Sexting, Shame and Suicide

Image: Carrie

Image: Carrie

This is a true story about a young lady who was violated, publicly shamed, and eventually committed suicide. A few lessons can be gleaned about who is chosen to be associated with, the vulnerability acquired while consuming chemicals, and the shadow personalties which are prone to be  evoked during a collective inebriation. This may also be a partial answer to a question posed in the recent disinfo post titled American Ephebiphobia.

via Rolling Stone

On the last day of her life, Audrie Pott walked through a crucible of teenage torment. A curvaceous sophomore at Saratoga High School, dressed in the cool-girl’s uniform of a low-cut top and supershort skirt, she looked the same as always, but inside she was quivering with humiliation. In the week since school had started, girls had been giving her looks, and guys had congregated around phones, smirking. On Facebook, messages were pinging into her inbox, each one delivering another gut punch: “shit went down ahah jk i bet u already got enough ppl talking about it so ill keep it to myself haha. . . .”

“honestly like really no joke everyone knows. . . .”

An adult monitor handed her a dress-code violation – her skirt was too short – even though all the girls in her class dressed that way and monitors rarely objected. She cut what classes she could, blowing off chemistry for two days in a row, hoping to avoid confrontations with disapproving girlfriends. Then Kathy Atabakhsh, one of her best friends, tore into her on the school quad, accusing her of drinking, of forgetting who she was, of becoming a different person. “She had been, literally, the best person you could meet – always honest and trustworthy,” Kathy says, recalling the episode almost a year later. “And I was so upset that she had changed. It was hard for her to hear that from a close friend.” She remembers the last words she said to Audrie. “You need to come back to reality,” Kathy told her.

At lunchtime, Audrie texted her mom at work: “Mom, please pick me up.” Sheila Pott, a mortgage-loan officer, asked why and whether Audrie couldn’t wait for her to finish a business meeting. Audrie was insistent, and then stopped answering texts.

When Sheila pulled up in her car later that Monday afternoon on September 10th, 2012, Audrie jumped in but remained silent on the short drive home. Sheila was used to her 15-year-old daughter’s moods and stopped pressing her. When they got to their ranch-style home, where they had been living alone together since Sheila had split with her boyfriend the year before, Audrie retreated to her bedroom, with its Audrey Hepburn poster and silk-upholstered window seat. Around 20 minutes passed before Sheila decided to check on her daughter. She walked across the kitchen and down the long carpeted hall to the bathroom door adjoining Audrie’s room. The door was locked. Audrie didn’t answer. Sheila knocked and knocked again. Something about the silence pushed a panic button inside her. She grabbed the first thing she could find to jimmy the lock – the tiny metal rod at the end of her phone’s earplug – and jammed it into the doorknob. Flinging the door open, she confronted a sight now permanently etched in her memory. In the pale-peach bathroom, with its shell-shaped sink, gold fixtures andnarrow bathtub, her only child was dangling from a belt attached to the shower head, mascara streaking her face.

Sheila sprinted down the hall, back into the kitchen, grabbed a knife and cut her daughter down, trying to remember how to perform CPR while dialing 911. Paramedics arrived within a few minutes. They restarted Audrie’s heart, but it was too late. The brown-eyed girl who loved horses, art and pranks would never breathe on her own again.

There was no note, nothing to explain why her popular and pretty daughter had done it. In the hospital, Sheila began retracing recent events, looking for some clue as to what could have pushed her daughter to take her own life. She thought about Audrie’s strange silence on the day after a sleepover the weekend before. And she remembered the green ink she’d noticed around her daughter’s cleavage, weird markings that Audrie had refused to explain.


  • atlanticus

    “Diane Rosenfeld, director of the Gender Violence Program at Harvard Law
    School, says such incidents are far more common than just those that
    wind up in court or involve suicide. Most, she says, don’t make the
    local news or even reach school administrators because the girls are too
    embarrassed to do anything.”

    WAY more common than you think. Practically every female I know who began drinking early has some story, to some degree, if not always as far as this. Many have worse stories.

    Like what was said in the thread about Dawkins’ molestation, how different people react to these situations varies widely, although I’d definitely say that most (boys, too) bury their feelings about it and keep it to themselves if “no one knows”. The predators are not always adults…in case anyone forgot.

    • echar

      It’s really sad that this is so common. I recall from junior high, a story about a young lady that was taken advantage of in town.

      Perhaps the consequences should be elevated. Teenagers know that such is wrong, even at the age of 15. Unless they have had some sort of brain damage or such.

      • atlanticus

        Mothers used to tell their daughters to watch out before they even hit puberty, (the story of Little Red Riding Hood is a warning to newly menarchal girls about “wolves”; get it? “Red” cape…) but now it’s like saying anything at all is somehow going to make them grow up too fast? Or otherwise scar their newly developing sexuality…or maybe it’s that they’re afraid of indirectly slut-shaming by putting the burden on the girl…I don’t know. I didn’t grow up with a mother, so I had to figure everything out the hard way.

        I just hope I never have a daughter because I’m going to be completely inconsistent. Sky-diving lessons on weekends and chastity-belts every time she leaves the house. I’ll buy her a vibrator if she just promises to never even look at a boy until she graduates college.

        EDIT: I do wonder why this got 2 down-votes so far…you don’t think I’m being literal, do you? Maybe about the vibrator, but I’ve been to Medieval Times! Chastity belts are better left in the Dark Ages, along with “The Pear of Anguish”…*shudder*

        • echar

          I think the media in general and the internet has a lot to do with it. Teenagers these days have more access to porn than any other time.

          I also thin kthat it depends on the upbringing. I know for a fact that some religious families instill certain standards. For example mormons are not allowed to wear midriffs, two piece bathing suits, dresses above the knee, etc..

          However if the parents are too strict, they can push the kids in the other direction.

        • Calypso_1

          What about sky-diving with a chastity belted vibrator?

  • Ted Heistman

    Most people are no good. Its a hard thing to have to learn but everybody has to learn it sooner or later. This spineless cowardly mob mentality is a thing to behold. It comes out all the time. If you never get drunk with people you don’t know, (And who do you really know?) you avoid a lot of problems.

    There is no mystery, IMO about why these particular kids did this. They are average people and in highschool you are thrust into this mass of average people. If you want to find good people you need to be very discerning.

    I am with Colonel Sherburn on what the mass of humanity is actually composed of when it comes right down to it:

    • echar

      A real bully circus, indeed.