Earlier this week the country was introduced to Rehtaeh Parsons, the 17 year old Canadian teenager who hanged herself in her bathroom late last week, 17 months after photos of her alleged gang rape by four of her classmates surfaced and spread throughout her school.
For the Pott family in Santa Clara County, California, Rehtaeh’s story must have sounded painfully familiar. Their 15-year-old daughter Audrie ended her life last fall after she was allegedly gang raped by three 16-year-olds, who then shared photos of their crime with friends.
On Thursday, officials from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s office announced that they had arrested three area high school boys in connection with Audrie’s rape:
Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Lt. Jose Cardoza said it arrested two of the teens at Saratoga High School and the third at Christopher High School in Gilroy.
The victim’s family attorney Robert Allard said students shared photos of the attack on cellphones. Pott posted on Facebook that her life was “ruined” and that she was going through her “worst day ever” shortly before she commit suicide, Allard said.
“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.”
Recent cases of sexual assault in Steubenville, Ohio and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where the victims of sexual assault found themselves on the receiving end of criticism and prosecutorial questioning, serve as grim evidence of the kind of rape culture that exists in which perpetrators feel unburdened while committing horrifying sexual crimes and documenting them with photos, videos and text messages to friends. Audrie Pott and Rehtaeh Parsons are just the latest tragic reminders.