Can Audrie’s Law Prevent Future Tragedies?

Tag Archives: sexual assault

Can Audrie’s Law Prevent Future Tragedies?

PHOTO: From left, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen talks about the provisions of Audrie's Law as Attorney Robert Allard, Sheila Pott, mother of Audrie Pott, and State Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, listen in on Friday, March 7, 2014, in Saratoga, Calif. Audrie’s Law is a legislative proposal aimed at deterring the bullying, cyberbullying, and sexual assault that played roles in the suicide of Audrie Pott, a 15-year-old Saratoga High School student. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The March 7th conference in Saratoga announcing Audrie’s Law.
Second from right: Sheila Pott, Audrie’s mother. Right: State Sen. Jim Beall, principal co-sponsor.

State Senator Jim Beall has introduced SB 838, named Audrie’s Law in memory of Saratoga High student Audrie Pott. Pott, who was raped at a student party in 2012, killed herself when pictures of the crime were posted by the assailants online. The bill has two major components. First, it closes a legal loophole. Currently, when a juvenile commits sexual assault on an incapacitated victim, they cannot be tried in adult court. SB 838 would change that. Second, it establishes criminal penalties for cyberbullying- both as a misdemeanor and a felony, based on the nature of the content shared. This would be in contrast to the punishment of the teens that assaulted Pott who received 30-45 days detention by a juvenile court.

The Internet has escalated the impact of sexual assault on its young victims. Social media can spread embarrassing and humiliating information far and wide in very little time. Facebook messages Audrie posted after she was assaulted indicated she knew pictures of her unconscious, unclothed body were circulating online and “the whole school knows.” She could not live with the shame.

Will Audrie’s Law make bullies think twice before hitting the “post” button if they know they could face prison time? If our community learned anything from the tragedy of Audrie Pott, it should be that rapists- teen or otherwise- are opportunists who strike when they think they can avoid punishment. Perhaps the specter of real, hard time will give them pause. The excuse that “she was drunk” is not a free pass. Nor should teens think it harmless fun to post a few pictures of their passed out roommate. The efforts of Senator Beall to educate teens and their parents are essential, and hopefully decrease the potential for this to happen again.

Military Rape: A Black Eye for Our Country

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

The subject of military rape is in the news on two fronts. A bill by New York Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is moving through Congress that will overhaul the way military rape cases are tried, taking a victim’s immediate commander out of the role of judge and jury and handing the case to a military lawyer outside the chain of command. She needs 60 votes, and says next month she will get there.

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Go to jail – do not pass “go” – do not go to college

Last week President Obama gave a speech outlining the startling extent of the college rape epidemic. One in five women on a college campus have been sexualy assaulted, and only one in 8 reported it. One study found some students commit up to six rapes and are never caught. What’s going on here?  Surely college doesn’t turn 7% of the students into rapists over night.  And although much of the news coverage about Obama’s speech focused on what women can do to prevent rape, the speech itself targeted college’s responsibility to report and prevent rapes on campus. If colleges aren’t reporting, and our media is still blaming victims, how will high school’s manifest their own accountability in protecting students?

 

The tragedy in Saratoga might explain why some young rapists go to off college instead of to jail. Saratoga is the well-to-do community where Audrie Pott lived. When her parents were away, a sleepover quickly turned into a booze party. What happened to Audrie when she was passed out cold? Three 15-year-old boys sexually assaulted her, then wrote in sharpie on her body, then distributed the photos of her half naked body to their friends. The photos went viral. Eight days after the assault, Audrie must have decided she couldn’t take it anymore. She went into her mother’s bathroom, where she was later found hanging, barely alive. She died two days later in the hospital.

 

Her tragic suicide should be a wake up call, not just for parents, but for all of us. The perpetrators got very light sentences; One young man got 45 days in juvenile hall, and two others had to spend weekends there for 30 days. They were free to complete high school and apply to college, resuming their lives. What kind of message does this slap on the wrist sentence send? The 16-year old rapists in the Steubenville, Ohio case got one and two years respectively, compared to 10 years for a typical adult case.  What length sentence is enough to send the right message? Will more education reverse this dangerous trend? One of the perpetrator’s parents was quoted in Rolling Stone, saying “It was just a prank by a few kids.”  A prank with deadly consequences. Even after Audrie’s death, the boys were found with more electronic photos of naked girls. They clearly felt no remorse. Are we sending high school rapists on to college so they can strike again in the safety of a dorm room? Let’s hope come September the President’s task force has some effect on safety on college and high school campuses.

Governor Signs Leno Legislation Strengthening Protections for Survivors of Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking

Dear Next Door Solutions Community,

On August 19, 2013 Governor Brown signed one of the Partnership’s priority bills, SB 612 (Leno) into law. This bill expands the list of permitted documentation for survivors seeking to terminate their leases to relocate for their safety, and also adds human trafficking survivors to those included under this provision. Please see Senator Leno’s press release below for more details. Thank you all for submitting letters and taking action in support of the bill!

August 19, 2013

SACRAMENTO – Survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking received significant new protections today with Governor Jerry Brown’s signature of Senate Bill 612. The bill, authored by Senator Mark Leno, gives survivors of human trafficking the right to terminate residential leases in order to protect themselves against their abusers. The bill also strengthens existing protections for survivors of domestic violence who are forced to vacate a rental property for personal safety reasons.

“Today’s signature by Gov. Brown helps keep California families safe by ensuring that survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking and other abuses can relocate when their lives are in danger,” said Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. “SB 612 strikes the right balance between protecting the safety of survivors and ensuring the certainty of contracts between landlords and renters.”

Senator Leno’s bill increases protections for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, elder or dependent abuse, and human trafficking who need to terminate a residential lease early to escape a dangerous environment and ensure their safety.  SB 612 also expands the type of documentation a victim can present to a landlord to demonstrate that abuse has occurred. The bill, which received bipartisan support in both houses of the Legislature, is co-sponsored by the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, Western Center on Law and Poverty and the National Housing Law Project. It was supported by the California Apartment Association, the largest rental housing organization in the nation, and received broad support from numerous organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Crime Victims United, the California Police Chiefs Association and the California Catholic Conference.

“For many victims, the ability to relocate quickly can mean the difference between sleeping safely at night and living in fear,” said Kathy Moore, interim executive director of the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence. “Victims shouldn’t have to choose between safety and housing, which is why our coalition co-sponsored SB 612. Expanding the list of allowable documentation of abuse will mean more victims and families will be able to flee violence without incurring excessive financial costs.”

“Western Center applauds Governor Brown for signing SB 612, providing critical tenant protections to survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking,” said Western Center on Law and Poverty advocate Michael Moynagh. “No survivor of abuse should be stuck in a lease that could put them in further harm.”

“The National Housing Law Project applauds the California Legislature and Governor Brown for increasing housing protections and security for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, elder and dependent abuse, and human trafficking,” said Karlo Ng, National Housing Law Project Staff Attorney. “The ability for survivors to provide documentation from a qualified third party, such as a domestic violence counselor or medical professional, is critical for survivors who need to escape the abuse immediately and cannot contact the police or obtain a protective order for fear of continuing violence against them.”

The bill will officially become state law on January 1, 2014.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so it’s time to wear all the teal you have (the color of sexual assault awareness) and start getting vocal about sexual violence in your community.

Today, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation for Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), an excerpt of which is below:

Our Nation must continue to confront rape and other forms of sexual violence as a deplorable crime.  Too many victims suffer unaided, and too many offenders elude justice.  As we mark National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, we recommit to building a society where no woman, man, or child endures the fear of assault or the pain of an attack on their physical well being and basic human dignity…

Each victim of sexual assault represents a sister or a daughter, a nephew or a friend.  We must break the silence so no victim anguishes without resources or aid in their time of greatest need.  We must continue to reinforce that America will not tolerate sexual violence within our borders.  Likewise, we will partner with countries across the globe as we work toward a common vision of a world free from the threat of sexual violence, including as a tool of conflict.  Working together, we can reduce the incidence of sexual assault and heal lives that have already been devastated by this terrible crime…

The reality is that when one assault occurs, it threatens the health and safety of our entire community. Sexual assault is preventable but we need your help. The theme of this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month is “It’s time… to get involved”. You can do your part by discussing boundaries with your children, listening to your friends, and telling the community that we cannot continue to ignore this epidemic.

It’s time to break the silence and rid our country of all sexual violence, once and for all.

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