A Northern California sheriff's office on Thursday arrested three 16-year-old boys on accusations that they sexually battered 15-year-old Audrey Pott, who hanged herself eight days after the attack last fall. Santa Clara County Sheriff's Lt. Jose Cardoza said it arrested two of the teens at Saratoga High School and the third at Christopher High School in Gilroy. The victim's family attorney Robert Allard said students shared photos of the attack on cellphones. Pott posted on Facebook that her life was "ruined" and that she was going through her "worst day ever" shortly before she commit suicide, Allard said.
Emily Bazelon wrote about a similar case in Canada yesterday at Slate:
The anguish in these stories and the fact that they are so similar and seem to keep happening, in this country and over the border, should leave us with this pressing question: The malicious sexting and the slut-shaming causes serious damage and has to stop—how can we make that happen?
It’s not a question with a short answer, but in a case like this, law enforcement and the signals it sends matter. In Canada, as in many states in the U.S., posting a photo of an alleged rape of a minor can be an offense under child pornography law. Often, prosecuting a teenager for child pornography is the wrong fit. (To address this, some states have created a separate offense, with lesser penalties, for sexting by juveniles.) But if one of the boys who allegedly raped Rehtaeh, or someone else, widely circulated this kind of explicit, debasing photo to humiliate her, charges are warranted. This kind of reputational harm is searing and scary.... As for the slut-shaming, this is one of the worst forms of harassment girls experience—harder on them than nonsexualized kinds, according to experts I talked to for my book, Sticks and Stones. It’s just so disturbing to think about how many generations of teenagers have had to go through this. It happened when I was Rehtaeh’s age in the 1980s, it’s portrayed with classic Tina Fey acumen in the 2004 movie Mean Girls, and the Internet has only coarsened the discourse and created a sense of distance—an empathy gap—that somehow allows teenagers and adults to say harsh things that are hard to imagine they would ever say in person. We shouldn’t need stories like this one to make us see how sad all of this is. But somehow, it’s a lesson we have to learn over and over again. At a different girl’s expense each time.
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