On February 27, 2016, 29-year-old Raymond Boyd Gates raped an unidentified 17-year-old woman. While Gates raped the young woman, her friend, 18-year-old Marina Alexeevna Lonina, live-streamed the entire sexual assault to the social media app Periscope.
I don’t think this is what the founders of Periscope had in mind when they created the slogan, “Explore the world through someone else’s eyes.” Periscope has since shuttered its video platform and redirects all traffic to Twitter.
Calling the police or attempting to stop Gates from raping her 17-year-old friend never crossed Marina Lonina’s mind, it appears.
Someone watching the live stream in another state reported the rape to police.
Raymond Gates and Marina Lonina were arrested and charged with:
- one count kidnapping
- two counts of rape
- one county of sexual battery
- three counts of pandering sexually-oriented material involving a minor
Lonina was also charged with two counts of illegal use of minor in nudity oriented material or performance for allegedly photographing the victim naked.
It a disgusting plea bargain, Marina Lonina was allowed to plead guilty to a single count of ‘obstructing justice’, wherein she admitted she failed to report the rape to police and did not turn over any evidence of the crime, in exchange for a nine-month prison sentence.
“I was too gullible to see how manipulative she truly is,” the victim, now 18-years-old, said of Marina Lonina during her victim impact statement, adding that Lonina manipulated Gates into raping her.
“The notion that (Lonina) set this up and is responsible (for the rape) is unmitigated nonsense,” said defense attorney Sam Shamansky. “Streaming it live was wrong on every level, and she knows that. … This was an appropriate resolution to a difficult case.”
I disagree that a nine-month sentence is, in any sense, an ‘appropriate resolution‘ to this case.
Raymond Gates, thankfully, was sentenced to nine years in prison after he pleaded guilty.
The Columbus Dispatch reports:
Lonina and the victim met Gates at Easton Town Center and went to his residence on Christina Lane on Feb. 26, 2016, Assistant Prosecutor Nadia Haque said. The two went back to his apartment the following day, where the three drank alcohol until the victim was heavily intoxicated, she said.
Gates forced intercourse with the teen despite her pleas to stop, Haque said. Lonina used her cellphone to live-stream the assault on Periscope. Police began an investigation after receiving a copy of the video on March 2, 2016.
“I have never seen a case such as this where you would actually live-stream a sexual assault,” said Ron O’Brien, the Franklin County prosecutor.
In an interview on Monday, Mr. O’Brien acknowledged that for roughly 10 seconds during the 10-minute video Ms. Lonina pulled the leg of the victim, who he said cried out during the attack saying “no,” “stop” and “help me.” It was not clear though that she intended to help the victim, he said.
“For the most part she is just streaming it on the Periscope app and giggling and laughing,” Mr. O’Brien said.
He pointed out that at no point did Lonina call 911 to report the rape, either while it was happening or afterward.
Not an Isolated Incident
If this were an isolated incident of gross human depravity, that would be one thing, but this is not an isolated incident.
In 2017, Swedish police were tipped off about a rape live-streamed on Facebook. They arrested three men in connection with the rape.
The footage apparently shows three men, aged between 18 and 24, forcefully stripping a nearly unconscious woman before assaulting her in front of the camera. At least one of the suspects appeared to be holding a gun.
Police had to shut off the video camera when they arrived to arrest the rapists and set the woman free.
Also in 2017, six men gang-raped a 15-year-old girl and live-streamed the crime on Facebook Live. Police later arrested two of the rapists – aged 14 and 15 respectively. Nobody watching the rape in real time bothered to report the crime.
In 2018, one Louisiana woman laughed into the camera and ignored the victim’s screams of ‘Stop raping me!” while she live-streamed the sounds of a woman being raped. According to one news report, the Baton Rouge Police said no crime was committed, and that this was a ‘family dispute’.
On January 19, 2019, Jasmine Eiland used Facebook Live to record her own sexual assault by a man at the Opera Nightclub in Atlanta, GA. In the series of videos, the alleged victim is shown dancing with a man when she was allegedly assaulted in the middle of the nightclub. She can be heard saying “somebody help me” with tears rolling down her face as she continued to live stream the assault.
On February 4, 2021, 29-year-old Raymond Weber live-streamed himself standing over the dead bodies of a 15-year-old girl and 26-year-old Savannah Rae Theberge. The Solano County District Attorney’s Office has charged Weber with two counts of murder. Both murders were committed during rape according to the District Attorney.
On March 30, 2021 three Russian men live-streamed the rape of a 30-year-old woman on YouTube and requested donations as they raped the woman and destroyed her apartment.
Human depravity at its worst.
But the most appealing factor of live streaming – raw content at the touch of a button – is also its biggest threat: The inability of companies to monitor live content has spawned an entirely new set of serious safety and privacy issues for users. The freedom to live-stream just about anything, anywhere in the world, has prompted a new and uncomfortable predicament for social media companies: What should they do if – or when – a crime is being live-streamed on their platform?
As the Periscope video [of a London rape live-streamed] progressed, it was flooded with comments. People disputed the participants’ ages – “they look underage” and “they’re in year 9” – while others who claimed to recognise the girl began to type her name, calling her a “sket” and a “skank”.
But as thousands of people joined up to watch the stream, the mood in the video shifted. Viewers said that, at first, the girl shown on screen appeared to be complicit – then, when she saw that the others were filming, she asked them not to. Viewers say she then told them “no”, as well as explicitly saying that she wanted to stop, and that “she was almost passed around”.
“I felt helpless,” a 19-year-old woman living in west London told BuzzFeed News. “She was going along for a bit at first, then it was clear she didn’t want to be there. All I could do was report it and wait. I sat there and watched people talk about it on Twitter, while it just carried on live.”
What sets live video apart from pre-recorded or photographed content – and the reason it arguably needs to be treated differently from other content – is that a viewer is intrinsically, in some way or another, involved in the moment. Its viewers are not passive: They may be sitting behind a screen in a different country, but they will also feel a sense of responsibility, even though they are powerless to stop what is happening before their eyes.
“The girl in the video said no and that she didn’t want to have sex any more, but the guy was telling her to continue,” said the 20-year-old student who tweeted the Periscope link describing it as rape. “A lot of people couldn’t see that it was rape because the boys weren’t physically grabbing her or hitting her.”
“I was more angry at the fact that while they recorded they were screaming ‘get this to 2K likes’ and ‘like up the post,'” she added.
Viewers of the live video were frustrated. They thought that by flagging it, there might be a way they could intervene while the apparent crime was in progress – maybe they could alert authorities to stop it.
But even after the stream ended, viewers who were horrified that they had been unable to step in discovered that there was also little they could do once it had finished.
Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked”.