Both girls went to house parties with friends. Both got drunk. Both were then gang raped by teenage boys from their schools. Both groups of attackers took a picture of the sexual assaults on their phones. Both groups of perpetrators shared these photos with friends online and through text messages. Both images went viral. Both girls felt humiliated and demoralized by the photos.
Both girls also committed suicide.
Last week two more cases of suicide provoked by shaming hit major headlines: 15-year-old Audrie Pott and 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons.
The Story of Audrie Pott
Audrie Pott’s story begins in September 2012 when she went to an unsupervised party and passed out after drinking too much hard liquor. While she laid on a bed unconscious, she was allegedly assaulted by three of her fellow high school students.
Eight days after the gang rape, on September 10, 2012, Audrie hung herself.
After the suicide Audrie’s parents and investigators learned more about the rape and the photos taken by the perpetrators. Robert Allard, the family’s attorney, says, “Based on what we know, she was unconscious, there were multiple boys in the room with her. They did unimaginable things to her while she was unconscious.”
Just last week on Thursday, April 11, three boys were arrested by a Northern California sheriff’s office on the charges of sexual battery—seven months after Audrie’s suicide.
Unquestionably, the photo that went viral was a leading contributor to Audrie’s sense of hopelessness. The day she killed herself she wrote on her Facebook page, “The whole school knows…My life is ruined.”
The Story of Rehtaeh Parsons
Rehtaeh’s sad story begins on November 12, 2011, when she was gang raped by four teenage boys at a house party near her home in Nova Scotia. In her inebriated state she remembered only bits and pieces of that night: being led upstairs, boys taking turns, vomiting, the photo being taken.
Fifteen years old at the time, Rehtaeh was mortified when less than a week later the photo started to circulate at her school. The next day she had a nervous breakdown and she never again returned to her school.
As the weeks passed, both the photo and her ensuing reputation haunted her. Hundreds at her school had seen the smiling image of her rapist assaulting her while she vomited out a window. And then the Facebook messages and texts started coming. “Sluts are not welcome here.” “Everyone knew exactly what you have done.” Men kept contacting her, asking to have sex with her, so she eventually closed her Facebook page.
Even when she transferred to another school, she could never quite regain her focus, so she eventually dropped out altogether. Still, as old friends passed her on the street, she heard their harassing words.
After a 17-month campaign of bullying, Rehtaeh hung herself at the beginning of this month, April 4. Her mother took Rehtaeh off life support on April 7.
When Shame is Compounded by Social Media
Attempting suicide after rape is common. According to the journal of Child Abuse & Neglect, half of youth reporting both dating violence and rape also report attempting suicide.
Rape, of course, is a heinous crime. But when the brutal moment is shared with others, it compounds the psychological trauma.
Cases like this involve a violent collision of many online safety issues.
- Cyberbullying – Deliberately using digital media to communicate false, embarrassing, or hostile information about or to another person is called cyberbullying. A third of today’s online teens say they have been targets of a range of annoying or potentially menacing online activities, ranging in severity.
- Sexting – Sending nude or otherwise provocative images of yourself or others online or through a cell phone is called sexting. These images can easily spread to others. About 1 in 7 teens have shared a sext with someone other than the one it was originally meant for.
- Slut shaming – When someone spreads or speaks about a girl’s (or boy’s) photos, videos, or private information to brand that person as “a slut” is called slut shaming. When done online it is a severe form of cyberbullying.
- Child pornography – Images or videos that depict sexual activities involving a child are considered child pornography. In many states, instances of sexting can be prosecuted as the dissemination of child porn. In many ways, child porn is a misnomer: these images might more accurately be called “crime scene images of child rape.”
Rehtaeh’s and Audrie’s suicides might have been prevented if the bystanders who saw these atrocious photos took immediate and compassionate action.
Teens in our schools are already on a slippery slope. According to the Journal of Family Violence, 77% of female and 67% of male high school students endorse some form of sexual coercion, including unwanted kissing, hugging, genital contact, and sexual intercourse.
Where is this sexual coercion learned? Sexual media and pornography continues to harden teen consciences. By the age of 18, 83% of boys and 57% of girls have seen group sex online. By the time teens get to college, two-thirds of young men and nearly half of young women say viewing porn is an acceptable way to express one’s sexuality, and among young men, 64% use pornography every week. (Learn more about this in our 2013 Pornography Statistics.)
With the dust barely settled in the media after the Steubenville rape trial, the stories of Audrie and Rehtaeh serve as a powerful lesson to all parents of boys. Our sexually insane culture is training up a generation of voyeurs: young men who love looking at naked women online, and when opportunity knocks, love sharing their own sexual exploits for others to see.
We pray to live long enough to see a new sexual revolution, one that reverses the tide and treats sex like the sacred thing that it is, not as the plaything for drunk teenagers with cell phones.
Pure Minds Online | Issue 31 | More in this issue: 5 Sure-Fire Ways to Motivate Your Child to Use Pornography | Discussion Guide for Accountability Partners
“Slut Shaming” is also used by the pro-hyper-sexuality and feminist/gender studies crowds to label anyone who criticizes any form of extramarital sexual activity, or promotes/favors only in-marriage sexuality. Even a pro-abstinence presentation in a high school has been labeled as “slut-shaming” by pro-sexuality students. Thanks for posting and calling a spade a spade–our culture has entered the era of sexual insanity.
Yes. I’ve intentionally left the feminist critiques out of these current events. Thanks for your comment about this.
How truly heart breaking are these stories. I can’t imagine the emotions of the parents: rage at the true perpetrators (rapists) and extreme sorrow for losing their precious daughters. This needs to be addressed, this stuff is more important than a bombing in Boston IMO. Hurtful words on social media can and do lead to lives lost. My prayers are with the families.
Statistically, the census bureau reports that 1 in 4 American women are raped. That means that (assuming an accurate number of reports in the stat in this article) 1 in 8 American women attempt suicide. That is unbelievably terrifying. With sisters of my own, by blood and in the Lord, it just seals the deal even more that something needs to be done here. Thank you Covenant Eyes for your work in this area, the world needs this. May God use it to save the lives of girls like Audrie and Rehtaeh.
To Tim and Nate,
Gentlemen, your compassion moves me to tears. I am sorry to say that this world has jaded my emotions to the point where it is hard to believe there are any men who really care or feel for these women and others like them. Your words here prove me wrong, even if you are in a minority. I have three beautiful daughters. I pray the Lord protects them and provides men who will treasure them. Thank you again for expressing your compassion.
Keep up the good work CE. I would love to see anyone show me the
scientific and psychological evidence proving that there is any thing in
porn that can be called ” expressing my sexuality” or “sex education”.
Who am I? 27 years of porn addict,a cheater,a liar,I take relations for
granted,a desensitized porn addict,an emasculated man,marrige des-
troyer,my ex wife begged me for sex! Anything more pathetic? I would
push her away.7, 8 or even 10 hours of porn watching. You could say
“not me”I used to say the same! People,please..Stay away from porn!
Great thoughts, George. Porn is sex education, it is just the wrong kind.
While this whole story is a tragedy, the worst part is that if the girls had never been inebriated in the first place this never would have happened. A clear mind will make better decisions. This the root cause that should be addressed. Parents that encourage/allow their children to drink are asking for bad things to happen to their child. Drunk driving, rapes, drugs, anything can happen when you don’t have control of your mind. It’s just not worth it!
It is true that inebriation was a problem, and it placed the girls in a compromised position (a problem that should most definitely be addressed among teens). But it is wrong to call their inebriation a “root cause” of their rape (unless I’m thinking of the phrase “root cause” differently than you). The root cause, as I see it, is the callousness of the boys who would willingly take advantage of girls in compromised positions, and then their willingness to repeat the offense to her by sharing their abuse with others.
The environment of the intoxication is part of the issue. If a girl gets drunk at home all by herself, she will not (likely) be raped. If boys and girls are getting drunk together, this can lead to all kinds of problems. But lest we think drunkenness just impairs judgement, it actually also reveals who we really are. The French proverb speaks volumes here: “A drunk mind speaks a sober tongue.” Alcohol doesn’t change who you are; it enhances your personality and showcases your flaws. No, the girls should not have been drunk, and they are to blame for getting drunk, but neither should the boys. When they took advantage of those girls, they revealed the darkness that was already within them.
Perhaps I’m not using the word “root cause” the same way you are, in which case we probably agree on this one.