The Rape and Death of 15-year-old Audrie Pott

BlogHer Original Post

I wish I did not have to write about Audrie Pott. About another “alleged” rape of a teenage girl whose attack was photographed and then spread on social media.

Most of all I wish I did not have to write about her suicide. She looks like my daughter. Long dark hair. Beautiful eyes. Sweet smile.

(Image: © Permission of family attorney Robert Allard)

But apparently in in our pervasive culture of rape this is what it has come to.

Last week, three 16-year-old boys in Northern California were arrested for sexually assaulting Audrie last Labor Day weekend and distributing pornographic images of her. Audrie and the boys were students at Saratoga High School, in an affluent suburb called Saratoga. She considered the guys who attacked her “her friends.”

I will let that sit for a moment.

It took seven months for the police to act, seven months in which the boys went about their normal high-school lives. That is why Audrie’s story is just now coming to light. But I suppose we should be grateful that the teens got charged at all.

Audrie’s grieving parents have set up a foundation in her name. Last Friday someone posted this on the foundation’s Facebook page:

We suspect that the boys who we believe are responsible for Audrie’s death took deliberate steps to destroy evidence and interfere with the police investigation. If students have information about this crime, if they saw pictures or know anything that will assist in bringing these young men to justice, please come forward. Audrie's family is asking for any students with information to please contact our attorney, Robert Allard at or 408-289-1417.

We will see if anyone does the right thing.

In any case, today Allard said the family is filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the three teens, who Pott's father, Larry, said had a "long and sordid reputation." They also plan to name the parents whose house was used for the party.

These stories have become so numbingly routine I can almost recite them by rote. Audrie, who loved horses and art and played soccer, had been drinking at a coed sleep-over party with friends. The parents whose home it was were out of town, in Napa. She went upstairs alone to go to sleep. That’s when the boys stripped her and, according to the sheriff's report, two of them assaulted her. When she was unconscious. Someone took photos. The photos were then generously shared.

Because that’s what teenagers do, as the story goes.

I also read that Audrie had a drawing on her body. It did not say what the drawing was. I am pretty certain I do not want to know.

(An update: According to the sheriff's report, released at a press conference on Monday, Audrie had writing on her breast and drawings all over her body of arrows, circles, and scribbles. Some of it near her vagina.)

Audrie woke up the next morning, not remembering most of this. But she quickly realized something “terrible” had happened.

And then she clicked on her Facebook page.

April happens to be sexual assault awareness month. As if we need any more reminders, what with the recent death of Retaeh Parsons and the rape trial in Steubenville. The question is, what are we going to do about it?

For one, we need to focus on teaching boys about rape and sexual consent and how our culture demeans girls. There is something seriously wrong when a 16- year-old boy thinks it’s normal, even “cool,” to sexually assault a girl and then essentially brag about his crime by blithely sharing it online. Raping young women is what they do in “other” countries, we like to tell ourselves.

Who are we kidding?

But we also have to ask: why do girls turn on each other so horribly? In the Steubenville case, some of the most vicious attacks against Jane Doe were fomented by teenage girls. When the photos, tweets, and videos started flying online, even her friends didn’t rally to her defense. They blamed her. They shunned her.

As a feminist and a mother, I find this girl-on-girl hating extremely troubling. Why do young women police each other’s sexual behavior? What do they get out of it? Status? A false sense of security that if they align with boys they’ll be safe, not targeted for similar abuse? Is it about a lack


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