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A Girl’s Nude Photo, and Altered Lives

By MARCH 26, 2011

LACEY, Wash. — One day last winter Margarite posed naked before her bathroom mirror, held up her cellphone and took a picture. Then she sent the full-length frontal photo to Isaiah, her new boyfriend.

Both were in eighth grade.

They broke up soon after. A few weeks later, Isaiah forwarded the photo to another eighth-grade girl, once a friend of Margarite’s. Around 11 o’clock at night, that girl slapped a text message on it.

“Ho Alert!” she typed. “If you think this girl is a whore, then text this to all your friends.” Then she clicked open the long list of contacts on her phone and pressed “send.”

In less than 24 hours, the effect was as if Margarite, 14, had sauntered naked down the hallways of the four middle schools in this racially and economically diverse suburb of the state capital, Olympia. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of students had received her photo and forwarded it.

In short order, students would be handcuffed and humiliated, parents mortified and lessons learned at a harsh cost. Only then would the community try to turn the fiasco into an opportunity to educate.

Around the country, law enforcement officials and educators are struggling with how to confront minors who “sext,” an imprecise term that refers to sending sexual photos, videos or texts from one cellphone to another.

But adults face a hard truth. For teenagers, who have ready access to technology and are growing up in a culture that celebrates body flaunting, sexting is laughably easy, unremarkable and even compelling: the primary reason teenagers sext is to look cool and sexy to someone they find attractive.

Indeed, the photos can confer cachet.

“Having a naked picture of your significant other on your cellphone is an advertisement that you’re sexually active to a degree that gives you status,” said Rick Peters, a senior deputy prosecuting attorney for Thurston County, which includes Lacey. “It’s an electronic hickey.”

In the fall of 2009, Margarite, a petite, pretty girl with dark hair and a tiny diamond stud in her nose, was living with her father, and her life was becoming troubled. Her relationship with her father’s new wife was tense. Her grades were in a free fall.

Her social life was deteriorating. A good friendship with a girl had soured, abetted by a fight over a boy. This girl would be the one who would later brand Margarite’s photo and forward it.

Margarite’s former friend is tough and strong-willed, determined to stand out as well as fit in, according to those who know her. Her parents, recent immigrants, speak limited English and were not able to supervise her texting.

In the shifting power dynamics of middle school girls, the former friend understood well that she who sneers first sneers best. The flick of a cutting remark, swiftly followed by “Just kidding!” The eye roll. As the animosity between the two girls escalated, Margarite felt shunned by an entire group of girls and was eating lunch by herself. At home she retreated to her bedroom, alone with her cellphone and computer.

Her mother would later speculate that Margarite desperately needed to feel noticed and special. That December, just before the holidays, she took the photo of herself and sent it to Isaiah, a low-key, likable athlete she had recently gotten to know.

After the winter break, Margarite was preparing a fresh start. She would move back in with her mother and transfer to a school in a nearby district.

But one night in late January, a few days before her transfer, Margarite’s cellphone began vibrating around 1 a.m., waking her. She was being bombarded by texts — alerts from worried friends, leers from boys she scarcely knew.

The next morning in her mother’s car, Margarite lowered her head, hiding her reddened eyes, her terrible secret.

“Are you O.K.?” asked her mother, Antoinette, who like other parents and children who agreed to be interviewed asked to be identified by only first or middle names to protect their privacy.


“Are you sure?”


But her mother knew otherwise. Earlier that morning a parent had phoned Kirsten Rae, the principal of Margarite’s school, Chinook Middle, complaining about a naked photo sent to her child. The child knew at least a dozen students who had received it.

The principal then called Antoinette. The police wanted to question Margarite. On the drive to school, the girl sobbed uncontrollably, feeling betrayed and degraded.

The school was buzzing. “When I opened my phone I was scared,” recalled an eighth grader. “I knew who the girl in the picture was. It’s hard to unsee something.”

Meanwhile, another middle school principal in Lacey had begun investigating a sexting complaint that morning. Ms. Rae realized that Margarite’s photo had gone viral.

Students were summoned to Ms. Rae’s office and questioned by the police. Their cellphones were confiscated.

Ms. Rae went into crisis management. Parents were calling, wanting to know whether their children would be arrested and how she would contain the spread. She drafted a letter for school families. Administrators planned a districtwide voicemail to the families of middle school students. Chinook teachers would discuss the issue in homerooms the next day.

By late morning, Isaiah and Margarite’s former friend had been identified and pulled out of class.

Then Isaiah’s mother, Jennifer, got the call. “Naked?” she shouted. “How naked?”

When Jennifer, who works for an accountant, arrived at the school, she ran to Isaiah, a tall, slender boy with the startled air of an unfolding foal. He was weeping.

“I was in shock that I was in trouble,” he recalled during a recent interview. “I didn’t go out of my way to forward it, but I felt responsible. It was bad. Really bad.”

He told the police that the other girl had pressured him into sending her Margarite’s photo, vowing she just wanted to look at it. He said he had not known that their friendship had disintegrated.

How had the sexting from Margarite begun? “We were about to date, and you’ll be like, ‘Oh, blah blah, I really like you, can you send me a picture?’ ” Isaiah recalled.

“I don’t remember if I asked her first or if she asked me. Well, I think I did send her a picture. Yeah, I’m pretty sure. Mine was, like, no shirt on.



Rick Peters, a county prosecutor in Washington State, initially charged three middle school students with disseminating child pornography, a felony, after they forwarded a 14-year-old’s nude photo of herself to hundreds of friends. CreditStuart Isett for The New York Times

“It is very common,” he said. “I’d seen pictures on other boys’ cellphones.”

Mr. Peters, the county prosecutor, had been hearing that sexting was becoming a problem in the community. In a recent interview, he said that if the case had just involved photos sent between Isaiah and Margarite, he would have called the parents but not pressed charges.

“The idea of forwarding that picture was bad enough,” he said. “But the text elevated it to something far more serious. It was mean-girl drama, an all-out attempt to destroy someone without thinking about the implications.”

He decided against charging Margarite. But he did charge three students with dissemination of child pornography, a Class C felony, because they had set off the viral outbreak.

After school had been let out that day in late January, the police read Isaiah his rights, cuffed his hands behind his back and led him and Margarite’s former friend out of the building. The eighth graders would have to spend the night in the county juvenile detention center.

The two of them and a 13-year-old girl who had helped forward the photo were arraigned before a judge the next day. (Margarite’s former friend declined to be interviewed, as did the girl who helped her.)

Officials took away Isaiah’s clothes and shoes. He changed into regulation white briefs and a blue jumpsuit. He was miserable and terrified.

“My socks got wet in the shower,” Isaiah said.


Sexting is not illegal.

Two adults sending each other naughty pictures, dirty language? Just garden-variety First Amendment-protected speech.

A November 2009 AARP article, “Sexting Not Just For Kids,” reported approvingly on the practice for older people, too. In women’s magazines and college students’ blogs, coy guides include pragmatic tips like making sure to keep your face out of the photo.

But when that sexually explicit image includes a participant — subject, photographer, distributor or recipient — who is under 18, child pornography laws may apply.

“I didn’t know it was against the law,” Isaiah said.

That is because culturally, such a fine distinction eludes most teenagers. Their world is steeped in highly sexualized messages. Extreme pornography is easily available on the Internet. Hit songs and music videos promote stripping and sexting.

“Take a dirty picture for me,” urge the pop stars Taio Cruz and Kesha in their recent duet, “Dirty Picture.” “Send the dirty picture to me. Snap.”

In a 2010 Super Bowl advertisement for Motorola, the actress Megan Fox takes a cellphone picture of herself in a bubble bath. “I wonder what would happen if I were to send this out?” she muses. The commercial continues with goggle-eyed men gaping at the forwarded photo — normalizing and encouraging such messages.

“You can’t expect teenagers not to do something they see happening all around them,” said Susannah Stern, an associate professor at the University of San Diego who writes about adolescence and technology.

“They’re practicing to be a part of adult culture,” Dr. Stern said. “And in 2011, that is a culture of sexualization and of putting yourself out there to validate who you are and that you matter.”

The prevalence of under-age sexting is unclear and can often depend on the culture of a particular school or circle of students. An Internet poll conducted for The Associated Press and MTV by Knowledge Networks in September 2009 indicated that 24 percent of 14- to 17-year-olds had been involved in “some type of naked sexting,” either by cellphone or on the Internet. A December 2009 telephone poll from the Pew Research Center’sInternet and American Life Project found that 5 percent of 14- to 17-year-olds had sent naked or nearly naked photos or video by cellphone, and that 18 percent had received them. Boys and girls send photos in roughly the same proportion, the Pew survey found.

But a double standard holds. While a boy caught sending a picture of himself may be regarded as a fool or even a boastful stud, girls, regardless of their bravado, are castigated as sluts.

Photos of girls tend to go viral more often, because boys and girls will circulate girls’ photos in part to shame them, explained Danah Boyd, a senior social media researcher at Microsoft and a fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

In contrast, when a boy sends a revealing photo of himself to a girl, Dr. Boyd noted, she usually does not circulate it. And, Dr. Boyd added, boys do not tend to circulate photos of other boys: “A straight-identified boy will never admit to having naked photos of a boy on his phone.”

Policy makers are beginning to recognize that a uniform response to these cases does not fit.

“I hate the word ‘sexting,’ ” said Andrew J. Harris, an assistant professor of criminology at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, who is leading a study of the practice among adolescents to help develop policies to address it. “We’re talking about a lot of different behaviors and a lot of different motivations.”

There is the high-tech flirt. The troubled attention-seeker. A couple’s consensual exchanges. Drunken teenagers horsing around. Pressure from a boyfriend. Malicious distribution. A teenager who barrages another with unsolicited lewd photos or texts. Or, as in a 2009 Wisconsin case of “sextortion,” a boy, pretending to be a girl online, who solicited explicit pictures of boys, which he then used as blackmail to compel those boys to have sex with him.

The content of the photos can vary widely too, from suggestive to sadistic.

Adults in positions of authority have been debating how to respond. Many school districts have banned sexting and now authorize principals to search cellphones. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 26 states have tried to pass some sort of sexting legislation since 2009.

“The majority of states are trying to put something in place to educate kids before and after the event,” said Justin T. Fitzsimmons, a senior attorney at the National District Attorneys Association who specializes in Internet crimes against children. “We have to protect kids from themselves sometimes. We’re on the cusp of teaching them how to manage their electronic reputations.”

But if the Lacey students were convicted of dissemination of child pornography, they could be sentenced to up to 36 weeks in a juvenile detention center. They would be registered as sex offenders. Because they were under 15, however, after two years they could petition a court to remove their names from the registry, if they could prove they no longer posed a threat to the public.


Rick Peters, the prosecuting attorney, never intended for the Chinook Middle School students to receive draconian sentences. But he wanted to send a scared-straight message to them, as well as to the community.

Yet when the local news media storm cascaded, the outcry was not about the severe penalties for a felony sexting conviction. It was about why Mr. Peters had not also arrested Margarite.

“She’s a victim,” Mr. Peters said. “She made an ill-advised decision to share that picture with her boyfriend. As far as she knew, that was as far as it would go.

“What good would come from prosecuting her? What lesson could we teach her that she hasn’t already learned now 1,000 times over?”

Eventually a deal was brokered for the three teenagers who were charged. The offense would be amended from the child pornography felony to a gross misdemeanor of telephone harassment. Isaiah and the two girls who had initially forwarded Margarite’s photo would be eligible for a community service program that would keep them out of court, and the case could be dismissed.

Those three students would have to create public service material about the hazards of sexting, attend a session with Margarite to talk about what happened and otherwise have no contact with her.

After Margarite and her mother approved the conditions, Mr. Peters signed off, pleased.

Throughout last spring, on Monday afternoons after school, Eric Fredericks, Isaiah’s math teacher, met with the three students to help them develop their material.

Margarite’s former friend made a PowerPoint presentation, with slides copied from the Internet.

The younger girl made a poster dense with warnings about sexting’s consequences. She concluded: “I am a 13 year old teen that made a bad choice and got my life almost totaled forever. I regret what I did more than anything but I cant take it back.”

Isaiah created a two-page brochure, citing studies from the Internet, accompanied by a tumble of adolescent feeling:

“Not only does it hurt the people that are involved in the pictures you send, it can hurt your family and friends around you, the way they see you, the way you see yourself. The ways they feel about you. Them crying because of your mistakes.”

Ms. Rae has yet to distribute the material. Chinook, with 630 seventh and eighth graders, still has students who know those involved in last year’s episode. She wants to give Isaiah, Margarite and the others more time to distance themselves.

While the case was on its way to resolution, prosecutors and district educators decided to put its aftershock to good use.

“After the story broke, parents called us because they didn’t know about the law that could send kids to jail for a bad choice,” said Courtney Schrieve, a spokeswoman for the North Thurston Public Schools. “Kids didn’t know about it either. So we decided to turn this into an opportunity to educate teachers, parents and students.”

In October, Ms. Rae, the police, prosecutors and Mr. Fitzsimmons of the National District Attorneys Association held separate forums about sexting for Lacey’s teachers, parents and student delegations from the four middle schools.

The students then returned to their homerooms to teach classmates what they had learned.

Elizabeth Colón taught a session with Jon Reid. Both are eighth graders at Chinook.

“Most of the questions were about penalties,” she said. “Kids wanted to know if they would get into trouble just for receiving the picture.”

Jon spoke about long-term consequences. “I said that people may look at you differently,” he said. “They’ll know what kind of person you were, even though you changed.”

One spring evening, the three students who had been disciplined met for a mediation session with Margarite and two facilitators from Community Youth Services. The searing, painful session, which included the students’ parents and Mr. Fredericks, lasted several hours. Everyone was asked to talk about his or her role in the episode.

Mr. Fredericks listed all the people who had spent hours trying to clean the mess the students had created in a matter of seconds: police officers, lawyers, teachers, principals, hundreds of families.

Then it was Isaiah’s turn. He looked Margarite in the eye. “He poured his heart out,” Mr. Fredericks recalled. Isaiah said that he was ashamed of himself, but that most of all, he was sorry he had broken Margarite’s trust. Then he asked for her understanding and forgiveness. “He cried,” Mr. Fredericks said. “I choked up.”

The former friend who had forwarded the photo, creating the uproar, was accompanied by her mortified father, an older sister and a translator. She came across as terse and somewhat perfunctory, recalled several people who were there.

One of the last to speak was Margarite’s father, Dan, an industrial engineer.

“I could say it was everyone else’s fault,” Dan said. “But I had a piece of it, too. I learned a big lesson about my lack of involvement in her use of the phone and texting. I trusted her too much.”

He had not expected the students to be punished severely, he continued. But they needed to understand that their impulsive actions had ramifications.

“When you walk out of here tonight, it’s over, you’re done with it,” he said, looking around the room.

“Keep in mind that the only person this will have a lasting impact on,” he concluded, is his daughter.

The photo most certainly still exists on cellphones, and perhaps on social networking sites, readily retrievable.

“She will have to live with this for the rest of her life.”


When the police were finished questioning Margarite at Chinook in January 2010, her mother, a property manager, laid down the law. For the time being, no cellphone. No Internet. No TV.

Margarite, used to her father’s indulgence and unfettered access to technology, was furious.

But the punishment insulated Margarite from the wave of reaction that surged online, in local papers and television reports, and in texted comments by young teenagers throughout town. Although the police and the schools urged parents to delete the image from their children’s phones, Antoinette heard that it had spread to a distant high school within a few days.

The repercussions were inescapable. After a friend took Margarite skating to cheer her up, he was viciously attacked on his MySpace page. Kids jeered, telling him to change schools and go with “the whore.”

The school to which Margarite had transferred when she moved back in with her mother was about 15 miles away. She badly wanted to put the experience behind her. But within weeks she was recognized. A boy at the new school had the picture on his cellphone. The girls began to taunt her: Whore. Slut.

Margarite felt depressed. Often she begged to stay home from school.

In January, almost a year to the day when her photo went viral, she decided to transfer back to her old district, where she figured she at least had some friends.

The episode stays with her still. One recent evening in her mother’s condominium, Margarite chatted comfortably about her classes, a smile flashing now and then. But when the moment came to recount the events of the winter before, she slipped into her bedroom, shutting the door.

As Antoinette spoke about what had happened, the volume on the television in Margarite’s room grew louder.

Finally, she emerged. The smell of pizza for supper was irresistible.

What is it like to be at school with her former friend?

“Before I switched back, I called her,” Margarite said. “I wanted to make sure the drama was squashed between us. She said, were we even legally allowed to talk? And I said we should talk, because we’d have math together. She apologized again.”

What advice would Margarite give anyone thinking of sending such a photo?

She blushed and looked away.

“I guess if they are about to send a picture,” she replied, laughing nervously, “and they have a feeling, like, they’re not sure they should, then don’t do it at all. I mean, what are you thinking? It’s freaking stupid!”

Continue reading the main story
Public service material on the hazards of sexting that was written by a student charged in the Washington State case. Preparing the material was part of a deal that was brokered to avoid harsh penalties.

Teen Shares Sexting Story, Tells Parents ‘Don’t Be Naive’

 By Jason DeRusha


MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — She was 12 years old, and like most 12-year-olds, she had a crush in her same grade.
“I thought we loved each other. He just used me for what he wanted,” said Michaela Snyder, a Woodbury teenager, now a freshman in high school.
In some ways, Michaela’s story is not much different than any of ours in seventh grade — being in love, and eager to please.
“I didn’t want to lose him,” Michaela said. “I just wanted to make him happy, I thought that’s what I was supposed to do.”
But one thing is different about Michaela’s story, and the experience of all junior high students: the cell phone.
According to research from Pew Internet Research, in 2012, 68 percent of seventh-graders had a cell phone of their own.
The 12-year-old boy Michaela was “going out with” got more aggressive just one month after they started hanging out together.
“He wanted pictures from me. He wanted to see my body,” she said. “He just texted one day and said, ‘You should do it.’ I said no. He said, ‘If you love me, you’ll do it, if not, I’ll leave you,'” Michaela said.
Her parents, Grant and Melanie Snyder, said they thought their daughter would be ready for this moment.
“We thought we had had enough conversation with our kids that they knew better,” Melanie Snyder said.
“It wasn’t enough,” Grant Snyder said.
Their daughter said she talked to her group of friends, all seventh-graders, all 12-year-old girls.
“They said, ‘It’s normal, we do it,'” Michaela said.
According to Michaela, her friends all reported being pressured to send sexually explicit pictures to boys in the same grade. Good kids, bad kids, all kids.
And so Michaela took a picture of herself in her underwear, and tapped send.
She said she knew it was a bad idea.
“I didn’t care,” she said. “I thought if he’s gonna love me and stay with me, I don’t care.”
But it didn’t stop there.
“He then started asking for more, more naked pictures,” Michaela said. “I never sent those. I was never going to send that.”
Like many parents, the Snyders say they spot check their teenagers’ phones. Melanie found the texts and the explicit picture of her daughter.
“Shock. Disbelief. At the time, anger,” the Melanie said.
Young people being exploited through explicit pictures is not a new concept to Michaela. Her father is a Minneapolis Police sergeant, who investigates juvenile sex crimes.
“That’s the surprising part, even in hindsight. How powerful that magnet of social media and peer pressure was for Michaela,” Grant Snyder said. “If that can happen to a cop’s kid, that can happen to anybody.”
Michaela’s parents went to the boy’s parents, but Michaela said she was the one paying the price.
“I was tripped in the hallways, people were talking about me online,” she said.
People even told her to kill herself.
“For a long time I blamed myself,” Michaela said. “It took me two years to forgive myself. It’s funny, I forgave him before I forgave myself.”
And she’s sharing her story, first to Pioneer Press columnist Ruben Rosario, as a warning to parents and to kids her age.
“I want girls to realize we are worth more than our bodies,” she said. “I want parents to not be naive and think, ‘My kid is too good, they’re not going to do that.'”
Her parents say children are facing challenges today that their generation never faced. They also feel that Michaela’s choice to share her story is incredibly brave.
“We need voices of kids saying this is what happened to me, and this is how it affected me and be careful,” Grant Snyder said.
Parents who think they don’t need to worry about these things until their kids are older, need to think again, according to Michaela.
“At age of 10 or 11, you need to talk to your boys about this is how you respect a girl,” she said.
Michaela said she’s lost friends by coming forward. But she’s gained something bigger: self-respect, and a chance to make a change.
“I think my stupid choices can help a lot of other people,” she said.
Jason DeRusha

Sexting victim reveals schoolyard hell after ‘little prank’ on boys

A TEENAGE sexting victim has laid bare the shocking world of naked selfies and ‘‘revenge porn’’ at high schools on the Central Coast after the State Government announced a crackdown on the cyber scourge.

Jennifer was suspended in Year 10 for harassing a boy after she played a “little prank” in response to requests from several male students for her to send them a naked selfie.

Instead, she found a random internet photo of another girl’s breasts and sent it to one boy who sent it on to other students, believing it was actually her.

Jennifer has lifted the lid on the rampant exchanging of naked selfies among teenagers. Picture: Mark Scott

Close friends abandoned her and she was bullied for the rest of her schooling days after the naked photo was shared widely in the playground.

This gave her a reputation as somebody willing to share naked photos of herself.

Four years later she is still traumatised by the incident.

“It was something I thought would be a little prank, but I never realised it would get that bad,” she said. “My close girlfriends and a few of the boys got called up to the principal and one of the boys who had asked me (for the naked selfie) didn’t want to admit to it.

‘‘He put the blame back on me and that’s when it all blew up.

“I ended up getting a three-day suspension for it because the principal said I was harassing the boy — even though everyone was doing it (sharing inappropriate images).

“It made me grow up faster, but I still think about it a lot.

‘‘I wish it never happened.’’

Sexting is common among teenagers, according to a victim of the cyber scourge.

Jennifer’s sexting confessions come as new legislation to criminalise the non-consensual distribution of intimate images — known as revenge porn — was introduced in the NSW Parliament this week.

Attorney-General Mark Speakman said the new laws would deal with photos and videos of a person’s private parts or a person engaging in a private act such as showering or having sex.

If passed, the laws will come into immediate effect.

The maximum jail sentence for children under 16 will be the same as adults.

Jennifer welcomed the Government’s tough stance, saying “there should be punishments for this type of behaviour”.

“Everyone at school should be taught about the punishments, which might make boys more cautious about revenge porn. Boys — and girls — don’t really know the consequences of sharing these photos.

‘‘I never did at the time.”

Teenagers are widely sharing naked selfies, according to a Central Coast victim of sexting.

She revealed students at her high school brazenly shared inappropriate images and messages on social media right under the noses of their teachers.

“My friends, and pretty much everyone else, would use their phones during class,” Jennifer said. “You’d be texting people in another class. Everyone would be Snapchatting — even taking photos of the teacher.

“And with sharing naked pics at school, everyone does it. It pretty much starts at the boyfriend-girlfriend stage. But if you have messy breakup, which often happens, that’s when it blows up and these photos get shared around.

‘‘There are girls who share naked selfies because they want the attention, but it’s mostly the boys pressuring the girls for them.

“The boys started asking me for naked photos in Year 10. It’s a real boy thing: they can’t help but give everyone a look. Within a few days your whole year at school could have seen it.”

The teenager praised parents, principals and police for joining forces to hold an adults-only cyber forum, tackling an ingrained culture of sexting, at Mingara Recreation Club on June 7.

“Most parents wouldn’t have a clue what their kids at school do when they go to bed. When I was at school I usually went to sleep before all my friends, which was at midnight, and they’d be up way later than me till about 2 or 3am talking to boys.

“A lot of it (sexting) is happening at these times.”

* Jennifer is not her real name




As soon as she saw her ex and two of his friends pointing and laughing at her, Ally knew something was wrong. What happened next was a nightmare the New Jersey teen never imagined when she texted her former boyfriend a naked photo.

Ally tells her story in "Sexting in America: When Privates Go Public," a 30-minute special airing Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on MTV, in which we take a closer look at the dangers of sexting and the serious repercussions for the people who send and receive naked pictures of peers on their mobile phones and other devices.

In the special, Ally walks by the spot at her school where her ex-boyfriend and his friend stood "pointing and laughing" at her, triggering the realization that the naked picture she sent him at his request had leaked out. Ally had broken up with her boyfriend during her sophomore year at Hamburg, New Jersey's Wallkill Valley Regional High School, and a month later, he told her he would get back together with her if she sent him a naked photo.

"It was one picture, and he sent it out to everybody in his address book," the now-20-year-old told MTV News. "We were broken up, and I guess he did it to make himself seem cool. I never thought anybody else would see it. ... It was an impulsive thing that I did."

Though her face was not in the photo, Ally said word about who the mystery subject was quickly raced around the school. "You wouldn't think that something could spread that far, that fast," said Kacie, one of Ally's good friends.

After first denying it was her to the school's vice principal, as well as her parents, Ally finally 'fessed up, and her devastated mom's first reaction was that the family should leave town. Because there was no physical harm, though, the vice principal said there was nothing he could do about the incident unless other students began to threaten violence against her.

Ally's story highlights the fact that nearly 1 in 5 sext recipients (17 percent) report that they have passed the images along to someone else, with more than half saying that they just assumed others would want to see them (52 percent), followed by a desire to show off (35 percent) and boredom (26 percent).

Cyber-bullying and sexting incidents have led despondent victims to suicide and serious criminal charges against those who post and forward explicit pictures.

Images taken of someone under the age of 18 can constitute child pornography, according to Parry Aftab, an Internet privacy and security lawyer. "If you take a picture, you can be accused of producing child pornography. If you send it to somebody, you can be accused of distributing child pornography. And if you keep a picture, you can be accused of possessing child pornography," Aftab explained. "Anywhere along this chain of transmission of the images, you can be charged as a registered sex offender."

Ally said after four years, she's definitely over the incident, which she feels has made her a stronger person. "But I think I have to tell my story to other girls, because if I can help one person avoid this, I would definitely want to."

If you or someone you know is a victim of digital abuse, get help now. Experts believe education and dialogue are key to identifying and stopping the spread of digital abuse. Head to to find ways you can increase national awareness about this issue and be a part of the solution.

Cyberbullying can have devastating consequences. Suicide is one.

Sexting and Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying can have devastating consequences. Suicide is one.

Cases of young kids committing suicide because of cyberbullying and sexting are increasingly coming to the public’s attention.

Following are a few of these tragic cases. As you read them think about your own children.

You can protect them!

There are filters and websites offering filtering protection and monitoring, some are cheap and some are expensive. The main idea is to monitor how computer and phones are used but there is always, for computer savvy to bypass them.

CTC App on the contrary, is not filtering but is giving the sender the possibility to set the lifetime of the file sent. In few words, the sender can set a, for example, 7 minutes life time and then send the picture through our pipeline. The receiving party, will open the file and the timer starts. When the time arrives to 00:00, the file is destroyed and cannot be recovered. Files cannot be opened outside our walls and if copies are made, they will be destroyed as well.

This is how we protect the Privacy.

Sexting cannot be stopped, we must face that! Let`s try to limit the consequences.

Here few stories of desperation, stories of sexting or cyberbullying that lead to tragic events! Full stories are available on: Pure Sight

Tyler Clementi, a shy 18-year-old Rutgers University (New Jersey) freshman with a passion for playing the violin, jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge on September 22, 2010. His last words, posted onto his Facebook profile about 10 minutes before he died, were: "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry. This occurred after a sexual encounter he had with a man in his dorm room was allegedly video streamed over the internet without Clementi's knowledge, by his fellow first-year students Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, and after a second attempt was made by Ravi to record Clementi's sexual encounters.

Jessica (Jesse) Logan, was a petite, blond-haired, blue-eyed Ohio high school senior who committed suicide after sexting a nude photo of herself to her boyfriend. When they broke up, he sent the photo to everyone else at her school. Jesse was cruelly harassed for months by the other girls at her school, who called her a slut and a whore. When Jessie’s grades dropped, she started skipping school and when she did go to school, she would hide in the bathroom to avoid being teased. Jesse Logan decided to tell her story on a Cincinnati television station. Her purpose was simple: “I just want to make sure no one else will have to go through this again.” The interview was in May 2008. Two months later, on July 3, 2008, Jessie attended the funeral of a boy who committed suicide, then came home and killed herself.

Sarah Lynn Butler, a seventh grader from Hardy, Arkansas, committed suicide on September 26, 2009. Sarah, who had just been voted Queen for her upcoming Fall Festival, was teased at school, and later on received bullying messages on her MySpace page. Sarah’s mother says she often checked her MySpace page to make sure there wasn't anything inappropriate being sent or received, and she noticed that she was getting some bad messages about rumors at school saying she was a slut, and talked to her about it. But then Sarah removed her from her list of friends and she was no longer able to read her page. On the morning of her suicide, Sarah stayed home while her family was out, and logged on to her MySpace page. The last message she read said that she was easily forgotten, and that she was just a stupid little naive girl and nobody would miss her. When her parents returned home they found that Sarah had hanged herself. She left a suicide note that said she couldn't handle what others were saying about her.

Hannah Smith, a 14-year-old girl from Lutterworth, Leicestershire, England, hanged herself in her bedroom on August 3rd, 2013. Her body was discovered by her older sister. In the weeks leading up to her death, Smith had been subjected to cruel taunts and insults about her weight and a family death on, a question-and-answer social networking site that allows anonymous participation. Bullies on urged her to drink bleach and cut herself. According to Hannah’s father, she went to to look for advice on the skin condition eczema. After her death, Hannah’s father found a note that read: “As I sit here day by day I wonder if it’s going to get better. I want to die, I want to be free. I can’t live like this any more. I’m not happy”. Following the suicide, Hannah’s older sister, Jo, described how, just days after discovering her younger sister’s body, she started receiving abusive messages on Facebook mocking her loss and blaming her grieving father’s parenting skills for the tragic death.

Phoebe Prince was a 15-year-old Irish immigrant, a student at South Hadley High School in Massachusetts. Pheobe hanged herself two days before the winter cotillion dance at her school. Pheobe, a newcomer to the school, was a victim of cyberbullying about her date for that dance, a senior football player. Phoebe was subjected to an onslaught of bullying and was called "Irish slut" and "whore" on Twitter, Craigslist, Facebook and Formspring, and in person at the school. Even after her death, the girls left vicious messages on a Facebook page created in her memory.Phoebe Prince was a 15-year-old Irish immigrant, a student at South Hadley High School in Massachusetts.

Kenneth Weishuhn, a gay high school freshman from Paullina, Iowa, took his own life after being bullied by classmates at school and online, and with death threats by phone. The bullying began with an anti-gay Facebook group, created by Kenneth’s classmates. His mother, Jeannie Chambers, said she knew her son was being harassed, and said that her son told her, "Mom, you don’t know how it feels to be hated." According to his sister Kayla, the abuse that started after he "came out" was from people he had trusted: “People that were originally his friends, they kind of turned on him. A lot of people, they either joined in or were too scared to say anything.”

David Molak, a sophomore at Alamo Heights High School in Texas, a fitness enthusiast, Spurs fan, and an Eagle Scout, hung himself in his family’s back yard in January, 2016. His 24-year-old brother Cliff Molak, posted following the suicide: “In today’s age, bullies don’t push you into lockers, they don’t tell their victims to meet them behind the school’s dumpster after class. They cower behind user names and fake profiles from miles away constantly berating and abusing good, innocent people.”David had been the target of ongoing bullying at Alamo Heights High School. He received a series of text messages from between six and 10 bullies, with comments that put him down and insulted him. According to his brother, the bullies went after him for no reason. “He did not do anything to them besides having an attractive girlfriend. … They crushed his spirit and took away his motivation to do anything,”. Cliff also wrote the following strong words: "I saw the pain in David’s eyes three nights ago as he was added to a group text only to be made fun of and kicked out two minutes later. I spoke to him right after to comfort him and he didn’t even hear me. He stared off into the distance for what seemed like an hour. I could feel his pain. It was a tangible pain. He didn’t even have the contact information of any of the eight members who started the group text. It is important to note David had been enduring this sort of abuse for a very long time."

Ronan Hughes, a 17-year-old from Co Tyrone, Northern Ireland killed himself after being blackmailed into posting pictures of himself online. At his funeral, parish priest Fr Benny Fee told mourners "He did not take his own life. His life was taken by these faceless people who put the child into a burning building that he felt he could not escape". Ronan, a talented goalkeeper with the Clonoe O'Rahilly's gaelic football club, and a student at St Joseph's Grammar in Donaghmorehad, told his parents about the bullying and they went to the police, but unfortunately that did not help. Ronan Hughes, a 17-year-old from Co Tyrone, Northern Ireland killed himself after being blackmailed into posting pictures of himself online. At his funeral, parish priest Fr Benny Fee told mourners "He did not take his own life. His life was taken by these faceless people who put the child into a burning building that he felt he could not escape". Ronan, a talented goalkeeper with the Clonoe O'Rahilly's gaelic football club, and a student at St Joseph's Grammar in Donaghmorehad, told his parents about the bullying and they went to the police, but unfortunately that did not help.

John and Kelly Halligan lost their thirteen year old son, Ryan, to suicide on October 7, 2003. At the time of his death, Ryan was a student at a middle school in Essex Junction, Vermont. After Ryan’s death, it was revealed that he was ridiculed and humiliated by peers at school and on-line. Ryan father writes: “A few days after his funeral I logged on to his AOL IM account because that was the one place he spent most of his time during the last few months. I logged on to see if there were any clues to his final action. It was in that safe world of being somewhat anonymous that several of his classmates told me of the bullying and cyber bullying that took place during the months that led up to his suicide. The boy that had bullied him since 5th grade and briefly befriended Ryan after the brawl was the main culprit. My son the comedian told his new friend something embarrassing and funny that happened once and the friend (bully) ran with the new information that Ryan had something done to him and therefore Ryan must be gay. The rumor and taunting continued beyond that school day … well into the night and during the summer of 2003.” Ryan’s father, John, devotes his time to touring the United States and Canada, meeting with young people and promoting the need for more education and prevention of bullying, cyberbullying and teen suicide. He has also established a website in his son’s memory.

Rachael Neblett, a seventeen-year old high school student from Kentucky began receiving threatening emails through her MySpace account, in the summer of 2006. The anonymous emails were of a stalking terroristic nature. Rachael’s parents brought the emails to the attention of the principal of her high school. As the emails included details of her movements during class and after school, it was obvious that the bully was another student at the school. In October Rachael received an email stating “I am not going to put you in the hospital, I am going to put you in the morgue." After receiving that email, Rachael did not want to go to school or go out with her friends. On October 9, shortly after receiving the threatening email, Rachael took her own life. Peyton, Rachael's older sister writes: "My little sister committed suicide October 9, 2006. Her name is Rachael Neblett. I am here to tell you a little about her. She was 17 when she died, and the most amazing girl you would ever meet. She was an out-going, loving, and caring person. You would never dream that she would do that to herself. ….She was not just my sister, she was my best friend. .. All I have now is a big, black hole where my heart was. Because my little sister is gone, I won't be able to see her anymore--no more trips to the mall, no more smiles, hugs, late movie nights, nothing. It's gone.”

Hope Witsell was a 13-year-old who grew up in Sundance, Florida. Her only crime was forwarding a nude photo of herself to a boy she liked. Another girl borrowed the boy’s phone, found the image and forwarded it to other students. And so, the image found its way to a lot of other students in her school and in other schools. The result – taunting and bullying from her peers at Beth Shields Middle School, with insults such as "whore" and "slut". Hope wrote in her journal. "Tons of people talk about me behind my back and I hate it because they call me a whore! And I can't be a whore i'm too inexperienced. So secretly TONS of people hate me … " School authorities found out about the nude photo around the end of the school year and suspended Hope for the first week of eighth grade, which started in August. When she returned to school, a counselor observed cuts on Hope's legs and had her sign a "no-harm" contract, in which Hope agreed to tell an adult if she felt inclined to hurt herself. The next day, Hope hanged herself in her bedroom. On Sept. 12, 2009 Hope wrote in her journal: “I'm done for sure now. I can feel it in my stomach. I'm going to try and strangle myself. I hope it works.”

Grace McComas, a 15-year-old Glenelg High School sophomore from Baltimore, whose favorite color was blue took her life on Easter Sunday, to end the pain of a cyberbullying campaign against her. According to her father, Chris McComas the cyberbullying had lasted for months and was carefully documented by the family. As blue was her favorite color, a social media event — blue4grace — was begun by friends and quickly went viral. The mourners at her funeral wore blue nail polish, blue-striped ties, blue jewelry, and blue dress shirts.

When she was in the 7th grade, Amanda met a man in an online chat room who talked her into flashing him her breasts. A year later, the man contacted her on Facebook and asked her to 'put on a show' for him. He threatened to release a picture of her to everyone she knew if she did not comply with his wishes. He knew her address, her name, where she went to school, and who her friends and family members were. Amanda’s pictures were released and went viral. Other kids at her school saw the pictures and started to bully and tease her. She became severely depressed, developed anxiety and began to use drugs and alcohol. A year later, after she changed schools and found a new group of friends, the man came back and created a Facebook page, using her topless photo as his profile picture. Her new friends started ignoring her, talking about her, and bullying her. She reveals her feelings in her video on YouTube, describing how she cried every night and lost all her friends. Amanda began cutting herself. Again, Amanda changed schools, where a boy flirted with her. As a result, girls from the first school came to her new school and beat her up, while people watched and filmed it. She reveals, "I was left all alone and left on the ground." She managed to find her way to the road, where she lay down in a ditch. Her father found her there. When Amanda returned home, she tried to commit suicide by drinking bleach. Once again, she moved to a new city, but the bullying continued. Therapy, combined with anti-depressants, did little to help her depression and anxiety, and she continued to cut herself and attempted suicide again. In September 2012 Amanda wrote her story on flashcards and recorded it on YouTube. Amanda’s body was found at her home in British Columbia, Canada on the 10th of October, 2012.

Sexting, Shame and Suicide. A shocking tale of sexual assault in the Digital Age

SextingOn the last day of her life, Audrie Pott walked through a crucible of teenage torment. A curvaceous sophomore at Saratoga High School, dressed in the cool-girl's uniform of a low-cut top and supershort skirt, she looked the same as always, but inside she was quivering with humiliation. In the week since school had started, girls had been giving her looks, and guys had congregated around phones, smirking. On Facebook, messages were pinging into her inbox, each one delivering another gut punch: "shit went down ahah jk i bet u already got enough ppl talking about it so ill keep it to myself haha.?.?.?."
"honestly like really no joke everyone knows.?.?.?."
"u were one horny mofo."
One Town's War on Gay Teens
An adult monitor handed her a dress-code violation – her skirt was too short – even though all the girls in her class dressed that way and monitors rarely objected. She cut what classes she could, blowing off chemistry for two days in a row, hoping to avoid confrontations with disapproving girlfriends. Then Kathy Atabakhsh, one of her best friends, tore into her on the school quad, accusing her of drinking, of forgetting who she was, of becoming a different person. "She had been, literally, the best person you could meet – always honest and trustworthy," Kathy says, recalling the episode almost a year later. "And I was so upset that she had changed. It was hard for her to hear that from a close friend." She remembers the last words she said to Audrie. "You need to come back to reality," Kathy told her.
At lunchtime, Audrie texted her mom at work: "Mom, please pick me up." Sheila Pott, a mortgage-loan officer, asked why and whether Audrie couldn't wait for her to finish a business meeting. Audrie was insistent, and then stopped answering texts.
When Sheila pulled up in her car later that Monday afternoon on September 10th, 2012, Audrie jumped in but remained silent on the short drive home. Sheila was used to her 15-year-old daughter's moods and stopped pressing her. When they got to their ranch-style home, where they had been living alone together since Sheila had split with her boyfriend the year before, Audrie retreated to her bedroom, with its Audrey Hepburn poster and silk-upholstered window seat. Around 20 minutes passed before Sheila decided to check on her daughter. She walked across the kitchen and down the long carpeted hall to the bathroom door adjoining Audrie's room. The door was locked. Audrie didn't answer. Sheila knocked and knocked again. Something about the silence pushed a panic button inside her. She grabbed the first thing she could find to jimmy the lock – the tiny metal rod at the end of her phone's earplug – and jammed it into the doorknob. Flinging the door open, she confronted a sight now permanently etched in her memory. In the pale-peach bathroom, with its shell-shaped sink, gold fixtures and narrow bathtub, her only child was dangling from a belt attached to the shower head, mascara streaking her face.
Sheila sprinted down the hall, back into the kitchen, grabbed a knife and cut her daughter down, trying to remember how to perform CPR while dialing 911. Paramedics arrived within a few minutes. They restarted Audrie's heart, but it was too late. The brown-eyed girl who loved horses, art and pranks would never breathe on her own again.
There was no note, nothing to explain why her popular and pretty daughter had done it. In the hospital, Sheila began retracing recent events, looking for some clue as to what could have pushed her daughter to take her own life. She thought about Audrie's strange silence on the day after a sleepover the weekend before. And she remembered the green ink she'd noticed around her daughter's cleavage, weird markings that Audrie had refused to explain.
Saratoga High School, with its country-club-worthy¬quad, Olympic-size swimming pool and plush tennis courts, is one of those affluent California schools American teens recognize from movies and TV. Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, the school is home to high-achieving children of parents working at Apple, eBay, Netflix and other tech corporations headquartered within 50 miles. If the Saratoga Falcons did not regularly field a winning football team, there's consolation in the fact that each graduating class has propelled dozens of kids into Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Berkeley.
The summer before her death, Audrie had started to change, moving away from the kids she'd hung out with since middle school. She had started to drink a little and had dated a slightly older guy. When she drank, the self-consciousness that had afflicted her since junior high melted away. She loosened up. Sometimes, she loosened up a lot.
On Labor Day weekend of the new school year, Audrie's friend, let's call her "Sara" (many of the kids' names in this story have been changed to protect their identities), said her parents were away, leaving their white cottage-style house with its long green lawn in her care. Sara – 15, pretty, slim and blond – and Audrie had become close that summer and were exploring a new realm of boys, bottles and small parties, preferably at parent-free houses, that the Saratoga kids call "kickbacks."
That Sunday, Sara told her parents that she was going to be sleeping over at Audrie's, and Audrie told her mother that she'd be sleeping over at Sara's. When Sheila drove Audrie to Sara's, she assumed the girls would be spending the evening in their jammies in front of the television, or giggling over ice cream and Facebook. But Sara had already texted around a dozen friends to drop in for her kickback.
Eventually, 11 kids showed up, many of them to sip vodka and Gatorade cocktails. They all belonged to their class's popular clique, the girls dressed as provocatively as possible, even by the loose standards of California high schools. "See-through shorts and thongs pulled up, shorts pulled down," recalls an older girl. "That's what the 'cool girls' wore." The boys they hung out with favored a uniform locally dubbed "swagfag" – snapback hat, PacSun tank tops, knee-length chino shorts and Vans.
A few kids had brought some bottles of liquor – rum stolen from Safeway, vodka bought for them by an adult at a liquor store. They eventually guzzled a bottle of tequila that Sara's parents kept in their own cabinet. The mixer of choice was Gatorade, or downed straight. Audrie drank hardest of all.
When Audrie's old middle-school friends, Kathy, Amanda Le and another girl, arrived around 9 p.m., there was no music, just the sound of sloppy-drunk talk. Audrie was already stumbling and incoherent, taking shots and making out with different boys on the living-room couch. Her friends were appalled. "I never saw, I had just heard about times she had gotten drunk," says Kathy. "She was so different than how I knew her to be. Because we were sober, we noticed everything that was going on, and they didn't know what they were doing."
Sara seemed so trashed when she greeted them at the door that Kathy doesn't think her classmate even recognized her. "There was stuff all over the tables," Kathy says. "Superdirty. They had food and a whole bunch of crap everywhere. People falling over, walking around. At some point, I was like, 'I feel superuncomfortable, everyone's so trashed and we are just sitting here.' So we left."
Police interviews with the partyers pieced together what allegedly happened next. One of the boys Audrie made out with was so drunk he started crying and screaming. He threw up in the kitchen sink – into which someone had already tossed Audrie's iPhone. Audrie was too blitzed to notice.
Then three boys she'd known since middle school – Bill, Joe and Ron – and one of their friends, Mary, helped her upstairs into a bedroom (the names of these four have been changed because of the boys' status in a juvenile case). Mary appears to have left the room when the boys started pulling off Audrie's clothes and drawing on her with Sharpies. In interviews with police later, they admitted, to varying degrees, coloring half of her face black, then pulling down her bra, taking off her shorts and drawing scribbles, lines and circles on her breasts and nipples. Bill wrote "anal" above her ass with an arrow pointing down.
At some point, Mary returned to find Audrie in her underwear and put a blanket over her, then left the room again. With Audrie still sprawled out on the bed and unresponsive, the boys allegedly fingered her and took pictures on their phones.
When she woke up the next morning, Audrie didn't know how she'd gotten into the bedroom or where her clothes were. Then she looked down and saw drawings all over her body, even near her genital area. She stumbled into the bathroom and ferociously scrubbed away the ink on her face. Since her iPhone was drowned in vomit in the kitchen sink, she had to borrow a friend's phone to call her mother.
"She called me to come get her, and I was surprised because it was earlier than usual," Sheila recalls. In the car and all that day, Audrie was pensive and quiet. They went to lunch at a restaurant and Audrie wouldn't eat. That afternoon, she locked herself in her bathroom for a long time, and then huddled with her computer in her bedroom. At dinnertime, Sheila stood beside her and noticed a green strip of ink on her daughter's cleavage.
"What's that?" she asked. Audrie brushed her off.
Back in her room, Audrie wasn't so nonchalant. She was engaged in a frantic attempt to discover what had happened to her body. She talked to Amanda on the phone and told her friend about waking up stripped and graffitied. Amanda couldn't give her any clues, other than to say she'd seemed very bombed.
Throughout the evening, she became more and more desperate, her agitation and the callousness of her friends evident in Facebook transcripts. At around 5 p.m., Audrie and one of the boys had the following exchange:
AUDRIE: joe i need to talk to u.
JOE: What
AUDRIE: one word
AUDRIE: marker
JOE: What about marker
AUDRIE: u know what im talking about.
JOE: Fucking Henry
AUDRIE: i dont remeber anything about that.
AUDRIE: Mary had to tell me everything
AUDRIE: i swear to god if u still have those pictures illl killl u
JOE: They are deleted and I didn't take them I promise it wasn't me
JOE: And I'm sorry about the marker
Audrie then messaged with another boy who'd been at the party, "Sam." He asked her, "Does he [Joe] still have any photos?"
AUDRIE: he said no but I think its BS
SAM: ur fine.?.?.?.?ill make sure nothing goes around
AUDRIE: it's gonna get out. Shit always does. Especially with the people who were there.
She was also on Facebook with "Josh." The news from him was not good.
JOSH: lol that shit gets around haha everyone knows mostly everything hahaah
AUDRIE: oh my god.?.?.?.?i fucking hate people.
That night, Audrie again confronted Joe on Facebook, accusing him of sharing the photos. Audrie wrote that the "whole school knows.?.?.?.?Do you know how people view me now? I fucked up and I can't do anything to fix it.?.?.?.?One of my best friends hates me. And I now have a reputation I can never get rid of."
Writing to another boy on Facebook, she said, "My life is over.?.?.?.?I ruined my life and I don't even remember how."
There have been a number of high-profile cases similar to Audrie Pott's across the U.S. and Canada in recent years. Steubenville, Ohio, spent months in the national headlines last summer after two football players raped a drunk high school girl at a party. In Louisville, Kentucky, in 2011, Savannah Dietrich, 16, got drunk, passed out and woke up to later learn two male acquaintances had stripped and sexually abused her, capturing the action on their phones and then sharing the pictures with pals. Savannah gathered evidence and went to the police herself. The boys confessed and were initially granted a plea deal that involved the felony charge being expunged from their records before they turned 20. Savannah went public with their names after that, nearly earning herself a contempt-of-court citation because of the juvenile-court privacy regulations, but ultimately influenced the court to rule for the boys to have a misdemeanor on their records for life. The local DA said that penalty was "the most severe" available in Kentucky juvenile court.
In Nova Scotia, Rehtaeh Parsons, 17, was taken off life support and died this April, three days after her mother discovered her hanging in the bathroom of their Halifax home. According to her mother, the teen got drunk at a party in 2011 and was gang-raped by four boys, who snapped a picture of the scene and posted it online. Her mom said Rehtaeh was mercilessly bullied by classmates for the next two years, even after the family moved to a new town to get her away from the abuse. In early August, Canadian authorities charged two 18-year-old boys with disseminating child pornography.
Diane Rosenfeld, director of the Gender Violence Program at Harvard Law School, says such incidents are far more common than just those that wind up in court or involve suicide. Most, she says, don't make the local news or even reach school administrators because the girls are too embarrassed to do anything. Rosenfeld and her students work with girls, sometimes filing civil suits and encouraging them to graduate. Many are too humiliated to stay in school.
Rape stats may be no higher than in years past, but the numbers are as shocking as ever. Every two minutes, a sexual assault happens in the U.S., and nearly 50 percent of the victims are under the age of 18, according to Katherine Hull, a spokeswoman for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network: "The demographic of high school- and college-age women is at highest risk for sexual assault." More than half of the incidents go unreported, advocates say. The ability to record and communicate gang-sex assaults has added a new enhancement to an old and ugly crime against women. From Instagram to Snapchat to texting, young people with raging hormones and low impulse control are passing around what amounts to child pornography. And the bodies most frequently watched and passed around are female.
"It's a perfect storm of technology and hormones," says lawyer Lori Andrews, director of the Institute for Science, Law and Technology in Chicago. "Teen sexting is all a way of magnifying girls' fantasies of being a star of their own movies, and boys locked in a room bragging about sexual conquest."
But as of yet the law provides little protection to the rights of those violated. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act effectively means that no Internet provider can be forced to take down content for invading a person's privacy or even defaming them. "I could sue The New York Times for invading my privacy or Rolling Stone for defaming me," Andrews says. "But I couldn't sue and get my picture off a website called"
The flip side of this ugly trend is that when gang-rape participants and bystanders record and disseminate pictures of an assault, public outrage is inflamed and cops and prosecutors have evidence they can take to court. This can mean rape victims get more justice than in years past. Arguably, the Steubenville rape would never have been prosecuted without the video. However, since so many of the incidents involve juveniles, punishment is neither swift nor certain.
Prosecutors all over the nation are facing the same social and legal quandary: How do you protect young women from not just sexual assault but the magnification of those assaults via the Internet? How much punishment can they mete out to boys, who in many cases are only a year or two removed from childhood, who seem to think they are committing pranks with phones and passed-out girls, and for whom the ultimate charge – rape – means the end of their lives before they start? Finally, how do you instill in impulse-driven teens of both sexes the knowledge that whatever they record on their phones and send can reach the entire world and stay public forever?
Audrie Pott was born on May 27th, 1997. Her parents split before she was five, and Larry Pott, an entrepreneur who ran a commerical-security business, married a younger Canadian woman, became a Jehovah's Witness and had three more children. For most of her life, Audrie shuttled between her father's sprawling hillside home and her mother's smaller house. Her father and stepmother, Lisa, thought she was basically a happy kid, but Audrie's friends got earfuls about how she fought with her stepmom. Lisa says she was a disciplinarian who put a tracking app on Audrie's phone and wouldn't let her miss school, whereas her mother was more lenient.
During Audrie's freshman year at Saratoga, she became unhappy in a way that confounded her parents. She began missing school so much that she flunked a class. But Sheila couldn't pry the cause of the academic struggles out of her daughter. It certainly wasn't her intellect – Audrie attended summer school for the class she had failed and got A's. Sheila began to suspect that bullying played a role and called a meeting with Audrie and school officials because she began to worry Saratoga wasn't doing enough to help her daughter. "I asked if they thought she was being bullied," says Sheila. "A counselor came in, a young woman, and actually said to Audrie, 'Get a different group of friends.'"
On top of that, for the past few years, Audrie had a particularly tortured relationship with her body. By the time she was 13, she'd sprouted 34DD breasts. Though this won her attention from boys, it also made her morbidly self-conscious. During freshman year, she became obsessed with the shape of her stomach and liked to wear too-small clothes to be more like her friends. "She wanted," says her mother, "to be just like the superskinny Asian girls in her circle."
Her friends knew Audrie had body-image issues. She refused to eat in public. "She wouldn't eat anything for breakfast," says Amanda, one of Audrie's closest friends. "She would eat an orange at lunch and then wait for dinner. If she felt hungry, when no one was looking she would eat. Or I would make her eat."
Looking back on it, her friends think that these problems developed in middle school, during several years of sexually tinged bullying. Most people can recall their own nightmarish junior-high humiliations, but even by those standards, the Redwood Middle School Class of 2011 set a new bar. "This is a mean group of kids," Sheila recalls one teacher telling her. Audrie belonged to the dominant group, but that offered little protection. One boy – who later left school – made a "hot list" of girls and had admitted to dreams about killing Audrie, prompting school administrators to separate him from her.
The boys in her class would ridicule the girls about their bodies, while at the same time pressuring them to expose themselves for the camera. According to friends of Audrie's, sexting was epidemic. By seventh grade, boys were daring girls to send them photos: "bra or no bra." The girls, not understanding the lasting consequences, more often than not complied. "They want the boys to like them," says Amanda. "And they don't want them to think they're not cool."
"It started without bras," Kathy says. "There were some girls that sent pictures to any guys that asked. They wanted the attention so much that they would do anything for it and they didn't think what the consequences would be." Audrie, another friend said, might have sent one once. Her choice: bra.
According to Audrie's friends, one of the three boys eventually arrested for the assault, Joe, was a leader of the teasing pack in middle school and especially sadistic. "He would pick one person to make fun of for a few weeks, then move on to another," Amanda says. Bill had a reputation as a troublemaker, while Ron was more of a "sweet" guy.
Audrie started her sophomore year at Saratoga High two days after the assault, with the knowledge that photos of her naked and luridly decorated body were circulating around school. She cut chemistry to avoid talking to Kathy. Then Amanda told her she had seen a group of boys huddled around Joe and his phone and assumed they were looking at pictures of Audrie on the night of the party.
Audrie persevered. She missed only one day of school that week and put on a brave face. But her friends noticed cuts on her arm, which she claimed were due to a broken vase on her mother's couch. In math class, one of Audrie's friends teased her about the wounds. "I heard you cut yourself," the girl said loudly. Audrie started to cry.
She went out the following weekend and joined a posse of girls, even stopping in at the home of one of the three boys who had allegedly abused her the weekend before. Audrie kept smiling.
Two days later she hanged herself.
In the wake of Audrie's death, Saratoga police agreed with school administrators to wait until the following week, September 17th, to initiate an investigation to "allow students, friends and staff to mourn and grieve."
But on September 13th, Kathy went to talk to school administrators and describe what she knew about the party at Sara's house and how kids at school had pictures of Audrie. While Audrie's parents were arranging for her funeral, her organs already transplanted, a sheriff's deputy met with a school official who provided a letter summarizing Kathy's statements. No one from the school contacted the family, though.
By the time police arrived to interview students, word had already started to spread through campus and students were sharing rumors about who was getting hauled into an administrative office and why. One of Audrie's friends from middle school was overheard telling another student, "Shut down your Facebooks, cops are looking." Another friend had even acknowledged in a Facebook message to Audrie before she died that he didn't want to discuss it further on Facebook – presumably because there would be a record.
A Pott family member in a nearby town heard the rumors of the police investigation from a student and called Larry the night of Sunday, September 16th, urging him not to cremate his daughter's body – which was scheduled for the next day – because a crime might have occurred.
On September 14th, the police pulled Bill out of class and interviewed him at school, then criminally cited him with a misdemeanor, handing him over to his father's custody. They interviewed the other two boys and also cited them, but continued their investigation. According to sources, when the police executed a search warrant on the boys, on September 21st, they discovered that Ron's phone was broken and one of Bill's phones had gone missing. The Pott family believes the damaged and missing devices delayed the investigation for up to seven months while the police tried to recover enough evidence to charge the teens with sexual battery and possession of child pornography.
Bill's parents soon took him out of Saratoga High and enrolled him in a school in another city, where he was allowed to play football. Joe and Ron remained at Saratoga.
A year later, it's almost impossible to gauge exactly how far the pictures of Audrie got – and how many people saw them. One senior says that he knew from "casual conversation" that "a clique of friends" had passed around the pictures. A senior connected with the football team would tell a reporter that he was among a number of boys who had looked at a photo of Audrie on Joe's phone. The Saratoga Falconstudent newspaper reported approximately 10 students saw an image of her defiled body.
Attorneys representing the boys have claimed that their clients had nothing to do with Audrie's suicide and work to portray Audrie as a desperate, troubled young woman. "Much of what has been reported?.?.?.?is inaccurate," said a statement jointly issued by the teens' lawyers in April. "Most disturbing is the attempt to link (Audrie's) suicide to the specific actions of these three boys. We are hopeful that everyone understands that these boys, none of whom have ever been in trouble with the law, are to be regarded as innocent."
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeffrey Rosen declined to comment on the specifics of Audrie's case. But his office is pushing the California Assembly to write a law making cyberbullying an aggravating element in sexual-assault cases. "This piece of legislation is meant to give us an opening to tell young people in middle school and high school that this is a crime," says Rosen. The law is still in the writing stages, though, and the local legislator hasn't even introduced it.
"What's really changed is that before the Internet you could do something really stupid and maybe someone would take a picture of it, so there's the picture and the film, and you could physically capture that," says Rosen. "You can't capture things on the Internet. What's very clear to me from this Pott case, and other cases around the country, is that for raped or sexually assaulted young girls, it's one thing that people are gossiping about you in school, but when you add images that they can keep forwarding, it really can seem like the whole world knows."
With Saratoga High in communication-¬lockdown mode because of the threat of a lawsuit, and administrators refusing to speak even to the community, parents are on their own as far as what they are supposed to do or say to their kids. One Saratoga mother of a teen boy and girl, Selena Kellinger, says she's talking to both her kids about the issue.
"When my daughter was in high school, girls were taking pictures of themselves topless, and of course that goes around," says Kellinger. "I had a conversation, a week before Audrie committed suicide, with my son. I said, 'Please don't send sexts – if you get caught, it's pornography. Delete it. It's not funny.' And a week later, this happened. The boys are just so stupid. They think it's funny writing on a girl's vagina. They don't respect personal-space boundaries."
Adding another layer of tragedy to Audrie Pott's death is that virtually the same thing had happened in the town three years earlier. In 2009, Jill Naber, a freshman at Saratoga's sister school, Los Gatos High School, committed suicide. The popular cheerleader hanged herself after a topless selfie circulated. The photo went viral – apparently shared electronically all the way down to schools in Fresno that played against the Los Gatos teams.
In the aftermath of that tragedy, Los Gatos took steps to address the issue by launching counseling and educational outreach services for the problems teens run into with sexual images and technology. "A lot of what happens on campus starts online the night before," Los Gatos principal Markus Autrey told a local newspaper reporter after Naber's death.
But Saratoga school officials would not make that link, publicly denying that Audrie's suicide had anything to do with events that occurred at the school. Days after the suicide, responding to questions from a San Jose Mercury News reporter about rumors of school bullying, principal Paul Robinson said that the rumor was "as far from the truth as it can be." Administrators have since refused to respond to questions, citing the ongoing police investigation.
In the little dry cleaners, boutiques, delis and coffee shops along Saratoga's curving main street, Big Basin Way, and in the mansions up on the purple, piney mountainsides that shade the town long before sunset, two camps formed. There are those who think the boys involved should be severely punished and whose anger has sometimes reached vigilante-threat proportions. On the other side, there are people who think the boys are guilty of a stupid but basically innocent prank and that Audrie's suicide had other causes.
Only one parent of the accused boys returned a call to Rolling Stone. He asked that we not name his son and said the story has been wildly misreported. "We are extremely saddened about what happened to Audrie," he says. "But the story that things went viral, that the picture went up on Facebook, it is flat untrue. This was not Steubenville. It was a prank by a few kids, and it's blown out of proportion. Audrie had a lot of other problems in her life, and everybody in Saratoga knows that."
It's a sentiment shared by many parents around town. "These boys are not bad boys!" says the mother of a friend of one of the boys at the party. "They are goofy and silly. If there is a sleepover, one of the boys might put whipped cream on someone's hand. They are not malicious, mean criminals. This is costing their families thousands and thousands of dollars, and we are not all rich."
The students who talked to Rolling Stone were – much like the parents – divided into two factions about the boys' relative guilt. Many were eager to protect Saratoga's otherwise sterling reputation. The student-newspaper editor Sam Liu said there is a lot of sympathy for the Potts, but also "tons of rumors" that Audrie had family problems that provoked her suicide.
But recent Saratoga High graduate Jessica Hayes describes a school environment where disrespecting girls is neither rare nor effectively addressed. Hayes recalled two ugly incidents with football players that occurred during her own freshman year. A boy from the team unzipped her sweater in the middle of the quad, exposing her bra. When she kneed him, she was disciplined. Months later, a group of four or five boys surrounded her at a football game and tried to intimidate her into going under the bleachers with them. She punched one boy and ran, and then endured "20 to 30 harassing texts a day" for months. During her freshman year, she ate lunch in her mother's car, rather than with the other students.
"If you feel disrespected, the office staff doesn't do much to help you," Hayes says. "If something does happen, the girls feel you have to deal with it on your own. It would have been so hard for Audrie to go back to school. Half the people have seen her naked, half the people think she's a whore, and judge and bully her. Teachers know. They can't not. They hear about it."
To cope with the shock of Audrie's death, Saratoga students arranged a memorial day on which everyone was supposed to wear teal, Audrie's favorite color. Grief counselors were brought in. An art teacher organized a girls-leadership group to facilitate discussion among girls about self-respect. Then things went quiet. The accused boys kept going to school, whispers died down.
On April 11th, seven months after Audrie's suicide, the Santa Clara County sheriff arrested the three boys on charges of misdemeanor sexual battery, felony possession of child pornography and felony sexual penetration. When they arrested the boys, police seized new phones and other electronic gadgetry their parents had bought to replace what authorities took in the fall. Police found new pictures of other nude teen girls on some of their phones, prompting them to add on new charges in July. Sources close to the case tell Rolling Stone that police discovered one of the boys was trying to make money selling the pictures.
Two of the boys have admitted that the felony charges against them are true, according to sources close to the case, and they are awaiting sentencing – which could range from community service or time in a juvenile-detention center. Their records will be sealed when they turn 18. The third boy may be upgraded to adult court, where the sentence is harsher and a sexual-assault charge would remain on his file for life. California prosecutors are limited by a statute requiring a sexual assault committed by a minor age 14 and over to be "forcible" in order to directly qualify for adult court. A sexual assault on an unconscious victim is not considered forcible.
On April 15th, the Pott family held a press conference announcing they were filing a civil suit against the boys and their families (the parents who own the party house settled in August), and filed an administrative claim against the Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District, alleging that administrators were lax in responding to bullying against Audrie – bullying that the school claims was never discussed.
In response to Audrie's death and the arrests, Saratoga's teachers opened discussions with students about the case that had fractured the affluent suburban veneer of the high school. "In every single class, somebody raised their hand and said, 'Well, wasn't she drunk?'" says Hayes. "And 'I thought she was drunk.' And 'She made out with two boys.' 'She was drunk and I'm sure she liked it.'"
Hayes decided some of her fellow students misunderstand rape. "Most people know rape is not OK," she says. "But it is never talked about in class."
Writer Laurie Halse Anderson published an influential book in 1999 called Speak, about a high school rape and its effects on a victim. Since then, she has spoken at high schools and middle schools around the U.S., and estimates she has talked to a million kids about rape. "What really strikes me is that, when it comes to recording sexual assaults and wanting to show it off, the young men committing them are not seeing them as crimes, they see them as pranks. And there's no point in pulling a prank unless you share it." Anderson said parents and educators need to talk to younger boys about informed consent. "When I speak to students, I tell boys that if a young woman isn't of age, she isn't capable of giving informed consent, and if she's drunk or high, there's no informed consent. And those cases, if you have sex, you can go to jail. And the jaws drop, because right away, they think of the sex they had at a party last weekend, where everybody was wasted."
Alone in the house she once shared with her only child, Sheila Pott pours herself another glass of chardonnay and wipes away tears that still well up regularly, eight months after Audrie's death. She gives a tour of Audrie's bedroom, where she hasn't moved a thing. On Audrie's dresser, under an earring tree draped with the sparkly baubles her daughter favored, Sheila has placed a simple, hand-tooled metal rose wrapped in a piece of notebook paper. She found it among the flowers at the memorial. It was from a fellow student who scribbled, "I didn't have time to buy you flowers, so I made you one in shop class." He signed it "Matt P."
In the end, whether the pictures really went "viral" or not is irrelevant. Audrie Pott reasonably believed images of her nearly naked body being fondled and abused without her consent were embedded in phones all over school, and that it was only a matter of time before everyone she knew either saw them or knew what had happened to her body.
"With no assault, with no cyberbullying, Audrie is in art class right now," Larry Pott said at the April news conference, choking back tears. The family divulged some of the Facebook messages their very private daughter sent in her last days, deciding it was better, in the wake of her suicide, to reveal the details of what happened than to hide. The messages show her pleading with Joe to delete the pictures. Among her last words were, "You have no idea what it's like to be a girl."
This story is from the September 26th, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone.

He asked: "Do you love me?"

“Do you love me?”
The SMS wanted the answer and the girl wrote “Yes”
“How Much?”
“A lot, you know that…”
“Well … prove it to me …”
“How can I do that?”
“Send me a picture of yourself …”
“Why do you need a picture?”
“Because I miss you and I want to see you … you said that you love me … right?”
“Yes … but … “
“Oh, come on … take off your shirt … show me”
“No, you are crazy …”
Then after a little time, the girl takes off the shirt and standing in front of the mirror makes the boyfriend happy.
This is happening every day in every city in the whole world.
Can we stop it? No, we cannot. Can we take away the cell phones? NO, we cannot do it.
And then the girl can become a victim in the hands of a vengeful ex-boyfriend that sends the picture to his friends and classmates.
We have been reading of young lives ended abruptly because of slandering with the misuse of private sensitive pictures.
I have used the example most common these days, because it is the one that is often reported by the media but it does not stop there, adults are victims as well …
We are inclined to think that adulthood means maturity and experience of life, well it is not totally true: adults are victims as well, even to arrive to various forms of extortion.
In our kid’s world, a new form of “commerce” has been developed: the sexting. Sending hot pictures in exchange of something … Maybe the fact that there is no physical contact and the all actions starts and ends with pictures, is a justification of the act itself “I didn`t do anything wrong”.
But, of course, the problem is after, when we do not know where the picture will end.
And it does not end there, with pictures, but messages, documents and so on, sent by e-mail or with other ways of files transmission can be misuse and can come back to us to bite our butts: a good example is what happened to Hillary Clinton.
This is the problem! Do we have a solution?
No, we do not have a solution because we will have to enter inside the mind or eliminate the media of transmission, both impossible but we can curb the problem trying to limit the consequences.
We have created CTC App to give the possibility to the user to set a timer for sensitive information.
In few words, a picture or a file can have a life time set before sending, when the picture of file is open by the receiving party, the timer starts its countdown and when it reaches 00:00 the picture or files is destroyed. The encoded picture or file cannot be open outside CTC pipeline and copies as well.
Of course, this is only for “sensitive” material and it is the user choice in selecting what needs to be timed and sent through our pipeline.
We are aware that CTC App will not solve the problem, but we know that we are giving users the possibility to control the sensitive material that they are sending on line.
It is very simple.
CTC App can be download for free from Google Play directly or through the website for the direct link. Once installed (only for Android now) can be tested by sending up to tree pictures or files and after that a one year license must be purchase at the price of $ 4.75 (four dollars and seventy-five cents), yes, less than a hamburger.
The CTC App has also a camera software to take pictures.
Once the picture is selected gets uploaded in the system and the lifetime is set, then it is sent within the system. If the picture or file is sent outside our pipeline, it cannot be open. The receiving party receives the file and when the file is opened the timer starts. Once it reaches 00:00 the picture/ file is destroyed and eliminated from the system.
CTC App is not reinventing the wheel, but is creating a media for files transmission where safety is paramount and the meaning of Privacy is Privacy.
We have set the price for the application at a symbolic $4.75, little of a hamburger, to give the possibility to everybody to have access, why not free? Because a small price will give more attention to the CTC App itself and part of the revenues will be devolved to help No Kill Shelters all over the Country.
How much would you spend for the peace of mind? Is $ 4.75 too much?
CTC App can be a wonderful present for your kids and the girl at the beginning of this post could have sent the picture to the boyfriend after timing it at 10 minutes without being afraid the surfacing of the picture in some other PC in some other time.
“Wait” wrote the girl. She took off the shirt and ….
But she knew that CTC App was going to give her the possibility to set the lifetime of the picture.
She timed the picture to 7 minutes and … Send!
After all, those $4.75 were the best money that dad spent to keep PRIVATE, PRIVATE.
Maurizio Comelli
CTC App is available at:
24/7 Support by chat or phone: 1-704-508 4280
A CWS Application Development, Las Vegas, NV