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Social Media Communication Is At The Center Of Football Player Sexual Assault Allegations

The police report that serves as the basis for sexual assault allegations against four Purdue football players shows the interaction started with electronic messages sent by the women making the claims.

Two female Purdue students allege four football players engaged in unwanted sexual activity with them at an off-campus house in October.

But their interaction began with the women sending explicit messages to at least one of the players, including on Snapchat, a social media app where content disappears once it’s been viewed.

Kasey Richardson, assistant director of Purdue’s Center for Advocacy, Response and Education, says social media has changed the nature of sexual communication. She says most information is conveyed through nonverbal cues such as tone of voice and body language. And she says the absence of these on social media curbs some people’s ability to analyze them in face-to-face interactions, which can create a threat.

“If your only communication and only agreement that something is okay is through a text message that likely happened prior to coming in contact with each other, that’s not a sufficient means of communication,” Richardson says.

Richardson says the fact that Snapchat content disappears and that it’s difficult to recover makes the app more dangerous than other kinds of social media.

“It is an easy way for somebody to cover something up. But it also is an easy way for somebody to feel secure saying something or sending something or doing something that they might not otherwise do,” Richardson says. 

Richardson says the large crowd of college students using Snapchat is concerning because it’s now harder for such behavior to be monitored. 

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