Audrie Pott was a 15 year old who attended Saratoga High School in California. She committed suicide by hanging herself on September 12, 2012. The suicide was a result of being assaulted by three teenage boys at a party that happened eight days earlier. The boys who assaulted her photographed the incident and posted the pictures online.
Pott attended the party with about 10 other youth who were reportedly drinking. It was alleged the at least three of these people raped Pott and photographed it. According to witnesses Pott passed out after drinking Gatorade laced with alcohol. While she was unconscious the boys wrote disgusting messages on her body and took the photos. These photographs were then put on the social network sites and SMS. The Audrie Pott photos began to make their way around the school and she was then bullied by people who saw the photographs. The resulting backlash caused Pott to hang herself on September 12. Before she committed Audrie posted a private message on Facebook that said, “My life is over. I have a reputation for a night I don’t even remember, and the whole school knows.”
After the photos went viral Audrie started receiving messages on Facebook. They were cruel, callous, and above all vicious. One said, “Shit went sown ahah jk I bet u already go enough ppl talking about it so ill keep it to myself haha…” Another one “honestly like really no joke everyone knows…” The last one, “u were one horny mofo.”
When Audrie’s mom, Sheila, picked her up on September 10th, 20012, Audrie was very quiet during the drive home. When they got home Audrie went to her bedroom and about 20 minutes later Sheila decided to go check on her. She walked down the hall to the bathroom door that adjoined Audrie’s room. The door was locked, and Audrie wasn’t answering. Shelia started to panic and jimmied the lock. She finally opened the door and found Audrie hanging from a belt attached to the shower head.
Sheila ran down the hall and grabbed a knife to cut Audrie down. She performed CPR while calling 911. The paramedics were able to restart Audrie’s heart, but the damage was already done. She was never able to breathe on her own again and passed away two days later.
By April of 2013 three sixteen year old boys were arrested on suspicion of the sexual battery that happened to Audrie Pott. Her parents also filed a suit against the three teenage boys. In July of 2013 and fifteen year old was also named as a defendant in the suit. Potts parents stated that she was present at the assault and that she then lied to cover it up.
The family’s attorney, Robert Allard stated “As much as we strongly disagree with and are actively attempting to change the lenient privacy laws afforded to juveniles, even when they commit as heinous acts on an unconscious minor, we cannot publicly comment on any aspect of any criminal proceedings involving these young men.”
Santa Calare County’s supervising deputy attorney said, “We would like to see that these kinds of cases are open to the public so there can be an accounting of it. WE don’t encourage people to violate confidentiality, but we do believe the system would work better if more public access was allowed.”
The three boys admitted to raping and photographing Audrie Pott, which are both felonies. Two of them received a 30 day sentence which was to be only served on weekends. The other was sentenced to 45 days in jail. Due to their ages, their identity was never made public.
Lenient sentences are unfortunately not rare in cases like these. In Steubenville, Ohio two sixteen years raped a girl and they both received one to two years in juvenile detention. In Louisville, Kentucky a sixteen year old got drunk at a party, passed out, and woke up only to find out that two males stripped and sexually abused her. They captured it on their phones and were sharing pictures of it with their friends. The girl in this case gathered the evidence and went to the police. The boys confess and were granted a please that included the felony being expunged from their recorded before they turned 20. The victim wasn’t happy with that, so she went public with their names and was able to influence to court to rule that the boys have a misdemeanor on their record for life. In Nova Scotia a 17 year old was taken off life support and died in April, three days after her mother found her hanging in their bathroom. According to her mom, the 17 year old go drunk at a party and was gang-raped by four boys who photographed and posted it online. The girl was bullied by classmates over the next two years and the family even moved to get her away from the bullying. Canadian authorizes charged to two boys with distributing child pornography.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle the three boys admitted to having digitally penetrated Pott and having those photos. One of the boys was also charged with having lewd photos of other girls.
When these other photos came out Robert Allard said, “It has become quite clear to us that the suspects refuse to accept responsibility or show remorse for their actions. The fact that they have not learned their lesson is demonstrated by the fact that two of these young adults, even after Audrie’s death, have continued to engage in “slut shaming” other young women through, for example, the dissemination of nude photographs.”
One of the boy’s parents was interviewed for an article in Rolling Stone and called this incident “a prank by a few kids and it’s blown out of proportion.”
During the wrongful death lawsuit one of the boys attorneys said that it was Audrie’s divorce parents, and not the boys, were partially to blame.
The Audrie Pott Foundation was founded shortly after this happened. It is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing art and music scholarships for South Bay high school and college students. It also helps to provide youth with counseling and support and to promote suicide and sexual assault awareness. Their goal is to be able to “reach out to the world through tragedy assistance, education, and disaster relief”.
Audrie was a gifted and talented in art and she wanted to focus on that in college. She also played the viola and piano and loved to sing. She was part of the color guard while in middle school and her school was chosen to perform at the inauguration of President Obama. She loved to play soccer and was known for being fast and tenacious while on the field. She would go to a horse camp every summer, and this was the highlight of her summer vacation.
She loved to ski and people would be able to hear her sing while she was skiing down the mountain. She also enjoyed grueling hikes with her friends and family.
Due to this case California Bill SB838 was proposed and added a minimum of two years of punishment outside the home for young people convicted of sexually assaulting someone who is unconscious. That portion of the bill was dropped, but the rest was approved. The bill will still require a juvenile who is convicted of rape, sodomy, oral copulation or an act of sexual penetration to complete a mandatory sexual-offender treatment program. It also requires that the court proceedings be open to the public. Adult and juveniles tried as adults face additional year of punishment if they share photographs of their victim. Sheila Pott, Audrie’s mother, reacted to the committee members for not approving the original mandatory minimum sentence. She said, “The laws as currently enacted are simply inadequate to protect our communities from juvenile sexual predators. These assailants got a slap on the wrist and no treatment whatsoever.” She did state that the new, amended, bill is better than the existing law.
Rape stats are no higher than in the past, but the numbers as just as shocking. Every two minutes a sexual assault happens in the U.S. and nearly 50 percent of the victims are under eighteen. Katherine Hull, a spokeswomen for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, said, “The demographic of high school and college age women is at highest risk for sexual assault”. Most incidents go unreported and the ability to record the assault has added a new attraction to an already heinous crime.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act states the no Internet provider can be forced to take down content for invading a person’s privacy or even defaming them. In other words one can sue a magazine company for invading their privacy or for defamation, but one cannot sue to get their picture off a website called sluttysevethgraders.com.
The only good thing to come of this terrible trend is that by releasing the pictures on social media, cops and prosecutors have all the evidence they need to take the perpetrator to court. This means that the victim can get more justice then in past years. In the Steubenville case, for instance, it could have never been prosecuted if there had not been a video recording of the incident.
The problem right now is that how do people protect young women from not only the sexual assault but also from having that assault posted on the internet? How much punishment is necessary to the boys who perpetrate these crimes? Most of these boys, in their minds, think that they are committing pranks and they may not realize that what they are doing is actually consider rape.
The key to all this is education. Teenage boys now days need to be educated on how actions like this affect their intended victim. How would these boys feel if someone did this to their sister? These boys need to realize that once they put it online that it is on there forever, that these girls are damaged forever.
Teenagers need to be educated in how to deal with these types of situations. When the Audrie Pott photos went viral, even her closest friends began to judge her. She felt like she had nowhere to turn and that the only way out was by killing herself. If she had known where to go for help, would she still be here? There is help out there for teenagers facing this problem and if they know where to go to receive it, then they might not result to the same solution as Audrie did.
Parents also need to be more aware of these types of situations. These things are out there and parents need to be mindful of what their children are doing and who they are with. Parents need to monitor their children’s friends; their online activities and most importantly keep the lines of communication open. If children know that they can go to their parents and that their parents are open and willing to talk to them about anything, without the fear of reprisal then these incidents could go down.
Being sexually assaulted is a horrible thing for any girl to have to go through. But, having to go through the aftermath; pictures being posted online, friends and strangers bullying them, feeling as though they have no place to turn, is excruciating for them to have to deal with.