Teenager boasts about an alleged rape on Facebook ... how could 1,200 people 'like' this?
More than 1,200 people have 'liked' a story posted on Facebook about a young woman being allegedly raped by a 17-year-old boy in the Holyland area of Belfast.
The PSNI investigated the matter after the disturbing tale was recounted on a Facebook page called 'Holyland LAD'.
The post claims that a teenager from Coalisland, Co Tyrone, had sex with the woman in a house in Cairo Street after misleading her about his identity.
It is claimed that she thought the teenager was his older brother and he did not correct her until after they had intercourse.
The Facebook post, which brazenly boasts of the alleged incident, was liked by 1,226 people, including students and young graduates.
In an ensuing debate on whether the incident constituted rape, derogatory comments were made about the alleged victim and the Coalisland male was described as a "legend".
The post, which was put up five weeks ago, has now been reported to the PSNI by solicitor Padraigin Drinan who works for the Rape Crisis Centre.
Ms Drinan said both the post and the comments which followed had caused "extreme alarm and disgust" among women's groups in Belfast and those who work with the victims of sexual violence.
She has reported the alleged rape to Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie. Among those who commented positively on the report of the alleged rape was a teacher in a Catholic secondary school in Belfast. Her comment was removed after the school was contacted.
The Facebook post gives the first names of the male involved and his brother but states they have been "changed for obvious reasons".
Ms Drinan said: "It may be a fictitious account of a rape or a real rape. This is now a matter for the PSNI to investigate.
"What is horrifying is that over 1,000 students think this incident is funny. It's sickening to think that someone boasts on Facebook of a horrific crime, real or imaginary, and so many educated young people then cheer him on."
Rape is non-consensual sex. Rape by deception is a crime in which the perpetrator gains the victim's sexual consent and compliance through deception or fraudulent statements or actions, according to the solicitor.
"Usually it happens when the woman has consumed too much alcohol and the man pretends to be someone else," she said. "But make no mistake about it, the legislation is clear on this.
"Section 10 of the 2008 sexual offences order Northern Ireland states that consent is deemed not to be given if the defendant impersonates a person known to the complainant. There is no grey area. If a woman has sex with her boyfriend's brother in darkness, when he has led her to believe he is actually his brother, then the crime of rape has been committed."
A police spokesman said the PSNI had spoken to several males in relation to the alleged rape reported on the Facebook page.
"Police haven't been able to ascertain a victim. If anyone has information they should come forward," he added.
Ms Drinan said there had been another worrying report on the Holyland LAD Facebook page where a man had boasted of photographing a woman against her will with whom he earlier had sex.
"He said that he had photographed her as she fled the house in a state of undress," she added.
"Under Section 71 of the Northern Ireland sexual offences order 2008, the criminal act of voyeurism has taken place because a private act has been recorded without the subject consenting to it."
Ms Drinan said that post had since been removed from the Facebook page.
The solicitor said there was a worrying trend of alleged rapes becoming a subject for online humour. In January, students in Stueubenville, Ohio, were seen in a video posted on social networking sites boasting about raping a 16-year-old-girl. Two students have since been found guilty of rape.