The parents of a California teen whose suicide mirrors the death of Nova Scotia teenager Rehtaeh Parsons will speak publicly Monday for the first time since the story of Audrie Pott's death received international attention last week.
Three 16-year-old boys have been arrested in the Pott case, on suspicion of sexually abusing the 15-year-old Saratoga High School sophomore who hanged herself in September after an explicit photo was circulated of the alleged assault.
Family spokesman Ed Vasquez said Audrie's family plans to "raise awareness about teenage bullying, harassment, sexual assault, and the use of electronic media to disseminate images that humiliate and in this case drove their daughter to take her life."
They are adamant that the suspects be tried as adults, he said.
Two former San Jose police officers, privately hired by the family's attorney to help investigate the case, are also slated to speak about the need for students to break the culture of silence and come forward with additional information about the assault.
An attorney for Audrie's family says the girl was sexually abused during a sleepover at a friend's home. There were no adults at the home and the unaccompanied teens were drinking.
"We're talking about, other than murdering someone, the highest degree of a crime you could possibly do, which is to violate them in the worst of ways … and then to effectively rub her face in it afterwards," Robert Allard, the attorney representing the teenager's mother, father and stepmother, said Friday.
Boys' lawyers ask public to reserve judgment
But lawyers for the three suspects, whose names have not been released because they are minors, released a statement Friday asking the public to withhold judgment until their clients can give their side of the story.
"Much of what has been reported over the last several days is inaccurate. Most disturbing is the attempt to link [Audrie's] suicide to the specific actions of these three boys," the statement from San Jose attorneys Eric Geffon, Alan Lagod and Benjamin Williams reads. "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."
Allard noted to CBC News last week the parallels between Audrie's case and the case of Rehtaeh Parsons, the Nova Scotia 17-year-old who was taken off life-support about a week ago after a suicide attempt.
According to Rehtaeh's mother, four boys sexually assaulted her daughter when she was 15. The girl was then said to have been mocked by classmates, enduring relentless harassment and humiliation after a photo of the attack was circulated at her school and on social media.
"The parallels are right there," Allard told Maritime Noon on Friday. "The power that these children have with simply a phone to take pictures and to send messages and to record things, it’s immense. These kids have to be educated as to the power of pressing a button. You can destroy someone’s life, especially someone susceptible to emotional injury as teenagers are."