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Another disturbing aspect, to many, is the extent to which peer pressure appears to have affected the teens’ responsibility as bystanders _ either actual or virtual. What should they have done? Prosecutors are continuing to investigate people _ teens, adults, coaches _ who may have failed to report a crime.

Teenagers interviewed by The Associated Press in several cities said they hoped they would have the strength to report their friends, but weren’t sure they would. “I wouldn’t know whom to report to,” said Jasmine Flores, 18, a high school junior in Madison, Wis. She says many teenagers are reluctant to be tattletales.

“It’s a taboo thing to do,” Flores says. “If you are that person’s friend, you don’t want get that person in trouble.”

Flores, though, is certain about one thing: What the Steubenville defendants did was terribly wrong. “I didn’t think people were capable of something like that,” she said. And that went for the online sharing, as well.

“They think they’re anonymous,” Flores said. “Or they’re not even thinking. It’s `Oh, everybody needs to know about what we’re doing. We’re so cool. We’re so awesome.”

Flores is not shy about how much time she spends on social media. Like some other teens, she has moved on from Facebook but spends a few hours a day on Tumblr and texts hundreds of times. In the summer, that number goes up to about 1,000.

Julian Juarez, 16, of El Paso, Texas, says he uses Facebook “every day, every hour.” And he often encounters unseemly content on social media. “Every day I see things that are inappropriate, like people that post pictures of themselves almost naked,” he said. “They just want to be cool, I guess.”

Wanting to be cool, wanted to be liked, mixed with heavy doses of alcohol: That’s what struck Dana Edell, who heads SPARK, a group seeking to prevent the sexualization of girls, when she watched the Ohio YouTube video. “All those boys were egging each other on, trying to make each other laugh,” she says.

Edell argues that what happened in Steubenville occurs every weekend at booze-fueled parties across the country. “What made this case unique is how it was documented,” she says.

And so, as much as it’s horrifying to speak of a silver lining, Edell is hoping the Ohio case has one.

“I hope it’s really raising awareness of how dangerous what these boys did was, and all the other teenagers _ including girls _ who stood by and did nothing,” she says. “The fact that there was confusion about whether what they were doing is right or wrong is tragic. And so the fact that the boys were convicted of rape and will serve time is hopefully a wake-up call. It’s unfortunate that it took a tragedy to wake us up. But it’s become a national conversation.”

A conversation in which, at least at the trial, the victim’s mother seemed to have, memorably, the last word.

“You were your own accuser,” she said, “through the social media that you chose to publish your criminal conduct on.”


Associated Press writers Juan Carlos Llorca in El Paso, Kevin Wang in Madison and Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.