These pretty pops of petal appeared in our courtyard one 80-degree March day. Since we live in northern California, we are not supposed to have 81-degree March days. Our daily highs for March are supposed to be around 65 degrees. But this year we went straight from winter to spring and it started in February.
That same spring day I saw a newspaper article in our local section about a civil trial that was to begin soon. A trial of young high school men age 17 who took advantage of a drunk teen girl who had passed out. They sexually assaulted her and wrote comments on her body with a Sharpie. The young men took cellphone photos and circulated them on social media and elsewhere.
She hung herself. She was 15 years old.
Her parents filed suit in the hope that the publicity will effect change. What was expected to come out in this trial –and what has already been revealed–is a middle school and high school culture in Saratoga, Calif. where boys pressure girls to send them nude photos, which they share in a common Dropbox. Middle school age kids. A culture of underage drinking, drugs, sex and bullying. Where girls are treated like objects.
Saratoga is an upscale community whose kids are privileged. I know this for a fact. I lived there for five years.
“I think there will be lessons,” the girl’s father said. “I hope so.” However, yesterday the parents settled with the insurance companies of the boys’ parents. I can understand why they did, but then again, I had hoped that the stark reality of what happened, revealed in the media, would help effect change. Just like the parents said they wanted.
I am sobered–freaked out, really– at what kids today are faced with. At what goes on in communities where parents are too busy to be involved in their children’s lives, or who turn a blind eye for any reason.
For someone like me, this story is almost unbelievable. Is it even possible that middle school children–CHILDREN–are sharing nude photos with their classmates? That they are sexting? That society has changed so much that this is common behavior for teens?
I am having a hard time with this. Even though I recognized the roots of this societal shift back in the mid-1980s when it became ok for performers to wear revealing lingerie in music videos. Oh, I know I must sound like a prude and I’m not. It was just so obvious to me then that a line had been crossed and that there would be another line and then another until…well, until this. Until we ended up with a society where kids behave like this.
This idea that a classmate is an object, something to be taken advantage of, to be passed around, to be bullied? What kind of child would think that was ok?
The answer is too many. It was only a matter of time before a young person treated in this manner felt too humiliated to keep living.
Did no adult know about this shared Dropbox? Did no teenager feel that the trading of nude photos of their classmates was egregious enough to report to an adult? Or is this part of the dumbing down, numbing down of values today?
What should parents do?
It is past time for all parents to assess how closely they are monitoring their children’s behavior, online and off. To keep lines of communication open. To make clear right and wrong. To talk about sexual behavior and misbehavior. To institute consequences. To dig deeply and then deeper still. Because this stuff is going on, whether you see it or not.
The young woman’s name is Audrie Pott. She’ll never see a bouquet of spring blossoms like the one in the photograph above.
So do it for Audrie.
But really, do it for your kids. And their kids.
Parents–asking you–what should parents do?