When it rains, it pours, and I looks like Audrie Pott's parents may be pouring tears in the days and months to come. Their 15 year-old daughter went to a friend's party and was forever changed.
She woke up in a friend's bedroom, after having drunk too much the night before, to find that she had been sexually assaulted. Not only had he violated her sexually, but he had taken the liberty of writing and drawing on her body parts. In the following days Potts learned that there wasn't one attacker, but three, and all of them attended her school.
Unfortunately, her nightmare doesn't end there. At school she later found out that there were photos of her from that night when she was too drunk to coherently understand what was happening to her. Eight days later, she hung herself. What a tragic end to a beautiful life.
This family has obviously lost a lot. It would have been tough enough to help Pott through the emotional turmoil that comes with being raped. As a psychologist who has only researched rape throughout her career, I know this trauma is a very difficult one to overcome. Pott's situation was compounded by being gang raped, defaced and humiliated. And, before her parents could even attempt to clean this up (i.e., get her some psychological help), she was gone.
Unfortunately, the family may be further victimized by California law. Even though the perpetrators were charged with sexual battery and possession and distribution of child pornography, California law is less strict when the victim is unconscious. The "rationale" behind the law is that, if a victim can't say "no," then there is a question of whether the intercourse was consensual.
What a load of crap! Audrie may not have said, "no," but how can you assume that she said "yes?" Should we ask the three losers who behaved in such vile ways at the party? I am sure that they would have an honest answer. Doesn't consent require a yes?
When you walk into any treatment provider's office, you have to sign a consent form. If you fill out the form and don't sign it, you will be asked to sign it. Furthermore, you wouldn't receive any treatment until you said, "yes." It's quite possible that Pott didn't refuse or consent, which means that there was no consent.
Even if Pott did consent, weren't these 16 year-old boys old enough to understand when someone is in a compromised position? OK, she shouldn't have been drunk; that goes without saying. Raise your hand if you have ever put yourself in an extremely unsafe situation because you were a stupid teenager (my proverbial hand is raised).
This California law, and others like it, is the exact reason that more of our sexual assault survivors aren't reporting their attacks. They know that they will be scruntized for what they should or shouldn't have done, instead of the focus being on the individuals who broke the law.
When will we, as a society, learn that rape occurs any time someone says anything but "yes?"
Psychology Is Everywhere!