Student writes about the Audrie Pott Case

On Sept. 12, 2012, one year, five months and six days after I moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Austin, I found out that 15-year-old Audrie Pott had committed suicide. I knew Audrie, albeit not too well, as she attended a different school, but I had several friends at that school that were close to her. When I found out, all I could think about was my friends — how they were feeling. I had to call them, to make sure they were okay, to learn what happened, to be there for the guys who had been there for me so many times. I wanted to be there for them as they mourned a close friend, a cousin and a crush.

I cried that night as I lay on my bedspread, phone gripped tight next to my ear as I spoke to my mourning friends. Why had this happened? Why had this young, bubbly girl who had her whole life ahead of her kill herself? The voices on the other end of the phone expressed the same feelings through somber, tearful voices. None of us understood why somebody, especially someone as young as Audrie, would take their own life. Here we were, 15 and 16-years-old, in what some consider to be the best time of our lives, dealing with a very mature issue.

In December 2012, I returned to Los Gatos, a town that lay at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains, just a ten minute drive down the four-lane Highway 9 from Saratoga, the town where Audrie lived. One night, I met up with a friend, unrelated to the case, who had liked her in the months leading up to her death. Audrie came up in our conversation and he told me some very disturbing rumors that he had heard.

A party a week before her death.

Alcohol.

Audrie passed out in a side room.

While my friend didn’t know specifics, like names, he told me that a group of boys had assaulted Audrie while she was unconscious.

Fast forward to April 11, 2013, the two year anniversary of our move from California. As I lay in bed, I got a text from someone in Saratoga.

“Did you hear,” it read. “Alex and John* were arrested today. I guess they did stuff to Audrie while she was passed out and then sent pics of it to friends.”

Suddenly it all made sense. Audrie had been so mortified by the assault that she felt the only way out was to take her own life.

As that fact sunk in, I was shocked. Alex was one of my best friends in middle school. I had hung out with him in July when I returned to California for a week. I had called him the night of Sept. 12 when I heard about Audrie’s death. I remember him being distraught, upset, but everyone was that way. He told me that he and Audrie had hung out over the weekend and that she “seemed fine.”

“How could he do this?” I kept thinking. “How could he be so stupid, so perverted? How could he drive somebody so far over the edge that she thought the only way out was suicide?”

I’d known the kid since we were in sixth grade. I’d been to his house, he’d been to mine. The day before I moved to Texas, when I said my goodbyes to close friends, he was one of the people that accompanied me. We’d been through crap together, from being chased down the streets by his crazy, video-camera wielding neighbor after we ding-dong ditched his house to working out under the hot sun on the local football field.

He was this chubby, awkward, funny kid. A friend of mine. And now it seemed he was a monster. It was hard for me to come to terms with that.

As for John, I knew him, but I never really liked him. We had played football together in the eighth grade. He was out of control and his parents let him get away with anything. I had no respect for him.

I kept thinking about Alex. I thought back to what I’d said to him on that September night, “If we can learn anything from this it’s that we have to pay attention to others,” I told him. “How they feel, what’s happening in their lives… We can’t let this happen again.” He seemed to agree.

Now those words seemed ironic in a way. I had called him because I knew he and Audrie were friends and I thought he’d be taking her death hard, but little did I know he had directly contributed to it. In a weird way, I felt betrayed. I didn’t understand how he could talk about that without being overwhelmed by a feeling of guilt. I could not understand why he didn’t come clean.

Unable to sleep, I called a close friend of mine who was Audrie’s best friend. She told me that “everyone knew” that the kids had done it and that she was surprised it took so long for them to be arrested. I thought that it was pretty disturbing that nobody had stepped up in to say anything, that everyone would seemingly protect these kids after they had done something that was beyond inexcusable.

I went to bed torn, sad and angry and I remained that way for the next few days. I was torn because Alex was a close friend and I felt bad for him in a way; he made a horrible decision and it was going to haunt him for the rest of his life. His future would probably be dramatically changed and he had to live knowing that he had driven someone to suicide.

His life was pretty much ruined.

But I was still angry. I thought that what he did was perverted, inexcusable and subhuman. I was mad that he was so stupid, but I think the strongest feeling that I felt was sadness. Audrie was gone, never to come back. I imagined how her parents felt knowing the circumstances in which she died. Nobody should have to bury a kid, especially one that has taken his or her own life. It was and still is just a messed up, horrible situation for everyone involved.

When I went on the internet the next day, I saw Audrie’s face plastered all over, on the front page of Yahoo!, on CNN and even Reddit had some threads about her. I wanted to forget it, to just move on, but it was like no matter where I went I couldn’t hide from it.

I didn’t want to think about it anymore, but those wounds refused to heal and it was hard for me to deal with the feelings and thoughts that I possessed. I tried to open up. I tried to talk about it with my friends, but I felt like no one understood how I felt and it was impossible for them to understand what I was going through. How I didn’t want to believe that my friend was a rapist, and how I still held out hope that he didn’t do it.

My dad tried to talk me into texting Alex and I tried to, but I couldn’t think of anything to say so I just sat there staring at my phone for what seemed like ages. What was I supposed to say? Was I supposed to say “sorry, everything will work out”? Was I supposed to tell him he was going to be damned to hell for eternity for defiling Audrie? I couldn’t say that. I could tell him how I felt, but how would I send my feelings over a text? It was one of the only times in my life that I’ve been at a loss for words.

I am writing this nearly a month after I found out about that one of my closest friends was possibly a rapist, that he might face homicide charges.

I am still upset, but I have come to realize that nobody wins in this situation. Regardless of whether or not the kids are found guilty, Audrie won’t come back. Her parents would still have to live on without their daughter. Audrie’s friends would never get to see her, to talk to her. Alex’s parents will live the rest of their lives wondering how they contributed to his actions and what they could have done differently. Alex will grow old with blood on his hands, with a weight on his back. No matter what he does in the future, he will have to think about Audrie and what he did for the rest of his life. I couldn’t imagine having to live like that.

On that night in September, three lives were changed at one party by one decision. Futures were ruined, a life was lost and at the end of the day, the fallout extended well beyond the three who were directly involved.

We often preach about how people deserve second chances, how one mistake shouldn’t define an individual. These kids made a “mistake”, for lack of a better word. That “mistake,” that horrible, immature, childish decision made by these boys will follow them into adulthood. Sure they’ll get some second chances, but their lives will never be the same. People will view them differently. Once close friends will be no more after hearing about their actions. They will be ostracized by people who know what they did. They’ll never escape it.

As for me, I don’t know how I feel about Alex. I hate what he did. I hate the pain he caused . I hate that no matter how many times he apologizes, Audrie will still be gone.

This whole thing has made me reflect on my actions, on how I affect other’s lives. I can’t change what happened, nor can Alex, John or Audrie’s parents, nobody can. But we can make sure this never happens again.

Think about what you’re doing, remember that what may seem “funny” in the moment may inflict severe pain.

Do the right thing, make sure this doesn’t happen again. If someone had just walked in and told these boys to “stop” Audrie could still be alive.

What I said to Alex on that September night may seem ironic now, but it still rings true; we need to know how other people are feeling and what they are going through, we need to be there for each other.

We need to make sure that nobody goes through what the Pott family has gone through, what Audrie’s friends have gone through, what I’ve gone through.

We need to make sure this doesn’t happen again.