Sexting can lead to death... The story of Jessica Logan
By Internet privacy and security lawyer, Parry Aftab
Jessica was a bright, funny, great teen who lived in Ohio. When she turned 18, she was dating a 19 year old and sent a few nude photos of herself to him using her cell phone. When they broke up, he sent it to at least one 16-year-old girl who sent it to others. (He now claims that the 16-year-old took it form his cell phone without his knowledge.) The image made the rounds of Jessica’s school and the other community schools. What had been a private communication became public humiliation. The students were cruel. They called her names and made fun of her. They dubbed her the “porn queen” and she became “that girl.” She confided in her mom, but only told her bits and pieces, never the whole scenario of the torment. Cynthia offered to take her out of school and homeschool her until graduation, but Jessica wanted to stick it out. Jessie had sought help from her school’s school resource officer (the police officer assigned to her school). But he didn’t offer to do anything other than contact the girl who started the harassment and ask her to take down the images and leave Jessica alone. (Cynthia said that the SRO is now claiming that he gave Jessica the choice between his contacting the other girl and pressing charges, but denies that his claim is true.)
“No one would help!” When Jessie’s mom told me that, I had chills. Cynthia’s simple words and her soft tone (muffled by her trying to hold back tears) remind us that “there but for the grace of God” go all of us. Jessica didn’t want her mom to contact the other parents. (Targets of cyberbullying never do.) They didn’t know what to do.
Then Jessie came up with a plan. She would recount her story on TV to try and keep others from doing things they will regret. So, she appeared (in shadow with her voice disguised) on the local NBC affiliate in Cincinnati last year to help educate other teens about the risks of sexting.
While the TV piece was able to reach so many, the ones who mattered the most – Jessica’s harassers – were unmoved. The harassment continued. The teens were relentless. Cynthia knew that Jessica was hurting, but didn’t know how much. The school would send truancy reports home, but failed to share anything about the ongoing harassment. Why? That remains unanswered.
But Jessica stuck it out and graduated with her class. To Cynthia, it looked like things would improve. When a friend of Jessica’s asked her for a ride to the funeral of a fellow student, Mitch, who had killed himself Jessica became more troubled. “Why,” she asked her mother, “would a teen take his own life?” They talked about it. Cynthia said you never know what goes through someone’s mind when they consider something like this. Jessie seemed angry about Mitch’s suicide. But no one could have known that Jessica had ulterior motives when asking why this young man took his own life. She was looking to see if that was a viable choice for her.
The school never offered counseling for the other students after the young man’s suicide. They never offered counseling for Jessie. They said they couldn’t do anything because she was 18 and that students attended school at their own risk. They took the easy way out. And they failed Jessie..
Jessica went to the funeral with her friend, but didn’t come right home. Cynthia had to call her to get her to come home for dinner. She held the memorial information about the young man in her hand when she came through the doors and tossed it at Cynthia. She seemed agitated, angry. But Cynthia was used to this when things troubled Jessica and thought it was to be expected after the memorial service. The table was set as Jessie climbed the stairs to take a shower.
Cynthia was on a call with her brother when she walked down the upstairs hall. She passed Jessie coming out of the shower. She had no sense that anything was especially wrong. But that was the last time Cynthia saw her daughter alive.Cynthia walked upstairs and knocked at Jessie’s door. (She had a knock and open the door policy.) When she didn’t get an answer, she opened it to find Jessica’s cell phone in the middle of the room. She scanned the room looking for Jessica and the closet door was open. Her daughter hanging by her neck from the clothing rod.Her husband bounded up the stairs at Cynthia’s screams, pulling out a pen knife to cut his daughter down. Jessica was already cold and blue. Their attempts to resuscitate her were futile.
Now Cynthia wants answers. What are the laws? How can she hold the school accountable? Can she make the teens responsible for this harassment apologize before their peers? How can she make sure that Jessica did not die in vain?
When her mother, Cynthia, came out with Jessie's story and asked for tougher harassment laws and a lessening of penalties for young people voluntarily sharing their nude pics with other young people, instead of getting the sympathy she deserved for the loss of her only child, she receives torments of her own.Even in her grief, Cynthia Logan is seeking equity for the kind of young people who harassed her daughter. She wants the penalities reduced when teens share their nude pics voluntarily with each other. She wants to make sure that teens are not charged as sex offenders, or required to register. She wants counseling, community service and public apologies when others are hurt. She wants an enhancement of the harassment laws when they use sexual exploitation as a weapon to hurt their victims, as well.
But more than anything else, she wants justice in her daughter's name. She wants to make sure that schools do their part when harassment takes place on campus during school hours. She wants a school resource officers to protect the students in their charge, even if they are 18-year-old seniors. They deserve protection as much as the sophmores, juniors, freshmen do. She wants apologies from the teens who made Jessie's life hell during the four months before her death. She wants kindness form the town in which she lives. She wants those who watch her on TV and read about her to understand her...