The story was big news in my city, and was in the news for a long time while the family was trying to file a lawsuit against the school (which the family alleges did not do much to stop the spread of the photos or to stop the harassment) and against some students who were alleged harassers. The family also got involved in trying to help pass legislation dealing with "sexting."
Many news reports talked about what this teenage girl dealt with in the aftermath of the release of the photos -- and they all talk about other girls harassing her. I just read through about eight or nine reports of this story, in fact, and I can't find anything even talking about the former boyfriend who released the photos -- other than the fact that he was the one who released them.
A number of other cases of "sexting" nude photos that result in charges involve some sort of child pornography charge, but in this case the girl was 18 years old. No charges were filed against anyone (that I know of). Eventually the girl requested that the investigation be stopped because it was making the harassment worse. But here's my question: Why didn't any media outlet, or the school, or police, or even the parents, question whether what this guy did, in releasing her photos, was sexual assault? The school district actually said it was a form of "bullying," and I suppose that's true when you look at how other girls treated her after the photos came out. But no one (again, that I know of) brought up sexual assault. Is it because there was no "physical" crime?
Recently both Pandagon and Alas, a Blog wrote about Carrie Prejean's sex tape(s), and how releasing them is a form of sexual assault against her. I agree with both authors on the subject, particularly this (written by Amanda Marcotte) on Pandagon:
I think it's apparent that trying to prosecute these acts, at least as society is today, would be difficult. "Accidents" happen, I'm sure, and it would probably take some work on the prosecutors' side to prove assault. (Which really makes this no different from other sexual assault cases.) But the conversation needs to get rolling, now.
"Sexting" has become a fairly big deal, and most of the conversation around the nude-photos-aspect of it seems to be "girls, don't succumb to the pressure of guys who want to see nude photos of you, because once you send those photos, you can't get them back." And that is true, yes. I, too, loathe the idea of girls being pressured to send nude photos of themselves. But once again, all the responsibility is on the girls. Don't do this, don't do that. Where is the conversation about the boys involved in posting these photos or forwarding them to other people? Why isn't anyone saying "You know what son, if you receive nude photos of a girl, those are private and meant just for you. Keep it that way."
Maybe more young people need to read the story about this 18-year-old girl who was basically harassed to death. In her case, the harassment came from girls -- and that is definitely not OK either and is really a whole other discussion -- but it started with a former boyfriend forwarding those photos.