(Illustration by Jesse Lenz on RollingStone.com)
On September 17, Nina Burleigh published the article Sexting, Shame, and Suicide on RollingStone.com (to be featured in the September 26th print issue) retelling the final days of Audrie Pott’s life before her untimely suicide. Audrie Pott was a sophomore at Saratoga High School in Saratoga, California when she became the victim of both sexual-assault and merciless bullying. On September 10, 2012 Audrie decided that the ridicule from fellow students and friends became unbearable and hanged herself in her bathroom.
Burleigh takes the story of Audrie Pott and uses it to reveal what many people in our culture fail to notice: the shame and effects of sexual assault. Furthermore, Burleigh points out that some people do not even realize they are committing sexual assault. Burleigh quotes Laurie Halse Anderson, writer of the influential sexual-assault book Speak, to reinforce her claims. “What really strikes me is that, when it comes to recording sexual assaults…the young men committing them are not seeing them as crimes, they see them as pranks”. Burleigh brings to light the danger of sexuality and it’s fatal impressions through a common cultural lens.
So why all of this talk on rape and suicide? Why is this significant to you? Here’s the thing: anyone who has felt the pain of the suicide of a loved one knows that if that person had the chance to speak once more, to share their pain, to let go of their sadness, maybe the outcome would be different. We tend to neglect the trends that go on around us. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, approximately 44% of rape victims are under the age of 18. Furthermore, according to a study done by Dr. Dean G. Kilpatrick of The University of South Carolina Medical School indicates that 33% of rape victims seriously contemplated committing suicide and were 13 times more likely to commit suicide over a non-victim.
So now the question is: how do you help? A lot of times, less can be more. Maybe watch out for those around you. Watch for irregular patterns of behavior such as, neglect of personal appearance, sudden weight gain or loss, or loss of interests in sports, hobbies, and work. Everyone is prone to suicide, not just rape victims. Everyone has baggage and everyone wants to be heard. Take time out of your day for those around you, even if everything seems okay. It never hurts to send a little love someone’s way.
Sexting, Shame, and Suicide is a prime example of the types of stories that fill RollingStone. Burleigh managed to utilize the story of a single girl in an international crisis to stir the hearts of her readers. That is what RollingStone is about. They take the underdogs, the burnouts, the weirdos, and make their stories worth reading. RollingStone captures the hearts of their readers through the pain and struggles that everyone faces and makes them relatable. Although, at times, it can be taken one step too far, Burleigh paints a very real picture, opening the eyes of many. Be sure to check out the latest issue of RollingStone online, on shelves, and newsstands everywhere.
Learn more on sexual assault and more below.