Facebook allegedly at center of teen suicide and rape

Council for the Child: Social networking websites are becoming one of the biggest dangers to youth.

Rape victim (photo credit: Judy Siegel-Itzkovich)
Rape victim
(photo credit: Judy Siegel-Itzkovich)
The Facebook social networking website is suspected of being at the center of two incidents that came to light on Wednesday, one involving the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl by several young men, and another the suicide of a young boy.
Two Netanya youths, aged 22 and 17, have already been arrested on suspicion of raping the girl, although Ch.-Supt.
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Assaf Zilberstein, head of operations and investigations for the city’s police force, would not confirm reports that the victim met them on Facebook.
The 22-year-old suspect had been employed by the police’s National Serious and International Crimes Unit as an undercover informer, Hebrew media reported, and allegedly raped the girl while working with the police. Police sources confirmed that the suspect had been an informer.
Zilberstein said that several more teenage boys were being questioned in the investigation.
“The boys met her in various ways,” he said.
“According to the girl’s testimony, the two suspects raped her, leading to their arrests,” he continued, adding that the alleged offenses had taken place in public areas such as parks and bomb shelters.
Zilberstein said police had first been alerted to the alleged incidents by social services.
A spokeswoman for the Welfare and Social Services Ministry confirmed the case, saying that the girl was considered to be at high risk and was currently being helped at a social services-run emergency center.
The spokeswoman could not confirm, however, Hebrew media reports that the girl had been impregnated by one of the boys and undergone an abortion.
In the other incident, a boy from the Jerusalem area killed himself after receiving nasty comments and being teased by classmates on Facebook, his parents said.
His body was found on Tuesday afternoon by his younger sister. Immediately after the suicide became known, the negative comments were removed from his Facebook page, a friend said.
The boy’s parents told reporters that he had exhibited no signs of distress. His mother promised to make it her mission to work with other young people to make them understand the potential dangers of the website.
Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, the National Council for the Child’s executive director, told The Jerusalem Post it was unlikely that a teen would commit suicide solely based on comments found on Facebook and that most likely there had been other factors involved.
“It could have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, however,” he said.
Kadman said there had been a 40-percent increase in teen suicides in Israel over the past few years and that social networking websites were fast becoming one of the biggest dangers facing the country’s youth.
“While Internet networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have some very excellent attributes, and today it is part of the modern life of children, we are failing to teach them how to use this tool properly,” Kadman said.
“Parents are failing and the authorities are failing,” he said. “We leave children alone to play on these sites and they simply do not have adequate tools to deal with them. Often these interactions end in all sorts of negative ways, leading to sexual abuse, suicide and ‘virtual violence,’ which is no less dangerous than the physical kind.”
Kadman likened the dangers to the flu.
“We give our children vaccinations against the flu just in case they catch it, but we do not give them the tools to protect them from the predators and dangers on the Internet,” he said.
It was time parents became more aware of these dangers and the authorities incorporated techniques in their activities for teaching children about Internet safety, he asserted.
“We taught our children how to cross the road, and learning how to be safe online is exactly the same thing,” Kadman said.