Where are all the good people dead: In the Heart, or In the Head?

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Sheila Pott, mother of Audrie Pott, with photo of Audrie 

Here are the facts.

  • Fifteen year old girl attends a party in one of the elite zip codes in this country.
  • She drinks. Maybe she drinks too much. Maybe her drink was doctored.
  • What is certain is that she was raped by boys she thought were her friends.
  • The boys put graphic photos of the rape on the internet.
  • The girl hanged herself.

I have had to deal twice with situations like this in my job as a representative. One was a girl who killed herself after a gang rape by five men who took photos and showed them around, including to the police. When the police told the girl there were photos, she went home, got in the bathtub and killed herself with a shotgun blast to the face.

The other girl tried to kill herself. After four days in critical care, she survived. 

I’m going to post an excerpt of an article about the little girl who hung herself. I want to talk about the attitudes that show through this article. I have no grievance with the person who wrote it. They’ve just fallen into our societal trap of cleaning up what should be faced and excusing that for which there is no excuse.

The article begins by saying that 15-year-old Audrie got drunk at a party and when she woke up, concluded that she had been “sexually abused.” Let’s get our terminology straight. She concluded, probably due to some grisly physical evidence, that she’d been raped. 

Remember that word: Rape. It’s ugly and people don’t like it. But the word isn’t the real ugliness. The ugliness is living in a society where 15-year-old girls can be treated like this and then suffer the further indignity of having reporters try to clean the horror up for the perps with the use of “soft” expressions like “sexual abuse” to describe what happened. 

These upstanding young men posted “graphic” photos of their rape of their friend on Facebook. After Audrie saw the photos on the internet, and endured the mockery of emails and texts circulating about what had been done to her, eight days after she was raped, she hung herself.

According to our reporter, “the case underscored the seeming callousness with which some young people use technology.”

Is that what’s this “case” is about? “Sexual abuse” and “callous” use of technology? 

If we accept this kind of bland obfuscation of the brutal rape and murder by suicide of this young girl as a problem with technology and “cyber-bullying,” we need to burn our Member of the Human Race Card and go sit in the corner with the trolls and monsters of our deepest darkness.

To paraphrase a line from the movie Grosse Point Blank, where are all the good people dead:  In the heart, or in the head? 

Let’s get one thing clear: I don’t talk about misunderstood mass murderers and rapists who are otherwise such good people on this blog. You won’t see sweet-face lists of these young men’s accomplishments and wonderment about “how could such fine boys do this?” You’ll not read a word of sympathy and grief if they get sent to the prison where they belong, no matter how much they cry for themselves when they are sentenced. 

They were without pity for Audrie. I don’t care if they bawl their eyes out for themselves. I hope they spend the rest of their lives in jail. I don’t think they should ever breathe another free breath again. 

If you do something like this, then I put you in the monster column. The only way to get off that column is to manifest extreme remorse and humble grief for what you have done, coupled with a willingness to admit that you have in fact done it and that you are willing to do anything it takes to make up for it and to change. Even then, I want the proof of a changed life, and I mean a really changed life. 

Nice people do not rape their friends. They do not — ever — treat other people like things. They do not take photos of their raping and then post them on the internet, along with sending emails and texts to taunt, degrade and destroy their “friend” socially. What these men did to this girl, the rape, was physical torture. What they did later was emotional torture. What this young girl faced was social death.

People who treat other people like this are monsters. They will remain monsters so long as they continue to excuse, defend and deny the utter depravity and sub-human cruelty of what they have allowed themselves to become.  

From The Washington Post: 

SARATOGA, Calif. — Fifteen-year-old Audrie Pott passed out drunk at a friend’s house, woke up and concluded she had been sexually abused.

In the days that followed, she was shocked to see an explicit photo of herself circulating among her classmates along with emails and text messages about the episode. And she was horrified to discover that her attackers were three of her friends, her family’s lawyer says.

Eight days after the party, she hanged herself.

“She pieced together with emails and texts who had done this to her. They were her friends. Her friends!” said family attorney Robert Allard. “That was the worst”

On Thursday, sheriff’s officials arrested three 16-year-old boys on suspicion of sexual battery against Audrie, who committed suicide in September.

The arrests and the details that came spilling out shocked many in this prosperous Silicon Valley suburb of 30,000. And together with two other episodes recently in the news — a suicide in Canada and a rape in Steubenville, Ohio — the case underscored the seeming callousness with which some young people use technology.

“The problem with digital technologies is they can expand the harm that people suffer greatly,” said Nancy Willard, an Oregon-based cyberbullying expert and creator of a prevention program for schools.

Santa Clara County sheriff’s officials would not give any details on the circumstances around Audrie’s suicide. But Allard said Audrie had been drinking at a sleepover at a friend’s house, passed out and “woke up to the worst nightmare imaginable.” She knew she had been assaulted, he said.

She soon found an abundance of material online about that night, including a picture. (Read the rest here.) 

 

  • http://nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com: neenergyobserver

    Yes, prison, forever, and that only because a public hanging is to good for them. No excuse for this stuff, none, never, nada. If you do this you are not fit to ever see a human being again. There are sometimes ambiguous situations, this is not one of them, they did the crime, and then they publicly bragged about doing the crime, and now they get to do the time.

    And what is this nonsense lately, we degrade the word rape by using it for other things that aren’t even close, and then we are afraid to use it for what it means? Well, some of us learned long ago that words have meaning and the truth is truth, and you will take responsibility for your acts or you are not fit for civilized society. And some of us mean to maintain a civilized society.

    • pagansister

      neenergyobserver: You expressed very well what I couldn’t put into words below. I thank you for that. I know one woman who was raped—-she had a child from it—she never called the police. In the time it happened to her it would have been the “she said-he said” and the attitude then was “she asked for it”, which is never true—rape is just that—RAPE!

      • Rebecca Hamilton

        From what I’ve seen, that attitude hasn’t changed all that much pagansister. :-(

  • pagansister

    I’m not even sure where to start—but I so agree with you what you wrote above. Those that commit the crime/personal violation of rape on anyone are monsters.

  • http://www.rosariesforlife.com Dave

    I hope they lock those boys up and throw away the key. There was a similar story here in MN…fortunately, in that case the girl did not commit suicide, but I agree…there seems to be a tendency to shrug it all off with the “boys will be boys” type of thinking. In this case, the boys were on the hockey team and were suspended for a few games. Wow, seriously?!? (There may be civil action as well, but maybe the school could at least permanently throw them off the hockey team, or even out of the school!?!)

    It just seems like our society is, more and more, taking an “anything goes” model of sexuality. We are taught that we can’t really control ourselves…and so many people don’t. Even the barrier of consensuality is getting weakened. I remember reading a horrifying poll quite a few years ago in which 30% of college age men said that they would rape a girl if they knew for sure that they could get away with it.

    Fathers who would probably kill a young man who did something to their daughter just “wink, wink” if their son “gets some.” It’s a terrible and deadly double standard.

  • Sus

    “The problem with digital technologies is they can expand the harm that people suffer greatly,” said Nancy Willard, an Oregon-based cyberbullying expert and creator of a prevention program for schools.”

    I agree with this quote to a point. Without digital technologies, the rapists would go unpunished. There wouldn’t be credible evidence without the digital technologies. What gets me is that theses rapists are so proud of what they have done, they post it on the internet! DISGUSTING.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      That’s the power of misogyny, Sus. The innocent victim is so ashamed she hangs herself while the rapists brag — and then the press feels sorry for “THEIR wasted lives.”

  • http://www.rosariesforlife.com Dave

    Another thing I’d add is that as a strong sense of morality and the grounding of that morality (i.e. God) fades, then what replaces it is raw power. And we see that perfectly in this case.

  • http://rjdawson.com RJ Dawson

    Thank you for sharing this incredibly sad story. I hope your efforts and those of so many others will affect real change in this area.

    Hopefully, the guilty will undergo some real repentance. Even so, a horrific crime was perpetrated, and regardless of one’s eternal fate, punishment in the here and now is called for. I agree with your characterization of the guilty parties. They had no thought for the great damage they caused. Whether or not this is yet another sign of an increasingly cold-hearted society, there is no doubt that our society in general is growing more cold and callous.

    May this young lady’s death shine a bright light upon such deep darkness.

  • Theodore Seeber

    A life sentence of forced labor, with the proceeds going to the family in hopes that they start an anti-drug and anti-rape campaign. Nothing less would be just for this.

    Where were these boy’s fathers in all of this? Did they even have fathers? Lots of questions this raises, including the double standard by where a woman victimized in this way is shamed instead of supported.

  • FW Ken

    Searching around, I can’t tell if Oklahoma has a civil commitment law for sexual predators. If you don’t have a law like that, get one! It’s separate from the criminal system, which we all know, seldom locks people up for life.

    Civil commitment as a “sexually violent predator” is not indefinite either. The perp is reviewed by a psychologist every two years and the case is reviewed by a judge. I’ve been around this process for 10+ years and have yet to not see the civil commitment order reviewed. Almost all of them end up violating their Civil Commitment rules (which run to several pages) and that’s a third degree felony in Texas. It’s normally up to 10 years state prison, but I recently saw an enhancement that got the guy a well-deserved life sentence.

    What set me off on this is the situation you describe is really two crimes. There is the personal violation of the rape itself. Then there is the social violation of the “sexting” and ridicule, which is, in effect, another rape.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      We have many restrictions, but not this specific law that I know of. I will look into it. I’m inclined to approach this by defining a third crime or an aggravated crime of some sort. I’m noodling with it mentally right now. All ideas appreciated.

  • Yae

    I cried when I read about that little girl and what happened to her. I cannot imagine the pain of what was done to her nor the betrayal but I prayed that in her final moments our Lord held her close. The evil that was done by those boys at such a young age and to shrug it off by bragging and defiling the little girl even moreso by posting pictures and spreading gossip is just too evil.
    May justice be done without soft-pedaling anything that was done to her. May they realize the gravity of their crime and repent before God and man.
    In my prayers, this morning, I remembered her as I read this from the intentions for today:
    “You made all human beings in your image:
    -fill us with reverence for one another.”
    “You restored us in your image through the work of the cross:
    -teach us to work to restore the dignity of all those degraded by the works of evil.”

    When I prayed those intentions, she came to mind and I asked the Lord to have mercy on her and to comfort her and to grant her eternal rest in His arms where no one can ever harm her again.

  • Dale

    What the boys in Steubenville, and in California, and in Canada is horrible. And they deserve to be be punished.

    But I wonder if that is enough? Laurie Halse Anderson wrote the now classic teen novel, “Speak” about a high school freshman who is raped by an older classmate and then stops speaking. The book is widely taught in the US, and the author spends a lot of time traveling to schools to help educate. She has been interviewed during the past couple months and believes that adults bear some responsibility for the situation.

    Here is a portion from a recent article in Atlantic magazine:

    Well before Steubenville, “I was shocked when I realized how ignorant boys are about this,” she told me. “It became clear in 2002, after five years of pretty heavy school visits, and people putting the book into the curriculum. In every single demographic—country, city, suburban, various economic classes, ethnic backgrounds—I’d go into a class and talk about the book. And usually by the end, a junior boy would say, ‘I love the book, but I really didn’t get why she was so upset.’ I heard that so many times. The first couple dozen times I sort of freaked, and then I got down from my judgmental podium and started to ask questions. It became clear that teen boys don’t understand what rape is.”

    Halse Anderson cites a couple of reasons for this. For one, there’s the old, false, yet still pervasive view that rape can only be committed by “a stranger in the bushes with a gun.” That’s a perspective not just held by teens; it’s also believed by a lot of adults. And if parents think that way, they tend not to feel they have to talk to their teenage boys about rape. Sometimes it’s more plainly that they’re uncomfortable with any discussion at all. In her talks at schools, Halse Anderson has found that the necessity for informed consent is not a widely understood reality. “When you tell teen boys that if they have sex with a woman who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they can be charged with rape, they’re like, what?” she says. “No one’s talked to these boys. There are a lot of parents who love their sons and don’t want to think about them as rapists. But I think they’re being naive. It’s uncomfortable, but we need to talk about it. Most teenage boys are wonderful, but if we don’t have the courage to sit them down and explain the rules, we’re failing them.”
    http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/04/author-whos-teaching-boys-how-talk-about-rape/63786

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I’m not buying any of this. We need to “educate” young boys to they know that it’s wrong to treat another person like an object? We need to “educate” them that when a woman is passed out and they “go ahead” that it’s wrong? We need to “educate” them that rape is not just “someone in the bushes with a gun.”

      It’s hard for me to address that without using a single expletive.

      What is wrong here has nothing to do with a need for “education.” There is a word for people who don’t know that it’s wrong to violate and sadistically harm another person. That word is sociopath. If these young men are this confused and lacking in basic human empathy and conscience as this, they are too dangerous to be allowed to walk free.

      • http://www.rosariesforlife.com Dave

        Yes, if we are at such a pass as described, our society is doomed. Anyone with even the slightest conscience and common sense would not have to have these things explained to them. To take advantage of a woman who is in any way impaired is to treat them as an object – and as prey.

        Unfortunately, though, if a woman puts herself in a situation where she gets heavily impaired, she leaves herself open to the “he said, she said” game. Any man of honor, of course, would not take advantage of such a situation, but there are too few men of honor these days.

    • Theodore Seeber

      I agree with this, if only because due to my undiagnosed autism, I was once a teen boy who didn’t get it. Still don’t in many ways- but I’ve seen enough of the effects of rape to be against it.

      It doesn’t help that I really didn’t see much of a difference between people and trees until I was in my late 20s. No, strike that- people were more troublesome.

      It took maturity that I didn’t have when I was younger to see people as people, in general.

  • Dale

    And here is another snippet, from an interview with Laurie Halse Anderson on “Talk of the Nation,” an NPR program.

    “ANDERSON: I certainly didn’t set out to become that woman who shows up at school and makes everybody squirm in their seat talking about sex. But you can’t talk about sexual assault without frankly discussing sexual intimacy and consent. What does that mean?

    One of the things that stunned me when I first started going to schools was the lack of information both on the part of our girls and boys. They know what sex is, they’re inundated with it in the media, but very few parents have had the courage to sit their kids down and talk to them about the law regarding sexual assault and the morality. ”

    “Parents have to find the same courage when it comes to talking to their children about the realities of sexual assault to protect our young women and also to protect our sons. There are plenty of rapes that occur out there by boys who really don’t even realize that they’re committing rape. Nobody’s more surprised than they are when the police show up.

    CONAN: Wait a minute, don’t even realize they’re committing rape?

    ANDERSON: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve had conversations with grown men and teenage boys, and when they look back – usually it’s because they were drunk and/or the woman they were attacking was drunk. And when they find out that they didn’t get informed consent, when they look back and they realize that she was, as Shannon said, whispering no, or they didn’t ask, they just went ahead, or they look back and go wow, she was almost passed out, and then when you point out to them, dude, you belong in a jail cell right now, they’re horrified. They’re horrified. ”
    http://iowapublicradio.org/post/how-parents-talk-children-about-consent

    • Theodore Seeber

      That’s a huge part of it for me still today.

      I don’t believe in the concept of consent. It lends itself to a she said-he said scenario. The only form of consent I can now accept is Catholic Sacramental Marriage- and even that, only with six months of pre-Cana and for the purpose of procreation.

      That’s also another reason for me to be against gay marriage- that type of consent is impossible in gay marriage.

      • Rebecca Hamilton

        Ted, I think you misspoke here. Would you try to clarify your meaning?

      • pagansister

        Ted, you do not believe in the concept of consent?? That is almost like saying that rape is OK. I hope you misspoke as Rebecca suggested.

        • Theodore Seeber

          It’s more like saying everything other than the Sacrament of Marriage is rape, than saying rape is ok.

          A nebulous definition of “Consent” helps nobody. A woman, or even a man, can be brainwashed into saying yes when she means no. What is needed is concrete ritual and commitment that can’t be gone back on, and enough prep to insure that the consent is truly informed. You can’t get that with a one night stand. You can’t get that picking up random people in bars.

          I have serious doubts that you can have truly informed and provable consent with homosexuals, because there is so much dishonesty surrounding that subgroup, plus of course the lack of procreation means marriage is impossible anyway.

          “Consent” isn’t enough to prove to me that sex outside of marriage isn’t rape. If you want sex, get a ring and a wedding first. And even that isn’t enough these days with divorce. Sex is best when it is monogamous and lasts a lifetime, and is backed by the type of love that says “You will be the only person I ever have sex with”.

          • Rebecca Hamilton

            Ted, you’re getting far afield here, as well as making some sweeping statements.

            I know you have some sort of idea here that the rest of us don’t understand and that you sometimes have trouble saying what you mean. I’m just tossing that in here for thought.

            As far as homosexuals being inherently dishonest, that is not true at all. I personally know several homosexual people who are extremely trustworthy and honest. I don’t think sexual preference enters into questions like this.

            • Theodore Seeber

              99% of the time when I have trouble saying what I mean, it is because I am being more concrete and evidence based than neurotypicals are.

              I believe that is the case here.

              What I am saying is that “consent” is far to ambiguous a term to be used as the threshold for rape. It isn’t concrete. There is no way I can judge consent from physical evidence. There is no difference to be between a man wanting premarital sex without consequences and a man wanting violent rape.

              To me, all non-procreative sex is a form of rape. Sexual preference leads to such questions primarily because the sex is a lie- it’s non-procreative, and that’s what I meant by dishonesty.

              Consent is one of those words, like appropriate and inappropriate, that I don’t understand the meaning of. There seem to be no rules I can follow to derive the meaning either.

              Thus my belief in Sacramental Marriage instead. There are rules to the liturgy. There are rules to the Sacrament. Those rules are concrete. They are explicit. They can be followed.

              Not so with consent. Consent is a rule I can never know if I am breaking.

              • pagansister

                Basically, Theodore, to you, sex except for procreation is wrong, and thus is consistent with rape? I’m attempting to understand better what you wrote above. You are more comfortable with strict rules, yes?

                • Theodore Seeber

                  Yes. That’s it. The stricter the rules are- the easier it is to follow those rules.

                  Or maybe to put it in another way- if all laws are described in boolean algebra, then there can never be any doubt who is innocent and who is guilty.

                  I find it extremely bad form to tell a young man that any form of pre-marital sex is “ok” or “normal”. It isn’t and shouldn’t be. And if more young men understood *THAT*, rape would be much less of an issue than it is.

                  Teach a group of people less than concrete truths, and what you get out will be less than concrete behavior.

                  • pagansister

                    Not that I agree with everything you have said, but I understand where you are coming from a bit better. Thanks for that, Theodore.

  • http://www.bede.org Stefanie

    Recently, due to the tragedy of a teen suicide in our community, a local reporter from that community interviewed classmates and actually published excerpts of their Twitter comments about the event. I was appalled that a ‘reporter’ (whose story was picked up by our major metro newspaper) would violate the privacy of these teens. The parents or adults who wrote the editor to protest were basically told ‘it’s o.k., I got the kids’ permission to post their comments and to include their @ account.’ As anyone who uses Twitter knows, you can capture lots of other people’s accounts — or go onto them — if they are not locked — and basically find out a world of info on the everyone who IS connected via Twitter. At least facebook is locked as an open info source. Twitter — although it has that option — is wide open.
    Something needs to be done about protecting teens from themselves. They are very bold/cruel/heartbreaking on their facebook and Twitter comments.

  • http://mywordwall.wordpress.com Imelda

    Thank you for calling spades, spades. I wonder what happened to the young men involved? How did they turn into these kind of people who have no care at all about another human being, to say the least?

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    This story hit me in the breadbasket when I read it. It was one of those stories that was so emotional for me I needed a few days before I could bring myself to comment. I wish I could have comforted that poor girl, told her it would be alright, that in the space of time what happened was insignificant. I wish I could have told her that she had a whole life to redeem herself and we would all support her. But alas. I hope God has mercy on those boys, because I sure couldn’t.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      It hit me the same way Manny. You’re a good man.


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