Washington: Amid intense social media pressure and charges of a cover-up in the alleged gang-rape of a 16-year-old girl, officials in a small US town have launched a website to keep the angry community updated and debunk rumours.
As the town of Steubenville in Ohio prepares for the high-profile rape trial of two high school football players, officials said the new website would be a transparent resource for the community.
"This site is not designed to be a forum for how the Juvenile Court ought to rule in this matter," the website, called Steubenville Facts, sponsored by the the City of Steubenville and the Steubenville Police Department, said.
"The goal of this site is to disseminate the most accurate information about a recent case involving sexual assault charges pending against two juveniles in Steubenville. City officials will update the site as new information becomes available," it says.
A timeline of the case, beginning with the alleged gang rape of the girl at a party on August 11-12, 2012, is also posted on the site.
The case gained national attention after The New York Times published a lengthy piece on it in December and the activist hacker group Anonymous posted a video of teenagers in the Ohio River valley town cracking jokes about it.
"It really is disgusting to watch that video," Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said.
"It`s disgusting, and I`ve had people calling, numerous people call here, upset, they have seen it, one woman, two women were crying, because of what they witnessed," Abdalla was quoted as saying by ABC News.
Anonymous and other critics have also accused community leaders of trying to paper over rampant misconduct by team members and have suggested that other students took part in the assaults or failed to do enough stop them. Authorities have declined to say whether anyone else could be charged.
City Manager Cathy Davison said the website is meant to combat the perception that "everyone in Steubenville is acting or is like the individuals that are involved in the case. That we are a community that is run by football. That is not the case," CNN reported.
Meanwhile, Occupy Steubenville, a grassroots group, say an estimated 1,300 people attended a rally yesterday outside the Jefferson County Courthouse, where rape victims and their loved ones gathered to share their stories.
Authorities investigated the case and charged two Steubenville high school athletes on August 22, 2012. The teenagers face trial on February 13, in juvenile court before a visiting judge.
Attorneys for the boys have denied charges in court.