Sexting, Shame and Suicide. A shocking story of intimate assault within the Digital Age

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Sexting Shame & Suicide

Illustration by Jesse Lenz

O n the final day’s her life, Audrie Pott moved through a crucible of teenage torment. A curvaceous sophomore at Saratoga senior school, dressed up in the cool-girl’s uniform of a low-cut top and supershort dress, she looked just like constantly, but inside she had been quivering with humiliation. Within the since school had started, girls had been giving her looks, and guys had congregated around phones, smirking week. On Twitter, messages had been pinging into her inbox, every one delivering another gut punch: “shit went down ahah jk i bet u already got enough ppl talking it to myself haha. About any of it therefore ill continue. ”

“honestly like really no laughing matter everyone knows…. ”

“u had been one horny mofo. ”

A grownup monitor handed her a dress-code violation – her dress ended up being too brief – despite the fact that most of the girls in her own class dressed this way and monitors seldom objected. She cut just exactly what classes she could, blowing down chemistry for just two times in a line, hoping to prevent confrontations with disapproving girlfriends. Then Kathy Atabakhsh, certainly one of her close friends, tore into her from the college quad, accusing her of ingesting, of forgetting whom she ended up being, to become someone else. “She have been, literally, the greatest individual you can fulfill – constantly honest and trustworthy, ” Kathy says, recalling the episode nearly per year later on. “And I became therefore upset that she had changed. It had been hard for her to know that from an in depth buddy. ” She recalls the final terms she believed to Audrie. “You need certainly to return to reality, ” Kathy shared with her.


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At lunchtime, Audrie texted her mom at your workplace: “Mom, please choose me up. ” Sheila Pott, a mortgage-loan officer, asked why and whether Audrie could wait for her n’t in order to complete a small business conference. Audrie ended up being insistent, after which stopped responding to texts.

Whenever Sheila pulled up in her own vehicle later that Monday afternoon on September tenth, 2012, Audrie jumped in but stayed quiet regarding the quick drive house. Sheila ended up being familiar with her 15-year-old daughter’s moods and stopped pushing her. Once they surely got to their ranch-style house, where that they had been residing alone together since Sheila had split along with her boyfriend the season before, Audrie retreated to her bed room, using its Audrey Hepburn poster and silk-upholstered screen chair. Around 20 mins passed away before Sheila chose to check up on her child. She stepped over the home and along the long carpeted hallway towards the restroom home adjoining Audrie’s space. The entranceway ended up being locked. Audrie did answer that is n’t. Sheila knocked and knocked once more. Something about the silence forced a panic switch inside her. She grabbed the very first thing she can find to jimmy the lock – the tiny steel rod at the conclusion of her phone’s earplug – and jammed it in to the doorknob. Flinging the hinged home available, she confronted a sight now completely etched in her memory. Within the bathroom that is pale-peach along with its shell-shaped sink, gold fixtures and slim tub, her only youngster ended up being hanging from a gear connected to the bath head, mascara streaking her face.

Sheila sprinted along the hallway, back in your kitchen, grabbed a knife and down cut her daughter, attempting to keep in mind just how to perform CPR while dialing 911. Paramedics arrived within a minutes that are few. They restarted Audrie’s heart, however it was far too late. The brown-eyed woman who adored horses, art and pranks would not inhale on her own again.

There clearly was no note, absolutely nothing to explain why her popular and daughter that is pretty done it. Within the medical center, Sheila started retracing events that are recent in search of some clue about what may have forced her child to just simply take her very own life. She seriously considered Audrie’s strange silence on your day after a sleepover the weekend before. And she remembered the ink that is green noticed around her daughter’s cleavage, weird markings that Audrie had refused to spell out.

S aratoga senior high school, using its country-club-worthy­quad, Olympic-size pool that is swimming plush tennis courts, is regarded as those affluent Ca schools US teens recognize from films and television. Found in the heart of Silicon Valley, the college hosts high-achieving kids of parents working at Apple, e-bay, Netflix as well as other technology corporations headquartered within 50 kilometers. In the event that Saratoga Falcons didn’t frequently field a fantastic soccer group, there’s consolation within the proven fact that each graduating class has propelled a large number of children into Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Berkeley.

The summertime before her death, Audrie had started initially to alter, leaving the young kids she’d hung out with since center college. She had began to take in a small and had dated a somewhat older man. Whenever she drank, the self-consciousness which had afflicted her since junior high melted away. She loosened up. Often, she loosened up a great deal.

On work Day week-end regarding the school that is new, Audrie’s friend, let’s call her “Sara” (lots of the young ones’ names in this tale have now been changed to guard their identities), stated her moms and dads had been away, making their white cottage-style house or apartment with its long green yard inside her care. Sara – 15, pretty, slim and that is blond Audrie had become close that summer time and had been checking out a unique world of men, containers and tiny events, ideally at parent-free homes, that the Saratoga children call “kickbacks. ”

That Sunday, Sara shared with her moms and dads that she was going to be resting over at Audrie’s, and Audrie informed her mother that she’d be resting over at Sara’s. When Sheila drove Audrie to Sara’s, she assumed girls could be spending the evening inside their jammies while watching tv, or giggling over ice cream and Facebook. But Sara had currently texted around a dozen friends to drop set for her kickback.

Sooner or later, 11 children turned up, most of them to sip vodka and Gatorade cocktails. All of them belonged with their class’s popular clique, the girls dressed as provocatively possible, also by the free requirements of Ca high schools. “See-through shorts and thongs pulled up, shorts pulled down, ” recalls an adult woman. “That’s just just what the girls that are‘cool wore. ” The guys they hung away with preferred a uniform locally dubbed “swagfag” – snapback hat, PacSun tank tops, knee-length chino shorts and Vans.

A few young ones had brought some containers of alcohol – rum taken from Safeway, vodka purchased for them by a grownup at an alcohol shop. They ultimately guzzled a container of tequila that Sara’s parents kept in their own personal cabinet. The mixer of preference ended up being Gatorade, or downed right. Audrie drank most difficult of all of the.

When Audrie’s old middle-school friends, Kathy, Amanda Le and another girl, appeared around 9 p.m., there is no music, simply the noise of sloppy-drunk talk. Audrie had been stumbling and incoherent, taking shots and making away with various men regarding the living-room sofa. Her buddies had been appalled. “I never ever saw, I experienced simply found out about times she had gotten drunk, ” says Kathy. “She had been therefore unique of the way I knew her become. Because we had been sober, we noticed exactly what ended up being taking place, and so they didn’t understand what they certainly were doing. ”

Sara seemed therefore trashed whenever she greeted them during the home that Kathy does not even think camfuze her classmate recognized her. “There ended up being stuff throughout the tables, ” Kathy says. “Superdirty. That they had meals and a bunch that is whole of every-where. Individuals falling over, perambulating. At some time, I became like, ‘I feel superuncomfortable, everyone’s so trashed so we are only sitting right here. ’ So we left. ”