focused on getting rid of kneeling players.That was the league's announcement Wednesday in requiring players to stand during the national anthem before games or possibly have their tea...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays once again will ‘open’ with relievers this weekend

Rays once again will ‘open’ with relievers this weekend

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays weren't kidding about being serious that starting relievers gives them the best chance to win.So much so, they plan to do so again this weekend against the Orioles — in all three games. The plan is for Sergio Rom...
Updated: 3 hours ago
When will the Lightning run out of wait-til-next-years?

When will the Lightning run out of wait-til-next-years?

TAMPA — Disbelief will eventually give way to acceptance.The Lightning isn't there yet.It isn't there yet in a lot of ways.Will it ever be?Just wondering.Really, what guarantees are there?Late Wednesday, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechki...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Deputies: Hours after birth, newborn abandoned in north Tampa

Deputies: Hours after birth, newborn abandoned in north Tampa

TAMPA — An abandoned a newborn baby was found in the University area on Thursday, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.A passerby found the baby boy wrapped in a red towel near the intersection of N 18th Street and E 143rd Avenue at ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Driver killed after colliding with dump truck in south Hillsborough

Driver killed after colliding with dump truck in south Hillsborough

WIMAUMA — A 30-year-old man died on Thursday after his sedan crashed head-on into a dump truck, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The crash took place at about 6 p.m. on U.S. 301 near Lightfood Road.Gerardo Yslas of Immokalee was driving a 2012...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, please go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Thurs., May 24, midday:173952098e_SRit83991Thurs., May 24, evening:146065414e_SRit29962Mega MillionsToda...
Updated: 5 hours ago