After rape, cyberbullying allegations in Torrington, calls for a national conversation

Reaction mixed to allegations of rape, cyberbullying in Torrington
Download Audio
Audio Playlist
Reaction mixed to allegations of rape, cyberbullying in Torrington

After allegations of statutory rape and cyberbullying surfaced in Torrington last week, online activists across the country are pushing for a national conversation on rape and sexual culture. But teenagers in Torrington continue to post mean-spirited comments and pictures online in support of the alleged perpetrators.

Barbara Spiegel directs the Susan B. Anthony Project, which educates schoolkids in Torrington about healthy relationships. The project, which has counterparts across the state, reaches 6000 students a year – including nearly 800 so far this schoolyear at Torrington High School. Spiegel says she was horrified to learn that after two 18-year-old football players at the school were charged with statutory rape of two 13-year-old girls, teenagers called the alleged victims names like “whore” and “snitch” on Twitter. Since then, the hacker group Anonymous has used Twitter to lead a fund-raising drive for the Susan B. Anthony project.

“We got donations from California, Arizona, South Carolina, Georgia, all over the place. And a couple from Connecticut," Spiegel says.

But tempers are still running high in Torrington schools. At a fundraising event at Torrington High School on Friday, teenagers staged a small rally in support of one of the students charged with statutory rape. Then, they posted a picture of themselves at the event on the photo-sharing web site called Instagram. And some continued to post comments on Twitter blaming the victims. Reporter and editor Tom Cleary wrote about all this in the Torrington Register-Citizen.

He says the community, already shocked by the events, is now even more so.

“I think most people are surprised that not all students, but some students continue to post on Twitter, continue to say things that could hurt the victims…and publicly do this," Cleary says.

In a letter to the Torrington Public School community Monday, superintendent Cheryl Kloczko warned that inappropriate comments against students or staff could have serious consequences.