Calif. teen's suicide is the latest in a disturbing trend

Audrie Pott
Audrie Pott
CBS News

(CBS News) LOS ANGELES - In California, three teenage boys have been charged with sexually assaulting a classmate while she was passed out, then posting photos of the alleged attack on the Internet. A week later, the 15-year-old girl committed suicide. It's just one in a series of disturbing cases.

Audrie Pott was just 15-years-old when she took her own life. Authorities say it was after photographs of her incapacitated and raped were circulated online.

"It's unconscionable for someone to distribute images like this when you've actually taken advantage of someone," said Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith. "And why are you filming and distributing a crime?"

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A family attorney said it was only after her death that Audrie's parents learned she had seen those images.

"We obviously cannot bring Audrie back," said lawyer Lauren Cerri, "but the family's goal is that what happened to Audrie never happens again, and that the boys are held fully accountable."

The district attorney must now decide whether to try the three teens as adults.

Last month in Steubenville, Ohio, two high school football players were convicted in juvenile court of attacking a girl while she was passed out drunk and then posting images of the assault.

"It's the most traumatic thing," said David Swanson, a clinical psychologist. He said most teens simply don't think about the consequences of posting those photos online.

"They're thinking it's a limited number of people who are going to see it," he said. "But when word gets out the victim feels as if the entire world can see it. And that's why you see them turn to suicide."

Seventeen-year old Canadian student Rehtaeh Parsons died last week. Her mother Leah said she committed suicide after photos of her being raped went viral.

"She wanted to be heard and she wanted someone to believe her. And nobody did," she said.

Another grieving family dealing with the loss of a daughter. Audrie Pott's parents plan to tell their story publicly on Monday.