Audrie Pott, a 15-year-old girl from Saratoga, Calif., was sexually assaulted last September. Pott committed suicide eight days after the assault, after pictures of the assault were put online.
On Sept. 2, 2012, Pott attended a sophomore girl’s sleepover where unattended teens began drinking alcohol. The student who hosted the event said that Pott had gotten to the sleepover early and had already gone to sleep before many of the other guests arrived. Other students arrived later, including the three boys that assaulted Pott while she was asleep.
Similar situations involving teenage rape have occurred in other places as well. According to policymic.com, 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons was also raped at a party in Dartmouth, Canada in November 2011 while unconscious. News of her rape was also spread online and through her school. She also committed suicide. A 16-year-old girl in Steubenville, Ohio was sexually assaulted by two high school football players while she was nearly passed out in August 2012. The boys also videotaped the assault.
According to policymic.com, boys are taught that they don’t prove their masculinity through their appreciation of women but through conquering them. To these boys, rape is a systematic method to assert masculinity and the pictures and recordings of their victims are trophies. When news of these rapes becomes viral, instead of the boys feeling guilty it gives them pride.
“When I heard about [the Pott story], I was shocked, appalled and it really made me feel like attention should be given to the idea of rape,” said Lucumi Soriano, a wellness counselor at O-High. Soriano, who is strongly against rape and against emotional and spiritual violation, recommended rape awareness workshops and programs for all students.
Parents and other important adults in teens’ lives should communicate openly with their children about rape. Adults should create spaces for teenagers who have been involved with rape or have been raped to talk and give one another a shoulder and an ear.
Rape victims should not be afraid to speak out against it. According to listen.com, only 16% of rapes are ever reported to the police. One in every four women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. 683,000 women are raped yearly in the US. 61% of yearly rapes happen to girls under 18. However many women are afraid of being degraded further once they speak out. Susan Bigelow, a columnist for the website CT News Junkie, described rape culture as “a social environment that makes rape normal, expected, and excusable, which punishes victims for speaking out. It’s the mindset that causes people to say, ‘She was asking for it,’ or “She led him on by wearing that,’ or, ‘She was drunk.’”
Rape is an inexcusable crime that deserves punishment. The three 16-year-old classmates who assaulted Pott and then posted pictures online were placed in juvenile hall and then released on electronically monitored house arrest. Pott’s family wants the teens to be prosecuted as adults, but they have yet to be sentenced.
Teen rape victims should not be afraid or ashamed of speaking out against rape. Steps should also be taken by communities, schools and other positive places where teens won’t be ashamed, to prevent rape as much as possible.