Audrie’s Law would make sexting a felony

Amber Buhagiar, Editor-in-Chief & Entertainment Editor

Sexting

For teens, parties are a chance to meet new people, catch up with friends, and dance to upbeat music.  Innocent, right?  Not when drugs and alcohol parade the scene.

 

Senator Jim Beal recently introduced Senate Bill 838, also known as Audrie’s law.  The bill reads that juveniles who sexually assault unconscious individuals will be charged as adults.  In addition, the legislation would make it a felony to send and share sexual photos of minors on social media or text messaging in order to harass them.

 

“How disgusting!” counselor Eddie Jackson said. “I don’t think it’s [Audrie’s law] unfair because the victim did not give their consent. It’s their just desert.”

 

The law was created in reference to Audrie Pott, a Saratoga High School sophomore who was sexually assaulted in September 2012.  Passed out at a friend’s house after consuming alcohol, she woke up unclothed and found her body marked with cruel comments scribbled in Sharpie.  After discovering that pictures and videos of the assault had been shared via text messaging, Pott committed suicide.

 

“I think that if alcohol is involved, the individuals do bear some responsibility for their choices,” senior Samantha Gritz said.  “But that doesn’t mean they deserve to be sexually assaulted. They were irresponsible, but that doesn’t mean they should have something terrible happen to them.”

 

According to a study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, researchers found that approximately one-half of all sexual assault victims report that they were drinking alcohol at the time of the assault.  Similarly, approximately one-half of all sexual assaults have been committed by men who were under the influence of alcohol.

 

“I believe girls should understand that the risks of getting sexually assaulted are present when getting drunk at a party, especially if a friend isn’t there to supervise,” senior John Nguyen said.

 

Because minors will be charged as adults, judges would have the option to publicly disclose the names of perpetrators and list them as sexual offenders.

 

“I believe that in serious crimes such as sexual assault, minors being tried as an adult is justifiable,” Nguyen said.  “Minors are tried as adults for murder. It’s not the same crime but the victim’s family will still be greatly emotionally affected.”  Nguyen also noted that a felony conviction for those who post or send graphic images is a fair punishment.

 

On the other hand, freshman Carlos Rebolledo says that a felony is too harsh.  Instead, he says that a large fine issued to the perpetrator is a better compromise.

 

Studies conducted by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy found that 20 percent of teens have sent or posted semi-nude videos and or pictures of themselves.  In fact, about 39 percent of teen boys and 38 percent of teen girls say they have had sexually suggestive text messages or emails shared with them.  Similarly, 25 percent of teen girls and 33 percent of teen boys say that they have had nude or semi-nude photos—originally meant for someone else—shared with them.

 

Opponents of the bill also point at the the repercussions for juveniles who are convicted and publicly defamed when they did not commit the crime.  In the same way the victim will be emotionally and mentally damaged, a juvenile who is let off will be harmed in the same way.

 

“I think if the person is innocent it could be harmful,” Gritz said. “But hopefully the justice system will be competent enough to not accuse and try innocent people.”

 

“I think we need to be realistic,” Jackson said. “Kids are silly at this age.  I think as adults, we need to do a better job of explaining to students the ramifications of their actions.”

 

Whether the bill will be passed into law in the near future will be determined by legislators in the next year.