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Photo of Ohio University rape storms social media

8:39 AM, Oct 19, 2013   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- Do we live in a world where, when we see a crime, instead of doing something about it we take a video or picture?

Police say that, while that may be the case, the picture may help crack open a crime.

We've blurred the photo that started the firestorm which shows a young woman against the window of a bank in Athens. 

A man kneels in front of her, his hand on or near her mid-section. Along with the person taking the photo, there is at least one other bystander visible. 

Police say taking the photo, and not jumping in to help, is a double edged sword.

"You could view that picture and certainly suggest that a sexual assault took place. You could also suggest other things."

Police say the photos and a video that were posted on social media are equal parts offensive and essential. 

"While it certainly to the lay person would appear to be despicable that they're posting this information, it also assisted us in our investigation. So a real double-edged sword."

But Ohio University senior Allie Erwin sees no gray area here.

"Our first instinct as a community was not to intervene and help this woman, but to post it on social media, and make a mockery of probably the most traumatic experience of her life."

She is not alone.

Social media erupted with commentary on the posts. But investigators are urging the public not to rush to judgement. They have not yet located those who witnessed and posted about the incident, and fear public backlash may keep them from coming forward.

"The community at-large views this as they watched and witnessed a sexual assault occurring, and did nothing but watch," said Pyle. 

But the flip side of that is that they may not have realized what they were witnessing.

"All that needed to happen was to say, 'Hey, are you alright, Is this what you want to be happening?' But she obviously wasn't OK with what happened. It was rape. She reported it to the police as rape."

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