Jury in Silicone Valley to decide whether cyberbullying caused teen suicide
Fifteen year old Audrie Pott was sexually assaulted by three boys at a house party while passed out, intoxicated. Terrified that pictures they had taken during this assault were going to be circulated around her peers and community, Audrie hanged herself in a bathroom at her home on September 10th 2012, little over a week after the incident.
A trial in San Jose this month will decide whether or not the bullying played a part in Audrie’s suicide. The wrongful death lawsuit against the three boys and their families, along with other connected individuals, has been pursued by Audrie’s parents for the three years since her death, and the outcome will be determined in the three week hearing. The Potts family led the campaign to pass a California law that allows prosecutors to seek harsher sentences for juvenile sex offenders who take pictures of their crimes and use them to bully victims.
Digital privacy lawyer, Parry Aftab, says that Audrie’s suicide is expected to be discussed at an international anti-bullying conference in Ireland in May, which Aftab is helping to organise.
“Depending on what the jury decides, the kids will look at this and see there may be consequences.” Parry Aftab
The three teen boys, now 18, are not being named as they were aged 15 at the time of the assault. One of the boys has recently apologised to the Potts family and agreed to pay a six-figure sum in damages. Others, including the family whose home the assault took place in plus a girl who attended the party and tried to cover up the assault, have also agreed to pay to settle their portion of the lawsuit. Lawyers for the other two boys will argue that family circumstances, “poor parenting” and friendship issues were to blame for Audrie’s suicide.
If you have been affected by cyberbullying and need to talk to someone, get in touch with us. If you’re the parent of a child experiencing issues with digital abuse, find advice and guidance in our Parents Help Centre.