SARATOGA, Calif. — Fifteen-year-old Audrie Pott passed out drunk at a friend's house, woke up and concluded she had been sexually abused.
In the days that followed, she was shocked to see an explicit photo of herself circulating among her classmates along with emails and text messages about the episode. And she was horrified to discover that her attackers were three of her friends, her family's lawyer says.
Eight days after the party, she hanged herself.
"She pieced together with emails and texts who had done this to her. They were her friends. Her friends!" said lawyer Robert Allard. "That was the worst"
On Thursday, sheriff's officials arrested three 16-year-old boys on suspicion of sexual battery against Pott, who committed suicide in September.
The arrests and the details that came spilling out shocked many in Saratoga, a prosperous Silicon Valley suburb of 30,000. The case underscored the seeming callousness with which some young people use technology.
"The problem with digital technologies is they can expand the harm that people suffer greatly," said Nancy Willard, an Oregon-based cyberbullying expert and creator of a prevention program for schools.
Santa Clara County sheriff's officials would not give any details on the circumstances around Pott's suicide. But Allard said Pott had been drinking at a sleepover at a friend's house, passed out and "woke up to the worst nightmare imaginable." She knew she had been assaulted, he said.
Her parents did not learn about the assault until after her death, when Pott's friends approached them, Allard said.
The suspects case were booked into juvenile hall. Their names were not released.
The news surprised residents of the town.
"People in this town are involved, parents advocate for their kids to get the best education, the best teachers, the best sports," said Jamie Perez, who was walking her baby and her dog on Friday past a coffee shop.
Perez graduated from the local school system, which has one of the top high schools in the state.
Allard said Thursday's arrests "reopened a wound" for the girl's family members, and they have gone into seclusion. But they want to see the boys prosecuted as adults and action taken again those who passed the photo around, he said.