CLATSKANIE, Ore. (KPTV) — An Oregon family has filed a lawsuit against five teenagers and their parents for their alleged involvement in the sextortion and bullying of a then 7th-grade girl.
Now 15, and living in central Oregon, Josi Harrison said she was harassed and sexually assaulted after sending a nude cell phone picture of herself to her then-boyfriend.
It started in late 2010, when Harrison was a seventh-grade student at Clatskanie Middle High School. Clatskanie is about 15 miles southwest of Longview, Wash.
“He was just telling me that I’m a terrible girlfriend and there’s no way he can trust me, and I have every right to trust him,” Josi said of her then-boyfriend. “I just kind of broke down and sent it.”
Her boyfriend, then 13, wanted more, Josi said.
According to the lawsuit filed in Columbia County, he “threatened to send the photograph to other students” if she didn’t.
Soon, his boyfriend’s friends began harassing her, too, she said.
“They told me that they all had them, and if I didn’t send more they would publish them online, or send them around to other people,” she said.
The threats came in person, during and after school, and through e-mails, text messages and on Facebook, court documents state.
Josi said the harassment didn’t stop, even after she gave in and sent more photos.
The FBI calls what happened to Harrison ‘sextortion,’ a growing trend of adults and teens who blackmail others into sending sexually explicit photographs.
The most well-known victim is a Canadian teen named Amanda Todd, who killed herself weeks after posting a video online that detailed the blackmailand bullying she faced after flashing a web camera.
“I just don’t think anyone has realized that this is happening at middle school and high school at this point,” Amber Lunsford, the Harrison family’s attorney, said.
Lunsford added that verbal threats were only the start of the harassment in Josi’s case. She said the teen was subjected to physical assaults and a sexual assault.
Josi said one of the boys sexually assaulted her near the gazebo in Clatskanie City Park in May 2011. She said other students began harassing her after she reported the assault to a school counselor and to police.
“When people started finding out about it, I started getting bullied really bad,” Josi said. “I was getting shoved into lockers by people who I grew up with.”
The case was adjudicated in January.
The boy, now 17, admitted guilt to charges of harassment and public indecency and did not contest another charge of harassment. He was put on probation, and ordered to restrict his use of cell phones and the Internet.
He is the only person who has faced repercussions for what happened to Josi, said Lunsford.
The Harrison family is suing three teens accused of sextortion, two other teens accused of bullying and the parents of all five teens.
“Even as the parents of the boys accused of doing this stuff, they should have protected their children from themselves,” said Lunsford.
Despite all she’s been through, Harrison said telling her story publicly is helping her move forward.
“I just want people to know that this stuff does actually happen,” Josi said.
Josi said she was diagnosed with PTSD and had surgery to treat a stress-related heart condition as a result of the stress she suffered.