The 16-Year-Old Girl Whose Rape Went Viral Is Reclaiming Her Power

Last week, images of 16-year-old Jada’s rape went viral on social media, as her peers mocked her unconscious body with the hashtag #Jadapose — an act of cyberbullying that horrified Americans across the country. Since then, there’s been an outpouring of public support for Jada, who has taken control of the story and refused to let the online harassment silence her.

Jada, who points out there’s no point in hiding because everyone has already seen the images of her body online, has sacrificed her privacy in favor of telling her story. Over the past several days, Jada has made national media appearances on the View and MSNBC. And during an interview with MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow, Jada unveiled a new image and a new hashtag to drown out the materials related to her assault: #IAmJada, with her fist raised.

Since then, the hashtag has spread like wildfire. Thousands of people have tweeted in support of the teen under #IAmJada, as well as by using other hashtags like #JusticeForJada, #StandWithJada, and #Jadacounterpose. Even the original source of the online attacks against the teen, #Jadapose, has been overtaken by people standing in solidarity with Jada and pointing out that rape is never a joke.

For Jada, it’s making a real difference. “The whole hashtag #IAmJada is helping me get my name back,” she said in an interview with HuffPost Live on Thursday.

It’s no easy task for a young victim of sexual assault to be forced to continue recounting the details about what happened to them. During her HuffPost Live appearance, Jada admitted that she’s “just very tired” from her recent round of cable news interviews.

“We look at a little girl like Jada and we call her brave for speaking out against her own ongoing violation. She whose small body has withstood a behemoth of trauma is now expected to be publicly strong enough to fight an Internet meme proliferating faster than her own words can carry,” Stacia L. Brown, a professor and blogger, pointed out in an essay published on Gawker this week.

Still, the 16-year-old insists that speaking out was her only option; she didn’t want the pictures of her assault to define her. And she has maintained that her detractors don’t have any power over her. When Ronan Farrow asked her if she had any message for Americans who are following her story, she replied, “The people who are mocking me — what you have to say isn’t important at all, and what you have to say isn’t going to do anything.”

Jada has also written a letter to President Obama asking him to consider more stringent legislation to crack down on cyberbullying. Current policy varies widely throughout the country; about 20 states specifically include “cyberbullying” in their anti-bullying laws, and there’s been some concern that social media giants like Facebook and Twitter still don’t do a good enough job monitoring gender-based harassment.

The internet hacktivist group Anonymous, which helped draw national attention to similar rape cases in Steubenville and Maryville, hasn’t indicated whether it will take up a similar crusade for Jada. Some people have asked Anonymous to step in, and so far, the group did ask her local police department for a statement about the ongoing rape investigation, which hasn’t resulted in any arrests yet. But at least one thing is already clear. Jada doesn’t need to be rescued; she’s already doing it herself.