Police investigating case of Year 9 SA girl taped and tied to tree and ‘sexually assaulted’ in extreme cyber bullying incident
SHOCKING: Social media image of Year 9 student taped and tied to a tree at a western suburbs school, during which she was allegedly sexually assaulted. Source: the girl's mother. Source: Supplied
A STUDENT at a metropolitan high school was taped to a tree, bound with a garden hose and allegedly repeatedly sexually assaulted in an incident recorded and posted on social media.
The Year 9 girl was filmed, allegedly distressed and screaming, while a gang of eight boys humiliated her during a recess break, just metres from the western suburb school’s staffroom.
The incident, in which the boys allegedly rubbed their buttocks and genitalia against the girl, is now the subject of SA Police and Education Department investigations.
The gang, meanwhile, has continued to harass its victim as recently as this week.
Her mother, who declined to be named, said her daughter was a “confident, happy child” when she began her studies at the school in 2010.
In mid-2011, she “became withdrawn”, performed poorly in class and received “particularly nasty” messages on social media.
For three years, the mother sought help from teachers and counsellors with no change in her daughter’s “extreme stress, anxiety and depression”.
In April, the girl told a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service worker and her mother she was being bullied by a girl and a gang of eight boys, culminating in the recorded incident.
“(The girl) taped my daughter to a tree out the front of the school and staffroom where most students gathered at recess and lunch,” the mother said.
“My daughter noticed a gang of boys approaching ... she began to ask (the girl) to let her free ... as the boys drew closer they grabbed the hose and sprinkler.
“By this stage my daughter was screaming and begging (the girl) to untie her; however, the girl chose to laugh at her and do nothing.”
The woman said the gang of boys wrapped her daughter in the hose and, while filming her with mobile phones, “dropped their pants and rubbed” their buttocks and genitalia on her.
“She said she felt so humiliated and so frightened ... everyone around her stood there and did nothing or were laughing in the distance,” she said.
The woman has spoken out about the incident for the first time after she was prompted to come forward by the historic first-ever prosecution of a teen under the state’s new “humiliating and degrading” filming laws.
The laws, introduced last year, carry a maximum one-year jail term for anyone who subjects another person to a degrading act, or one that would violate their privacy.
While that legislation came too late for her daughter, the woman said the community must know about schoolyard incidents that traumatise victims and expose families to “reprisal attacks”.
“This is an example of bullying that is taking place in our schools and it leads to teenage suicide ... thankfully, I still have my daughter. However, she is so very fragile,” the mother said.
She and her daughter reported the bullies to police and received “fantastic” assistance but, soon after, her daughter’s Instagram account was hacked and their home and car vandalised.
Photos of the incident continued circulating online, accompanied by comments like “this was so funny”, “I was laughing so much” and “you guys are legends”.
The girl has since left the school and is now completing her studies elsewhere.
The woman said she wanted to know why no teacher or adult was aware of the alleged incident, and why her daughter’s “withdrawal” was not followed up by staff.
“I admire my daughter’s strength of character in trying to deal with this alone and also completely understand why she has never spoken out before,” she said.
An Education Department spokesman told the Sunday Mail the school had “reviewed and reinforced” its bullying and harassment policies since the incident was reported.
He said the matter was in the hands of police.
“The mother has requested that the department’s initial focus be on her daughter’s education and wellbeing needs,” he said.
“When the incident was disclosed, counselling was made available to her from the school’s counsellor, and this support continues at her new school.”
An SA Police spokesman said he was unable to comment “as the matter is currently under investigation”.
TEEN BULLIES FACE JAIL FOR ONLINE SLURS
By Sean Fewster
AN ADELAIDE girl’s ordeal, in which she was allegedly tied to a tree and assaulted, is the latest example of chronic sexual and cyber bullying occurring in Australia’s schools.
Experts believe more than 10 per cent of the nation’s schoolchildren have, at some point during their academic career, experienced abuse and harassment online.
In September 2013, Tasmanian teenager Chloe Fergusson took her own life after three years of severe physical, verbal and mental abuse — including beatings filmed on mobile phones.
Tasmanian victim Chloe Fergusson suffered three years of severe physical, verbal and mental abuse.
Her family has since campaigned for amendments to Federal legislation, called “Chloe’s Law” , that would criminalise cyber-bullying and impose jail terms.
In November, an “Adelaide burn book” page was created on Facebook to attack, harass and defame students by spreading demeaning and sexually explicit rumours.
It was quickly shut down but, two weeks later, a second “burn book” was created , targeting anti-bullying campaigners for abuse.
Not even teachers have escaped cyber bullying — in 2012, the Education Department issued a memo staff after one in eight employees reported experiencing online harassment .
Last year, the State Government introduced the Summary Offences (Filming Offences) Act (2013), making it a crime to “engage in humiliating or degrading filming”.
Anyone who subjects another person to a degrading act, or one that would violate their privacy, while filming is liable to a maximum one-year jail term.
If a person distributes that film in any way, including by social media, they risk an additional one-year sentence.
This month, a 16-year-old from Kilburn faced the Youth Court as the first person charged under the act .
Sonya Ryan, director of the Carly Ryan Foundation, said speaking out was the best way to confront, defeat and triumph over cyber bullies.
“This type of behaviour is completely unacceptable and horrifying for the victims involved,” Ms Ryan said.
“If you see bullying occurring, or similar incidents within your community, then stand up, speak out, don’t be silent, support each other.
“If you’re a victim of cyber bulling, know that there is help available — don’t try and deal with this alone.”
Ms Ryan said trauma could “get out of hand very quickly” if affected people tried to deal with it on their own.
“Address it, with someone else’s help sooner rather than later,” she said.
“Often, even more serious incidents can be prevented.”
For help with depression, suicide prevention or cyber bullying, contact:
Lifeline — 13 11 14
The SANE Helpline — 1800 18 7263
Beyond Blue — 1300 22 4636
The Carly Ryan Foundation — firstname.lastname@example.org
Kids Helpline — 1800 55 1800
Teen Support Network — email@example.com
Originally published as Student tied to a tree, sexually abused in school