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

BlogHer Original Post

of empathy? A herd mentality? When I was in high school 800 years ago, when few girls were even having sex, being called a “slut” was a social death sentence. Astonishingly, it still is.

Some teens, to their credit, are struggling to come to terms with--and expose—this rape culture themselves. In early April some journalism students at Palo Alto High school published a series on rape culture in Verde magazine.

Mary Elizabeth Williams wrote about it on Salon:

Its cover is an image of a young girl, her face obscured but her arms and neck and lower face covered in slurs. “Attention whore.” “Drunk.” “Asking for it.” Inside, student Lisie Sabbag writes about a senior’s sexual assault. “Despite her earlier protests,” the girl was “too drunk to object,” she writes. After filing a police report, she became the object of a “barrage of Facebook messages and Tumblr posts telling her that she was just looking for attention.” Sabbag also talks to another student who reveals a community in which boys are pressured to take advantage. “They would say, ‘Oh you didn’t want to have sex with her because she’s drunk? You’re such a fag.’”

Temitayo Fabebenile, a 16-year-old in New York City, was so upset by the barrage of slut-shaming on her FB page that she gathered a group of teens at her school to talk about it. Temitayo recorded what they said for a PBS show called Radio Rookies. As disturbing as it is, you might want to listen to it. I like to consider myself pretty savvy, pretty knowledgeable, about what’s going on with teens. I’ve studied them, written about them. I’ve even lived with a couple of them. But even I was shocked.

Did you know there are thousands of web pages now created to shame girls online called “exposing hos’”? Or that teens keep “slut lists”? Or that there’s an X-rated version of YouTube that boys post naked photos of girls on called World Star? I sure as hell didn’t.

Those photos, as we know, don’t go away. They are there to humiliate and haunt a girl forever. A night she might not even have remembered or been only dimly aware of. A night that’s now there for eternity, for the world to judge her and shame her.

"The worst day of my life,” Audrie wrote on her FB page, the day the photos of her being abused while unconscious began circulating around her school.

Eight days later, she hanged herself. Her parents were shocked. Of course they were. What would have caused their happy-go-lucky daughter to suddenly take her life? But they also didn’t know she’d been assaulted by three of her classmates. Audrie didn’t tell them. It was too hard.

She had so much to live for.

We need to do something so this never can happen again. We need to talk to our kids before they hit the socially volatile terrain of middle school. We need to develop programs in schools about sexual cyberbullying and the lasting damage it does. We need to find better ways to support girls when they are sexually assaulted instead of blaming them. Or looking the other way. They are crying out for help.

We need to do this so we don’t have any more Audries or Retaehs or Jane Does. They all woke one morning to find their promising young lives shattered like bits of glass.

Only one lived to tell her story.

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