It’s not a question with a short answer, but in a case like this, law enforcement and the signals it sends matter. In Canada, as in many states in the U.S., posting a photo of an alleged rape of a minor can be an offense under child pornography law. Often, prosecuting a teenager for child pornography is the wrong fit. (To address this, some states have created a separate offense, with lesser penalties, for sexting by juveniles.) But if one of the boys who allegedly raped Rehtaeh, or someone else, widely circulated this kind of explicit, debasing photo to humiliate her, charges are warranted. This kind of reputational harm is searing and scary. Teenagers and adults have to take seriously the injury that’s involved, and a prosecution in a case like this can underscore that. Digital evidence led to indictments and convictions in Steubenville even though the victim didn’t remember the sexual assault she’d experienced because she was unconscious. Why can’t the police make more use of it here?
As for the slut-shaming, this is one of the worst forms of harassment girls experience—harder on them than nonsexualized kinds, according to experts I talked to for my book, Sticks and Stones. It’s just so disturbing to think about how many generations of teenagers have had to go through this. It happened when I was Rehtaeh’s age in the 1980s, it’s portrayed with classic Tina Fey acumen in the 2004 movieMean Girls, and the Internet has only coarsened the discourse and created a sense of distance—an empathy gap—that somehow allows teenagers and adults to say harsh things that are hard to imagine they would ever say in person. We shouldn’t need stories like this one to make us see how sad all of this is. But somehow, it’s a lesson we have to learn over and over again. At a different girl’s expense each time.(Slate)
“Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience.-Ralph Waldo Emerson