After Facebook Live attack, girl becomes target of threats, taunts

Chicago Tribune

Her 15-year-old daughter was still missing when the mother said she saw screenshots of her bright, ambitious girl being sexually assaulted by as many as six people on Facebook Live.

It would be another day before her daughter was found, wandering the streets just four blocks from her Lawndale home.

"It was a sigh of relief, but then it wasn't because I knew what happened to her," the mother said Wednesday, a day after the girl was back home. "I just wanted to hold her and not let her go."

Within hours, as news of the attack spread, people were ringing the doorbell and coming around her house late at night, making threats, the mother said.

The taunts have been just as bad online, where the mother said she's seen people laughing at her daughter.

"That could have been anybody," the mother said, looking tired but her voice stern. "That could have been your sister, your mother, anybody. That's nothing to joke about."

The girl disappeared Sunday after she was dropped off at her Lawndale home by her uncle, according to her family. The family became aware of the Facebook Live video Monday and took screen shots to police.

"I'd rather it been me than my child," she said when asked her reaction to the photos. "I don't wish that on nobody's child. Period."

On Tuesday morning, the girl's friend saw her walking down the street and brought her home.

When the mother saw her daughter, she hugged her tight. "I just let her know it was not her fault. It's still not her fault."

Since the assault, the 15-year-old who loves computer science and building websites is now afraid to go online. "She's not the same person, but she's strong. She's very strong," her mother said. "She doesn't want to be around this neighborhood."

No charges have been announced in the attack. A 14-year-old boy, an acquaintance of the girl, was taken into custody after he was identified as one of the males in the video, according to a law enforcement source.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi would only say investigators were making progress identifying those involved. "No formal suspects have been named," he said.

Police have also "opened parallel investigations" into the mother's reports of threats, Guglielmi said. "CPD is aware of the social media communication and visits to the family's home, and detectives have filed case reports," he said.

Superintendent Eddie Johnson reached out to the mother Wednesday afternoon" to check on the well-being of the young girl and her family," Guglielmi said, adding that the superintendent was "inspired by the young girl's courage."

Police learned of the attack Monday afternoon after the girl's mother went to the District 10 police station to fill out a missing person report and spotted Johnson. The mother said she showed Johnson screen shots from the video.

Guglielmi said the department asked Facebook to take down the video, which it did.

Andrew Holmes, a community activist, said a family friend asked him to find the video online and provide it to police. He said the video showed the girl was frightened and trying to get away.

"You could see where she was fearful. ... You could see the look of fear and where she is resisting, pushing back," he told the Associated Press. "It looked like ... she was in total shock."

Police have said the attack was viewed live by about 40 people, and none of them reported it to the police.

The mother thanked both Johnson and Holmes for their interest. "If it wasn't for them, I don't know if she'd even be home right now."

Her daughter is the oldest of six children. Her siblings look up to her, especially her 4-year-old brother. "They just want their sister back home with them," the mother said.

The mother said she has lived in Lawndale her whole life. She's seen the neighborhood change a lot over the years and thinks parents need to take more responsibility for their children.

"Be there more. Talk to them. Listen to them," she said. "Maybe something will change. Maybe this stuff won't happen again."

The Associated Press contributed.

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Twitter @OhItsHeather

Copyright © 2017, Chicago Tribune
A version of this article appeared in print on March 23, 2017, in the News section of the Chicago Tribune with the headline "After Facebook Live attack, girl is again being victimized - Threats, taunts target 15-year-old, her mother says" — | Subscribe
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