You’re a 15-year-old boy. You’re sent a video message by a mate. And you open it.
Inside lies an atrocity: incoherent footage of a young boy forcing himself upon a young girl too intoxicated to utter the word ‘no’.
What do you do?
This is the question 50 teenagers were forced to ask themselves during the aftermath of a party held on the eve of Mardi Gras, in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. And of the 50 teenagers who asked themselves that question, each and every one of them made the wrong decision.
The party was one of many; a binge-drinking, 100-strong ruckus of stress-ridden teens letting their collective hair down on a night of celebration. Nothing new.
Partially, it was a nod to marriage equality. But mostly, it was an excuse to get blind-drunk; to medicate the self-conscious teenage monkey mind with Smirnoff, probably sipped from plastic water bottles.
I’m only 19 myself. I would know.
Listen: Mia Freedman, Monique Bowley and Holly Wainwright discuss the horrific aftermath of this party, on Mamamia Out Loud. Post continues after audio…
It’s not unusual for things to get out-of-hand at these parties. Alcohol is a fun new toy and the consensus seems to be the more you drink, the funner you are.
Boundaries are breached. Risks are taken. Dignity is lost.
In that sense, this party was like any other.
It differs, however, because on this night, a 15-year-old girl was allegedly raped by a 15-year-old boy.
Allegedly, it was filmed. On a phone. By a friend of the 15-year-old a boy. And allegedly, that footage was distributed to the phones of “at least” 50 other teenagers – some of whom were at the party, others who weren’t.
Even more horrific than the fact an alleged act of assault was caught on camera? The girl was unconscious the entire time; intoxicated to the point she no longer had any control over her body whatsoever.
Those who received the video played no active part in the alleged rape. They played no part in its performance, its documentation, or its distribution. And in that sense, they're at no fault whatsoever.
The girl, however - the 15-year-old daughter, friend and victim at the centre of this allegation - was not only unaware that a video had been taken of her sexual encounter. She was unaware she'd been raped at all.
She found out the following day, via text message.
It was in their silence that those 50 recipients, in reality, let a young woman down.
Now. Before going further, I want to make the following point absolutely clear:
By no means am I equating the inaction of those who received the video, with the alleged atrocities of the boys who enacted and distributed it.
For those who allegedly committed the crimes, it's too late. No form of repentance, moral or physical, can re-instate the basic human rights allegedly snatched from that young girl.
But for those who received the footage - and, more importantly, for any young man who receives footage of this nature in the future - it's not too late.
You can still be 'the good guy'.
From my first breath, I've been raised to be 'the good guy'.
My Mum is a feminist. My Dad, a gentleman. And I, the product.
He isn't a real person, 'the good guy'. Rather, an ethos. A set of values and beliefs relating to women which every young man who thinks himself respectable should aspire to hold.
The good guy doesn't take advantage of the limp young girl overcome by alcohol. He takes care of her.
He brings her water and calls a cab and waits with her until it arrives.
Simply put, he doesn't pull her pants down. He holds her hair back.
Whether the young men who unwillingly received the video of the alleged rape passed it on, or not; whether they forwarded it to their friends, deleted it, or showed no one; one fact is inarguable.
They didn't do enough.
Not a single one of the young men in possession of that video - regardless of how they came to have it on their phones - thought to to notify the young girl.
Not a single young man thought to notify his parents.
Not a single young man thought to notify the Police.
The Police, for the record, were eventually notified by teachers at Cranbrook School - the private school in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs attended by the alleged rapist.
According to The Daily Telegraph, teachers at the school informed Police after overhearing students speak about the video.
For any mums out there. It's 2017. And one has to be realistic.
Whether you have a young boy or girl; whether they're outgoing or introverted; whether they're gay, straight, bi or trans, the age at which they discover their sexuality will be the same one at which they're given their first mobile phone.
And they may not be the ones sharing nude photos; they mightn't be the ones capturing blurry footage of intoxicated young women being assaulted by their mates.
But they're sure as hell going to be the ones receiving it.
And when they do? Well, that's when they need to read this.
That's when we need to make sure the young men of 2017 are prepared; that they know how to protect themselves should they send anything, or be sent.
That they ask: How can I help her? What does she need? In what way would 'the good guy' go about handling this very scenario?
Well, he's the one who puts himself in her shoes.
It doesn't matter if she's wearing heels, or flats. She might have bare feet. Heck she could be nude, clothed, in front of him, or virtual.
The good guy transcends circumstance.
'What can I do to make her life better at this very moment?' is the question sitting at the forefront of his mind, driving every action.
The good guy checks his phone. On it, he finds a video; the very one depicting the alleged rape of the Eastern Suburbs schoolgirl on the eve of Mardi Gras.
He wasn't there to witness the event, but he receives the footage.
First? He deletes it.
He removes any trace of the footage as soon as its existence becomes apparent.
The 50 teenagers who received the footage, however unwillingly, are now able to be prosecuted for the possession of child pornography.
Keeping the footage to show Police would obviously be the most beneficial thing possible for the investigation. But it isn't quite that simple...
The South Australian Legal Services Commission law handbook states, "It is a defence to a charge of possessing child exploitation material if it can be proved that the material came into the defendant’s possession unsolicited and that the defendant, as soon as he or she became aware of the material and its pornographic nature, took reasonable steps to get rid of it"
Protect yourself. Get rid of it.
Next? Well that depends...
If the young girl appearing in the footage happens to be a friend, the good guy lets her know.
He, in the most delicate and personable way possible, broaches the subject of the video with her.
He affirms his position: stands by her side to make sure she feels loved and supported both physically and emotionally in what will be, undoubtedly, one of the most traumatic experiences of her life to date.
And then? After he lets her know, or if he doesn't know her at all?
Well then he notifies the Police, and lets them take over. Ultimately, they're going to operate with the utmost care and professionalism.
The fact Police found out about this alleged rape only after teachers overheard students exchanging playground gossip, is not okay.
The fact a young girl made the discovery of her own sexual assault by stumbling across graphic footage of herself online, is not okay.
Even further from okay, however, is the missed opportunity 50 young men had to short-circuit the entire situation.
These boys had the opportunity to prioritise the humanity of an unconscious peer. Ultimately, they let it waft from the forefront of their minds.
We need to do better.
The responsibility of raising morally upstanding young men is ultimately on us; on parents present and future, who may find themselves overwhelmed by what seems a gigantic task.
I assure you, it isn't. Calamities such as this one showcase young boys at their very worst; the few who slipped through the net.
They are the minority. Not the majority.
All we can do is teach them to act with 'her' in mind; and that the emotions and rights of the other people in their lives - especially young women - sometimes take precedence over their own.
You can listen to this week's full episode of Mamamia Out Loud here:
And you can follow Luca Lavigne on Facebook, here.