A 15-year-old Saratoga girl who killed herself after photos circulated of her alleged sexual assault was "tormented" and "tortured" in the days before her death, her family's attorney said Friday.
On Thursday, authorities announced three 16-year-old boys had been arrested on suspicion of sexually battering Audrie Pott, a Saratoga Union High School sophomore, according to reports.
An attorney representing Pott's family told The Times the alleged attack occurred at what the teenager thought would be a "small little gathering" at a friend's house last fall. The friend's parents were out of town, attorney Robert Allard said, and the girls started drinking some sort of alcohol mixed with Gatorade. Soon, Allard said, "word spread there was a party at this house."
Pott had gone upstairs early to sleep, but when she woke up the next day, she "recognized immediately that something terrible had happened," Allard said.
At least one picture depicting the sexual assault was circulated among her peers, Allard said. Pott later posted on Facebook that "the whole school knows" and "my life is like ruined now," Allard said.
Pott killed herself in September, about a week after the alleged attack.
"Obviously she was tormented," Allard said. "They had spread the word as to what happened, circulated at least one photograph of what happened during the assault, and she was tortured by cyberbullying."
News of Thursday's arrests quickly drew attention on social media sites to similar incidents involving teens, alleged assaults and photographs.
In March, Steubenville, Ohio, high school football stars were convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl. A picture shared among classmates showed the girl -- who said she didn't remember what had happened -- naked and passed out.
Comparisons were also made to a more recent case in Canada, where a Nova Scotia woman said her 17-year-old daughter committed suicide last week, more than a year after she allegedly was sexually assaulted at a house party. Leah Parsons alleged that four boys attacked her daughter, Rehtaeh, and one took a photo of the assault that went viral at their high school.
In a lengthy Facebook post, Parsons said her daughter's reputation suffered and she was bullied. The girl moved to a nearby town but still "struggled emotionally with depression and anger," her mother wrote.
The girl was taken off life support on April 7, three days after she hanged herself, her mother said.
Police investigated the incident but no charges were filed. Nova Scotia Justice Minister Ross Landry this week asked government officials whether it would be possible to review the case, according to a department statement.
In California, the superintendent of the school district attended by Pott and two of the teen suspects said in a statement Friday the district will "continue to work diligently to maintain a positive climate at our high schools ... that discourages cyberbullying and inappropriate conduct."
"Our sympathies go out to all the families affected by this tragic situation," said Bob Mistele, superintendent of the Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District.
Allard, the attorney for the California girl's family, said his clients planned to pursue civil litigation and have set up a foundation in Pott's name. The family is also pushing for "Audrie's Law," which they hope could strengthen laws on sexual assault by trying adolescents as adults and also stiffen penalties on cyberbullying.
"Her parents really want something positive to come from something like this," Allard said.
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