Audrie Pott, 15, killed herself after photos circulated of her alleged sexual assault
The family of a Bay Area 15-year-old who killed herself after photos circulated of her alleged sexual assault hope to bring about tougher legislation on cyberbullying, their attorney said Friday. "Audrie's Law" would also seek to strengthen laws on sexual assault to ensure adolescent suspects are tried as adults, attorney Robert Allard told The Times.
"Her parents really want something positive to come from something like this," Allard said. On Thursday, authorities announced that three 16-year-old boys had been arrested on suspicion of sexually battering Audrie Pott, a Saratoga Union High School sophomore, according to reports.
Allard said the alleged attack occurred at what the teenager thought would be a "small little gathering" at a friend's house last fall. The friend's parents were out of town, he said, and the girls started drinking some sort of alcohol mixed with Gatorade.
Soon, Allard said, "word spread there was a party at this house. Audrie had gone upstairs early to sleep, but when she woke up the next day, she "recognized immediately that something terrible had happened," Allard said.
At least one picture depicting the sexual assault was circulated among her peers, Allard said. Audrie later posted on Facebook that "the whole school knows" and "my life is like ruined now," Allard said. Pott killed herself in September, about a week after the alleged attack.
"Obviously she was tormented," Allard said. "They had spread the word as to what happened, circulated at least one photograph of what happened during the assault, and she was tortured by cyber bullying."
An investigation into the alleged attack, along with Pott’s suicide, is ongoing. Allard said the news “brought out new emotions” from Pott’s family, but they were “happy” the arrests had been made.
“They’ve lost their baby girl,” Allard said. “But they are relieved to know that after several months of these boys living their lives as though nothing had happened … finally justice is being served.”
SARATOGA, Calif. (AP) — Family members of a 15-year-old California girl who killed herself after photos of a sexual assault surfaced online said on Friday they suspect the attackers tried to destroy evidence.
Audrie Pott's family went into seclusion after three 16-year-old boys were arrested on Thursday on suspicion of sexual battery in the assault of the girl while she was passed out at a party.
Family's attorney Robert Allard said the arrests "reopened a wound." The family claim was posted on a Facebook page for a foundation set up in the girl's name. It did not provide further details on what type of evidence might have been targeted by the suspects. However, it asked any students with information to come forward,
The Santa Clara County sheriff's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the family's allegation. The Pott family was not alone in wrestling with such circumstances. In Canada, the cousin of a young woman who committed suicide after an alleged assault and months of bullying issued an emotional appeal to people Thursday not to use violence to avenge her death.
Angella Parsons stood before a somber crowd of about 300 people in a Halifax park to reflect on the short life of 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons. The gathering came after Rehtaeh's family said she hanged herself last week and was taken off life-support Sunday. In California, Pott posted on Facebook that her life was ruined, "worst day ever," and hanged herself eight days after being sexually assaulted while passed out at a party, Allard said.
For the next eight months, until Thursday's arrests, her family struggled to figure out what happened to their soccer loving, artistic, horse crazy daughter, whose gentle smile, long dark hair and shining eyes belied a struggling soul.
"The family has been trying to understand why their loving daughter would have taken her life at such a young age and to make sure that those responsible would be held accountable," Allard said.
"After an extensive investigation that we have conducted on behalf of the family, there is no doubt in our minds that the victim, then only 15 years old, was savagely assaulted by her fellow high school students while she lay on a bed completely unconscious," he said.
Allard said students used cell phones to share photos of the assaults and the images went viral on the Internet.
Santa Clara County sheriff's Lt. Jose Cardoza said two of the teens were arrested at Saratoga High School and the third, a former Saratoga High student, at Christopher High School in Gilroy. The names of the suspects were not released because they are minors. Details about the assault were also not released.
Cardoza said the suspects were booked into juvenile hall and face two felonies and one misdemeanor each.
The lieutenant said the investigation is ongoing.
The Associated Press does not routinely identify victims of sexual assault. But in this case, Pott's family wanted her name and case known, Allard said. The family also provided a photo to the AP.
The girl's family members have not commented and have requested privacy until a planned news conference on Tuesday. Her father and step-mother, Lawrence and Lisa Pott, along with her mother Sheila Pott, have started the Audrie Pott Foundation to provide music and art scholarships and offer youth counseling and support.
The foundation website alludes to the teen's struggles, but until now neither law enforcement, school officials nor family had discussed the sexual assault.
"She was compassionate about life, her friends, her family, and would never do anything to harm anyone," the site says. "She was in the process of developing the ability to cope with the cruelty of this world but had not quite figured it all out."
Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District Superintendent Bob Mistele offered sympathies to all the families involved in the case.
"Collaborating with our parents, students, staff and community, we will continue to work diligently to maintain a positive climate at our high schools based on respect, responsibility, and open communication that discourages cyberbullying and inappropriate conduct," his statement said.
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