A 16-year-old girl was drugged and raped repeatedly by partygoers at a weekend rave near Vancouver as onlookers snapped photos that have since found their way onto Facebook, the RCMP said Thursday.
The attack happened at a rave last Friday night on a rural property near Pitt Meadows, east of Vancouver. Police believe the girl was given a substance commonly know as the date-rape drug.
"It's essentially one male having intercourse and when he's done, another one participates – that's a gang rape," Insp. Derren Lench said in an interview.
"It's a sexual assault, it's an unwanted assault taking advantage of someone who is under the influence of this drug."
Insp. Lench said the girl was drugged and, while she was conscious at the time, she didn't remember what happened to her until several days later. She came forward to police once she discovered the photos on Facebook.
He described the assault as "violent," leaving the girl with undisclosed injuries.
Date-rape drugs can have hypnotic affects and can affect memory, according to an RCMP news release. Someone who ingests one of these drugs would appear very intoxicated, but would be unable to function normally or legally consent to sex.
There had been no arrests connected to the rape, but Insp. Lench said Thursday attackers are believed to include minors and young adults.
As for the photos, a 16-year-old boy was arrested and later released as prosecutors consider charges of producing and distributing child pornography.
The RCMP have been contacting Facebook users who have posted them and demanded they be removed and deleted. Many have complied, but some have so far refused.
Sgt. Jennifer Hyland, one of the lead investigators on the case, said the re-posting of the photos is only making the horror for the victim worse.
"What happened after this incident and continues to happen is beyond disgusting," Sgt. Hyland said in a statement.
"These photos are child pornography. They have been viewed, shared, saved and re-posted numerous times. This is an offence and is so socially corrupt it is sickening. The posting and viewing of the photos is continuing to victimize this young girl and her family and needs to stop."
Insp. Lench said it was proving difficult to keep the photos from reappearing.
"Every time it's shut down on one Facebook [account] it seems to reappear and its been shared in several communities in the Lower Mainland, so the victim has to relive it on a daily basis," Insp. Lench said in an interview.
"This [the photographs]is just one portion of a larger investigation. Obviously the sex assault aspect is our primary focus."
He said police can ask Facebook to help them ensure the photos are removed, but he said anyone who doesn't heed the RCMP's warnings could face charges.
"Our power is to say, 'By the way, if we find that you have that on your computer and have distributed it, then you may be facing charges,'" he said.
"People are possessing it, and people are distributing it, and that's an offence."
An article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal last year said drugs are a factor in more than 20 per cent of sexual assaults, and noted such assaults appear to have increased during the past decade, although the data is limited.
The article noted victims had been consuming alcohol in 90 per cent of those cases, opening the risk they could unknowingly have consumed a date-rape drug.
Louisa Russell of the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres said using drugs or alcohol to facilitate sexual assaults is nothing new.
"From our rape crisis lines, men have used alcohol and drugs to facilitate rape – the most common is alcohol – ever since we opened (35 years ago)," she said in an interview.
Russell said there must be stronger education to make certain teenaged boys – and all men – are aware of their legal and moral obligations when it comes to ensuring women willingly consent to sex.
"I think there is a lot of misunderstanding among young boys on consent," she said.
"I think there's a lot of room for public education around that. I think that a lot of men know that and they abuse it, but there are some genuine questions, particularly from young boys, about what is the law and how do I make sure that I actually have consent."
There have been other recent cases in Canadian schools involving teens and inappropriate and potentially illegal sexual activity.
Earlier this month, police in Calgary laid charges after a 16-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl who met on a social networking website met in a school field and performed a drunken sex act in front of friends.
Neighbours initially reported a sinister scene involving a young girl being brutally attacked by an older boy in front of a group of young people who were filming the encounter.
The reports of the attack proved incorrect, but police said they still laid charges because a 12-year-old can't legally consent to have sex with a 16-year-old.
In May of this year, the RCMP in Surrey, B.C., raised concerns about boys in Grades 11 and 12 challenging each other over Facebook to have sex with the most Grade 8 students.
The Mounties sent an officer to the school to explain the laws regarding the age of consent.