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'I'm in hell': cruel twist in case of alleged sexual assault, cyber-bullying and suicide

Maria L. La Ganga and Kate Mather (via Los Angeles Times/ SMH) | April 19, 2013

Sheila Pott, mother of Audrie Pott, stands by a photograph of her daughter  during a news conference after the arrest of three boys for sexual assault.

Sheila Pott, mother of Audrie Pott, stands by a photograph of her daughter during a news conference after the arrest of three boys for sexual assault. Photo: AP

Audrie Pott thought everybody at her high school knew what happened that night.

The 15-year-old had been drinking during a party at a friend's house in the upmarket Silicon Valley suburb of Saratoga. She either fell asleep or passed out. And she woke up to something her family's lawyer described as "unimaginable".

"There were some markings on her body, in some sort of permanent marker, indicating that someone had violated her when she was sleeping," lawyer Robert Allard said on Monday. On Audrie's leg was a message, Mr Allard said, that included a boy's name and the words "was here".

"They drew on her, in addition to doing what they did."

And they - three 16-year-olds who had been Audrie's friends since they started high school - are suspected by authorities of taking at least one mobile phone photo of the schoolgirl while she was unconscious and later showing it to 10 or more classmates.

A week after the party, Audrie killed herself.

The suspects were arrested on Thursday. They appeared in a juvenile court in San Jose on Tuesday on charges of misdemeanour sexual battery, felony distribution of child pornography and felony forcible sexual penetration in an incident that raises questions of exactly what cyber-bullying means. Audrie's family attended the hearing, which was closed to the public. Afterwards, prosecutors declined to provide details of what happened, according to a local TV station.

The case made international headlines last week after Mr Allard said that images had spread among students at Saratoga High "like wildfire" and at least one photo had been posted on the internet. Parallels were made to high-profile cases in Nova Scotia and Steubenville, Ohio.

On Monday, however, Mr Allard and Audrie's family acknowledged that there probably was just one photo, and that it had not been posted on Facebook or widely distributed.

But as Audrie's stepmother, Lisa Pott, said during an emotional news conference, flanked by enormous photos of the fresh-faced girl: So what?

"We don't know if they were posted," she said. "We do know that images were taken ... Audrie [likely] saw people huddled around cellphones ... In her opinion, the whole school was talking about it."

 

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