California’s state lawmakers have introduced new cyberbullying legislation in response to the case of Audrie Pott, a teenager at Saratoga High School who was sexually assaulted at a party. Audrie committed suicide days after learning that explicit photos of her reached social media.
The boys responsible for Audrie’s assault were charged as juveniles and received 30-45 days in juvenile hall.
The purpose of the law is to close loopholes seen in Pott’s case by changing sentencing for attackers like Audrie’s. Audrie’s Law, created by state Senator Jim Beall will specify that “sexual assault of a defenseless victim must go to open, adult court.” Beall’s goal is to address criticisms of the trial of Pott’s attackers, who were tried in juvenile court. Audrie’s mother Sheila Pott believes that exposing the identity of potential sexual offenders and their sentences would “deter future incidents and put the community on alert to monitor the assailants’ behavior and keep other students safe.”
In addition to requiring adult court for sexual assault, this legislation would stiffen penalties for sexual assaults that occur when the victim is unconscious. Furthermore, this legislation includes a cyberbullying statute that would make sharing obscene or sexual photos onto social media with the intent of bullying a felony. These efforts to address the dangers of cyberbullying are critical to slowing down the growth of this recent epidemic. By creating a crime of cyberbullying, potential bullies are deterred from harrassing others using the internet with the awareness of the possible repercussions.