A student who taunted a sexual assault survivor online as part of a Merewether High scavenger hunt was barred from the year 12 graduation last week and is facing more disciplinary action.
Students participating in the end-of-school scavenger hunt last Wednesday were encouraged to score points by sending messages defending pedophilia to an 18-year-old university student.
"Start an argument with [woman's name] on why pedophiles aren't that bad," the challenge read.
The woman, who had been molested between the ages of 4 and 10, received a Facebook message from one boy saying: "I really think paedophiles aren't that bad!"
She replied: "And why do you say that?"
The boy said: "Because my uncle was one, and I think he's a good bloke? Is there anything bad about that?"
"Dunno if you're taking the piss or not but surely you are not trying to defend pedos rn [right now] my guy," she said.
He replied: "No like everyone is human, we are all the same black white, pedo not pedo."
The woman, who left school in year 10 and has started university, did not know she was part of the scavenger hunt until a friend at the school contacted her.
A NSW Department of Education spokesperson said students at the school had been warned about engaging in inappropriate behaviour.
"We strongly advised students to refrain from taking part in inappropriate or unsafe activities to mark the end of their schooling, and the overwhelming majority celebrated without incident," the spokesperson said.
"The posts setting up the 'hunt' were not from a student or students enrolled at Merewether High School, and the school referred the matter to police."
The victim of the prank posted a message on Facebook on Wednesday calling out a former Merewether High student who had thought up the challenge.
"Shout out to [man's name] for creating the year 12 scavenger hunt list and making one of the challenges to message me and joke about me being molested by my uncle," she wrote.
" ... you turned my trauma and pain into a scavenger hunt challenge for the whole of year 12 to see and have the option to participate in.
"i'm beyond speechless on how someone can be so cruel and heartless."
The posts attracted hundreds of comments, some threatening the 19-year-old with harm, and were later removed by Facebook.
The woman's mother told the Daily Mail that the incident had caused her daughter and family "irreparable damage".
"She's so broken again," the mother said.
"She'd been trying to build up trust in people. She's just said to me, 'What's the use?' It's just heartbreaking.
" ... I'm so terrified now. I'm praying, and I've made her promise she won't hurt herself.
'We were finally starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel and now we're back at square one.
"As a mother, I helped her put the pieces back together and now they've just totally fallen apart again because of one person's idea of funny."
The Newcastle Herald attempted to contact the girl's mother for comment.
The 19-year-old responsible for the prank challenge graduated from Merewether High last year, and, as one of the winners of the 2019 scavenger hunt, was part of the team that set this year's list.
His mother said on Monday that her son had apologised to the woman and the incident showed the destructive power of "thoughtlessly" misusing social media.
"My son is part of an organising team of a scavenger hunt who has put no thought into it and then there's a massive ripple effect to a poor girl that's had her life rocked," she said.
"This whole scavenger hunt thing is ridiculous. They're crazy.
"There's no thought that goes into the consequences of a thoughtless act they think is funny."
The mother, who has four other children aged 8 to 18, said she feared for her family's safety after her son had received death threats.
Two of his siblings had been harassed at school and online and her own picture had been shared on Facebook with comments questioning "what kind of a mother could raise such a monster".
"People, of course, deserve to be angry," she said.
"He deserves to suffer the consequences of being thoughtless, but it's beyond reasonable.
"We've also had our lives rocked because of the way it spread so quickly in 20 minutes on social media.
"There's so much hate and vindictiveness going on. People are so quick to say things that are defaming or threatening.
"Yes, they're angry, and I understand that, but they're doing things that are equally as bad as the thing that started their anger off in the first place.
"As a parent, I want to raise this so people think about the consequence of things on social media."
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