Two Ohio teens were recently found guilty of
raping a young girl and will spend significant time in a juvenile detention facility.
Ric Simmons, a former prosecutor and now a law professor, opines on CNN
that this case shows that the “rules have changed,” both when
it comes to evolving societal standards regarding sexual conduct and the
way social media impacts criminal cases.
Simmons says that these were two high school football stars who took advantage
of a highly-inebriated girl, a girl who was not able to consent to sexual
activity as a result of her intoxication. In the past, argues Simmons,
these football stars may have been given the relative equivalent of a
slap on the wrist, their conduct chalked up to what happens when kids party.
Simmons also says that social media – in the form of a picture posted
on the Web of the girl being carried by her wrists and ankles –
as well as damaging text messages sent by the defendants referencing how
she “was like a dead body,” had a huge impact on the prosecution’s case.
After all, the girl apparently did not know anything had happened to her
until she went online and saw the relevant pictures and posts.
But the rules may not have “changed,” necessarily. After all,
any sexual conduct that a person doesn’t consent to could lead to
a rape charge against the alleged perpetrator, whether or not society’s
standards on sexual conduct are truly evolving. A rape charge is a rape charge.
The only difference, in this case, is the significant role social media
played in bringing the allegations to light. And, certainly, this is where
the rules have changed regarding criminal cases.