Role of social media in Tarpon Springs rape case - WSPA.com

Role of social media in Tarpon Springs rape case

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Tarpon Springs High School Tarpon Springs High School
TARPON SPRINGS, FL (WFLA) -

After the arrest of a Tarpon Springs High School student charged with sexually assaulting a fellow student at a house party, social media sites lit up with comments.

Police say 17-year old Jared Alissandratos had sex with the 15-year old girl without her permission. 

On Twitter, a "freejared" hashtag soon appeared.  Someone using that hashtag tweeted:  "your innocent bro, everybody knows it. She can't lie forever."  Several other tweets supporting Alissandratos have disappeared from the site. 

Dr. Kelli Burns, a social media expert at the University of South Florida, says comments like that one can discourage victims of future crimes from coming forward.

"Because they're worried about the backlash that can happen on social media," Burns said.  "People will jump up and defend the alleged perpetrator of a crime because they're worried about their friend going to jail."

She says that tweet, and those who support the teen accused in this case, says something about the younger generation.

"It kind of makes me think that young people write rape off as not that big of a deal," said Burns. "Not a crime that warrants being arrested and tried and potential jail time. "

Later tweets blasted those who supported Alissandratos.  His attorney, Dean Tsourakis, says most people clearly do not know the facts in this case.

"The state has assured me that they're going to do a thorough investigation," said Tsourakis. "I think if they do a thorough investigation that Mr. Alissandratos will be cleared."

Alissandratos has been released from juvenile detention, but he is wearing an ankle bracelet, so technically he is still in custody.

He is not currently attending Tarpon Springs High School.

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