Audrie Pott's story is all too familiar to Ann Brownell.
Pott, a 15-year-old Saratoga High School sophomore, tried to commit suicide last September after learning she had been sexually assaulted when she had passed out at a party, and a photo of the attack was posted online. .
Ann Brownell's daughter, Amanda, also tried to end her life four years ago after allegedly being bullied at Del Mar High School. On Dec. 11, 2008, Amanda entered a bathroom stall at the school and, like Audrie, hung herself.
Amanda Brownell survived that day, but suffered brain damage. She died at home Tuesday night.
"There are too many kids killing themselves," Brownell says. "We need to let them know that we're here for them. We're here to help. That suicide is not the answer."
Amanda had been living in a 24-hour care facility until a recent bout with pneumonia and seizures left her weakened and no longer eating. Communicating with her mother by blinking, they came to the conclusion that it was time to go home, where she could be together with her family—in hospice.
"The journey that she brought us on will continue, and she knows that," Brownell says. "She's suffered long enough."
The journey Ann Brownell has traveled began after Amanda's unsuccessful suicide attempt. She began her campaign to raise awareness over bullying and its impact on everyone involved through the Amanda Network.
[Watch a video of the Network's third anti-bullying vigil here.]
"Kids that are bullied change," Brownell says. "It damages who you are."
Brownell has done presentations, sharing Amanda's story with other local elementary, middle and high school students.
"Amanda's story impacted many others, and some have even told us later that hearing her story made them brave enough to tell their parents about their suicide thoughts and get help," she says, "but it's hard to get to every school."
Some parents are trying to be pro-active. In the Los Altos-Mountain View Union High School District, the MVLA Parent Education Speaker Series is presenting a showing of the movie, 'Bully,' with a panel discussion to follow, on Tuesday, April 23, 6:30 p.m. at Mountain Vew High School. (Organizers ask attendees to register at Eventbrite to attend.)
Brownell says that it is everyone's responsibility to come forward if they know that someone is being bullied.
"Kids need to come forward," she says. "A lot of Amanda's friends told me later that she was handling (the bullying) pretty well, when she really wasn't. She was a good actress. Everyone has to be proactive, not reactive."
In Audrie Pott's story, her family is also asking for people to step forward in their daughter's case. On the Audrie Pott Foundation Facebook Page, they posted:
"We suspect that the boys who we believe are responsible for Audrie’s death took deliberate steps to destroy evidence and interfere with the police investigation.
If students have information about this crime, if they saw pictures or know anything that will assist in bringing these young men to justice, please come forward.
Audrie's family is asking for any students with information to please contact our attorney, Robert Allard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 408-289-1417"
"I think all of us have to take a stand," Brownell says. "It takes all of us to make a change."
A celebration of Amanda Brownell's life will be held this summer. Follow The Amanda Network on Facebook for updates.
—Bay City News Service contributed to this report
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