This child, a child, because that was she was, at 15, went to my high school. In September, my high school witnessed the first suicide of an attending student in around a decade. Only just now are we hearing about the events that lead up to her death, which occurred 9 days after the assault.
She went to my high school. So did two out of her three attackers. They were 16-years-old. Maybe I know their names. Maybe I interacted with them. we don’t know who they are—their names aren’t being released because they’re minors. So I have to wonder who they are. Were they on my newspaper staff? Did I authorize stories about them for the paper? Did someone I know go out with one of them, maybe, or invite one of them to a dance? Were they on a sports team or did they play in the band?
We don’t fucking know because they could have been anyone. Because as women, the state of our reality is that we have to be afraid of everyone because anyone could be The One. The One who doesn’t take no for an answer, or thinks your body is his property and his plaything once you’re unconscious or have had a little too much to drink or put on a short skirt or flirt with him a little or smile and say hello.
They’re not always the boogeymen lurking in dark corners or hiding behind cars in dimly lit parking lots. In fact, for many women, they aren’t. They’re our classmates. Or our boyfriends. Or our fathers. Or our neighbors or our so-called friends. Not all men are rapists. All rapists are not men. But we don’t know if they could be. We can carry our keys between our knuckles, but we can’t protect ourselves from the men who gain our trust so we don’t think that they’re dangerous until they’ve given us a reason to fear them.
“It is those we live with and love and should know who elude us.”
It’s not “It could have been your sister or girlfriend or daughter”. It is “It could have been your brother or your husband or your son.”
And the worst part is, I know what will likely happen to her attackers, the bastards who not only attacked her but shared photos of the attack with the members of the school. And what a pity it is that these bright young boys, from one of the best schools in the country, threw away their futures. Think of the potential lost. Think of the lives they could’ve had.
Yes, tell me more about how I should feel so bad for them. Tell me about how their promising futures have been taken away from them with stupid night.
Think of the future she could’ve had, though.
She played on the girls’ soccer team, you know. And was in art, and played music. She was pretty, and bright, talented, and athletic, and young and now she is dead. And we say she “killed herself” but that’s not quite true, is it? It’s just too bad that they can’t be charged with murder too. Because they’ll be charged with sexual assault of a minor, and maybe child pornography and the distribution of child pornography depending on the content of the photos they shared, but I would be lying if I said I thought they’d be convicted. Or serve any time in jail. Or suffer anything more than a label slapped on them like a rap on the knuckles, “sex offender”—not rapist, or murderer. “Sex offender”. Lumped into a category with people who solicit prostitution, or people who get drunk one night and run around naked, or kids who have consensual sex with their girlfriends or boyfriends or whomever before the age of 18.
And it’ll happen to Rehtaeh Parsons’ rapists too. And all the other millions of women and men who have been raped. It makes me so sick to know that for every girl like Audrie Pott, whose name we at least know, there are millions of other people who are staying silent, whose stories will never be heard, and for whom justice can only be demanded in vague terms, because we can’t know. One shatters us. The whole weight of it all, the sheer enormity of the population of victims—it would tear us apart, with all that disgust and fury and sadness. So just imagine what it must do to someone who doesn’t tell her story and doesn’t have her voice heard. Because as a society, we don’t like to talk about it. There’s so many questions. But if a girl was drunk, or she goes to the party, or she was flirting with him, or she was wearing a short skirt, or she’s his girlfriend, or she’s not a pure goddamn virgin emanating holy light from every pore or whatever, no, then it’s her fault.
What a goddamn world we live in where a victim of someone else’s violence is told, “no, actually, you brought this upon yourself.”
And if they do get convicted, will they see a day in jail? If they do get jailtime, will it be in prison or juvie? If they go to prison, will it be for a year or will they have their life’s freedom taken away, just like what they did to her?
Probably none of the above. And until the justice system gets its head out of its excusing, condoning ass and fucking does something, I suppose it’s just up to us to demand justice on your behalf, whatever way we can—we can demand justice nonviolently, show that women and men do not believe that this is acceptable, that a little girl can disappear without any punishment to the boys who hurt her, that rape victims are whole and human beings who deserve more than what was given to them, that women are not pieces of ass to be batted about for the pleasure of naive men who cannot see past their raging libido, their incessant need for dominance and control and their misogyny to see the human being. Our system is flawed and our society is deeply fucked up. It has a duty to protect our children and it has failed. But if we let this failure pass, in any regard than the full justice that she deserves, then we fail too. Ignorance to injustice allows it to continue, to breed and flourish and spread. And just as we had a duty to Audrie to protect her, because she deserved the right, like all women, to be a teenager and make the decision to drink or party with friends and not worry that her classmates would sexually assault her while she was unconscious, we have a duty to do whatever we can to make it right in her name.
Rest in peace, sweet girl. Because God knows you didn’t know peace in your last days. And for your sake, we’ll give those fuckers hell in your name.
If you would like to support to the Audrie Pott Foundation, a non-profit organization created in her name to offer support to those in similar positions, you can find their page here.