Landmark Case Ruling Regarding Sexual Assault and Death
As an expert on sexual assault and alcohol awareness and prevention, I was really affected when I read about Audrie’s case. It is an unprecedented settlement for sexual assault survivors.
Hearing about Audrie Pott’s suicide, which was linked to being assaulted and humiliated, was heartbreaking for me. The news fueled me to go out and preach prevention and sexual assault awareness more.
I believe that losing a child as a parent has got to be one of the hardest things anyone ever has to go through. I cannot imagine the pain, especially when the loss could have been prevented.
What saddens me most is that the suicide received lots of attention from the media, but there’s been little attention about the unprecedented settlement that just happened.
Audrie was 15 years old when she was assaulted by three 16-year-old boys in an unsupervised house in Silicon Valley. After they assaulted her, they drew on her naked body with a felt tip pen and then documented their “trophy” on Facebook and sent the pictures out to other classmates. Disgusting.
I am still trying to understand why anyone would think that this kind of behavior was ok. What was their thought process? What kind of brain thinks that that is ok? Did these three boys have any mental illnesses? I am not making fun of mental health issues, but I am trying to wrap my head around how this could have happened.
As if the photos and bragging weren’t enough, the boys continued to harass her with texts and more shaming online for days after the sexual assault. We all know that high school can be cruel and cut-throat.
Eight days after the assault, Audrie hung herself. The teens who assaulted her and then humiliated her served two months in a juvenile detention center. Their defense lawyers harassed and threatened Audrie’s parents as they sought justice for their lost daughter.
Her parents were awarded $950,000, which seems paltry to me, but that’s not really the point here. This is the part of the settlement that should be plastered everywhere. This is the part that helps us shift our rape culture, mixed messages, and “the rules-don’t-apply-to-me” mentality.
This is the part that I beg you to copy and pass along.
In the settlement of the wrongful death suit, it’s the non-monetary conditions of the settlement which could have the most impact on U.S. rape culture.
The attackers must admit to their crimes, on the record, in front of the judge. They cannot deny the charges made in the criminal complaint or lie about the role they played in Audrie Pott’s death. They can’t continue to blame the victim, say she willingly participated in the assault or otherwise deny their deplorable actions.
All of the alleged rapists must publish an apology in which they acknowledge their guilt.
The published apology must also include statements denouncing cyberbullying, and detailing the mental and emotional anguish such actions can have on the targeted person.
A similar apology must be made verbally, on the record, in front of the judge. They cannot say it was just a joke. They can’t pretend that they didn’t mean to hurt anyone.
All of Audrie Pott’s attackers must give 10 presentations to high school students, educating them about the impact of cyberbullying, sexting, slut-shaming, sharing or soliciting nude photos online and the dangers of alcohol and drug use for students, among other issues.
In other words, they must hold themselves as examples for future students - showing them the kind of people that they most certainly do not want to become. They must also appear in documentaries about sexual assault.
This isn’t just about holding them accountable. It’s also about understanding the thought processes that motivated her attackers, educating the public about sexual assault and hopefully preventing the same thing from happening to someone else.
The terms of the settlement are aimed right at the rape culture in our culture. The conditions put the blame on the attackers, not the victim. They demand justice, in a way that a monetary settlement could not. They send a strong message of accountability to young men and their families, and to our society as a whole.
And yes, I agree: we need to stop telling your girls what to wear, and start telling young men not to rape.
But this issue is not girls vs. boys.
This is everyone’s issue. We need to wake up to the sexualization that’s happening at younger and younger ages. We need to have public service announcements aimed at dealing with sexually violent advertisements and the rape culture they help promote. We need to change the conversation and the background of sexual violence that surrounds this culture.
We need to talk about the “porn myth.” A lot of porn shows women enjoying being roughly treated or degraded, that it turns them on. This is false for a huge majority of women, but because of the huge amount of easily accessible porn, this message is broadcast to millions 24/7.
I am so sad for Audrie and her family, and I don’t’ want her to have died in vain. I applaud her parents courage and tenacity. I pledge to tell her story and their story to help spread the message.