Roughly 40 People Watched a Teen's Assault on Facebook & No One Said a Word

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Facebook Live has enabled people to connect with one another from hundreds of thousands of miles away, but it seems the real-time videos haven't made us any more empathetic. Case in point: Police say a Chicago-area teenager was sexually assaulted on Sunday, and roughly 40 viewers were watching the horror as it went down via Facebook Live.

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None of the roughly 40 viewers, a viewership that the girl's family alleges included adults (who should have more wherewithal than teenagers), got the authorities involved.

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Nor did any of them report the video to Facebook -- it remained live on the site until police contacted the company to have the evidence of the 15-year-old's assault by as many as six assailants removed so she didn't have to undergo additional trauma.

Could there be a more unsettling look at how society determines when it's worth getting involved and when it'll turn a blind eye?

"She was heinously raped, beaten and abused and assaulted on tape -- on FB live," Reginald King, the victim's relative, told ABC 7 Chicago. "So whatever picture people want to paint of her -- she was a chronic runaway or whatever -- nobody deserves that. No human being deserves for that to happen to them." King said it was actually a teen who told him that the video existed.

We've all seen Internet comment threads turn into all-out wars in minutes, often on articles on Facebook itself. It's clear that we'll jump into the fray on just about anything -- be it an argument about politics or rainbow cake recipes.

When the folks at FiveThirtyEight asked people why they comment on the Internet, the overwhelming reason given for getting involved was to correct an error.

But can you think of any behavior that's in more dire need of immediate correction than the sexual assault of a child, or something that's more necessary to stop than a gang assault?

It also bears mentioning that a 911 call could even be done anonymously, while Facebook battles happen with a person's name attached. It seems we're more willing to wade in on a debate about food coloring in a cake with our names on the line than we are to step up and protect a child from being harmed -- even anonymously.

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The girl in the video has made it home to her mom, albeit days after the assault, and now she's facing the aftermath of the trauma while police search for the alleged perpetrators (one has been arrested so far). The watchers can't return to the moment when they could have made a difference in this girl's life, but their inaction serves as a sharp reminder that "see something, say something" isn't just a catchy phrase. It's a moral responsibility that we -- and our kids -- should be taking more seriously. At least as seriously as a rainbow cake.

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