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Old 07-02-2008, 08:30 AM   #1
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One Family's Nightmare-Daughter's Accident Photos Go Viral

So people are sadists by nature and that's why they would want to look at something so incredibly horrific and painful? Or have we become so desensitized that we don't even see such a thing as being real? Personally I can't imagine ever wanting to see such things on the internet. It is such a complete violation in so many ways.


ABCNews.com
Family's Nightmare: Daughter's Accident Photos Go Viral
Internet Subculture Celebrating Death Feeds Into People's Perversions, Psychologist Says
By JIM AVILA, TERI WHITCRAFT and KRISTIN PISARCIK

July 1, 2008—

With just a few mouse clicks, you can find pictures that are too graphic to show in the mainstream media -- images of horrible accidents, mutilations and death.

There's an Internet subculture devoted to death and gore with thousands of images, each bloodier than the next. For one family, an image that circulated on these types of Web sites added injury to already profound pain.

Nikki Catsouras was an 18-year-old college freshman living in California with her parents and two sisters. She loved to shoot videos on her camera, and ironically, it was a camera that would memorialize Nikki's life and death as a gruesome and macabre joke on the Internet.

It all started with a typical fight between parents and teenager when Nikki got caught sneaking a cigarette in the house.

"Nikki broke a house rule and we had a disagreement, and I took her car keys away," said Christos Catsouras, Nikki's father. Catsouras had no idea the next day would be the last time he'd ever see the daughter he called "Angel."

"As I was walking out the door, I kind of winked and blew her a kiss, and she winked back and flipped me a peace sign," he recalled. "I said, 'Bye, see you at two-thirty, love you. She said, 'Love you, bye.'"

Then, her family says, Nikki did something out of character. She took the keys to her father's Porsche 911 Carrera, a car that goes zero to 60 miles an hour in less than five seconds. She had never driven the Porsche before.

'The Whole World Is Seeing My Daughter'

According to state highway patrol reports, at approximately 1:45 p.m. last Halloween, Nikki Catsouras was traveling 100 mph on State Route 241, near Lake Forest, Calif., when she clipped another car and lost control, going across lanes over the median and slamming into a concrete tollbooth. She was killed instantly.

"Her head was more or less cut in two and sort of cleaved and then smashed. It's nothing that anyone should ever have to see," said Michael Fertik, the founder of ReputationDefender, a company that helps clients such as the Catsouras family remove items from the Internet. The Catsouras family was told they should never see the photos from the scene of the horrendous accident.

But as the Catsouras family was grieving for their daughter, the accident scene photos showing Nikki's mutilated body suddenly appeared on the Internet. "They didn't even let me see my daughter, and now the whole world is seeing my daughter," recalled Lesli Catsouras, Nikki's mother.

The family soon began receiving anonymous e-mails and text messages that contained photographs of the accident, including pictures of Nikki's decapitated body, still strapped to the crumpled remains of her father's Porsche. A fake MySpace page was created, which at first looked like a tribute to Catsouras but also led to the horrific photos.

"What type of individual would do that?" asked Christos Catsouras.

The pictures, taken by California Highway Patrol officers and e-mailed outside the department, became so persistent that Lesli Catsouras stopped checking her e-mail. Nikki's younger sisters were forbidden to use the Internet, and 16-year-old Danielle was taken out of school to be home schooled out of fear that her peers might confront her with the pictures.

The Catsouras family has filed a lawsuit against the California Highway Patrol for allegedly releasing the accident scene pictures.

'Death Is Real'

Who would want to look at such horrible images? Shockingly, the Catsouras family says many people. At one point photos of Nikki's crash could be found on 1,600 Web sites in 50 countries.

"Everybody I know has either seen them or they know someone that's seen them," said Lesli Catsouras. "This was an expensive car and it was a young girl and she was also a very pretty girl. It was also Halloween, so it was just the perfect recipe for something like this."

Though the Catsourases hired ReputationDefender to remove the photos from the Internet, the images live on. "It spreads in bursts, and when it spreads, it happens very fast," said Fertik. "Whether it's right or wrong doesn't even matter when you're online. The digital world has no morals," said Ron Braunstein, who goes by the name Necro. Braunstein is a self-described death rapper who has made a career of exploiting gore in his music and on his Web site.

"Me personally, I've built a career around exploitation. I consider what I do real, everything is real, death is real," Braunstein said. He said his intent is not to shock people. "They're intrigued, they're into it."

Braunstein's site never posted the crime scene photos from Nikki Catsouras' death, but he has posted other accident photos. With thousands of sites like Braunstein's, there is no shortage of places to find disturbing images.

'Very Damaging'

"This is very damaging. It's desensitizing some people. It's feeding into the perversion for some people. It's one thing when no one suffers; it's very much another thing to be involving the suffering of others," said Dr. Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist.

"We all have some pretty primitive human emotions that are about sadism," Saltz said. " And there is something very gratifying about watching other people get hurt, or tortured or suffer violence."

Saltz warns that while curiosity is normal, an obsession with these images can be unhealthy. If they're pretty obsessed with it, and they're looking at it a lot, I would call it a fetish. I would call it a perversion."

On the first anniversary of Nikki's death, the Catsouras family cut together a video tribute with their own pictures of Nikki, set to the song "Angel."

"I feel like no one really realized she was a person, and they in a sick way got really entertained by this photograph, and it's just sad that someone can feel the need to put it out and keep it going on and harming others by putting it up," said Danielle, Nikki's sister.

"We are a real family with real hearts," said Nikki's father. "And it hurts what people are doing."
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Old 07-03-2008, 07:13 PM   #2
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I've never understood the fascination that some people have with actively & voluntarily watching things like this. It was bad enough back in the day when you could stroll into your local video store & pick up "Faces of Death"... now you don't even need to leave your home to dishonor someone & their family.
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Old 07-03-2008, 10:47 PM   #3
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That is just wrong plain and simple in so very many ways. Very very sad and I Feel for that poor family.
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Old 07-04-2008, 12:29 AM   #4
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It is however interesting they are not only sadistic, but also how de-sensitized one can become to these images by looking at them over and over again; one can be intrigued by these images and feel nothing towards them because they have no shock value towards the onlooker. Andy Warhol's images of car crashes and sing sing electric chairs are great examples of this kind of idea as well.
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Old 07-04-2008, 10:56 AM   #5
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One of my former students forwarded me the pictures during the school year. The content of the forward was about teen drivers and speed. I didn't make it past the first picture of the crumpled car near a toll booth.

There are other emails out there like this one. I was also sent one about the dangers of texting and driving. I deleted it after I read the first bit but I know there were pictures attached to that one too.

Do they still show Red Asphalt in driver's ed classes? No wonder kids are desensitized.
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Old 07-04-2008, 01:20 PM   #6
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I think that sometimes through the internet and all the photoshopping that's been going on there's always that thought looming in the back of your head that there is a chance that whatever it is you're looking at might not be real.
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Old 07-06-2008, 02:08 PM   #7
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That is just so upsetting. To know someone paraded these photos around is just horrendous and then actually emailing them to the family? WTF? Where is people's compassion. I have never understood the apparent glee some people seem to take from someone elses pain and torture.
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Old 07-06-2008, 02:41 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by dazzlingamy View Post
... the apparent glee some people seem to take from someone elses pain and torture.
There's actually a German word for that - "schadenfruede", described on Wikipedia as 'enjoyment taken from the misfortune of someone else'.

I don't think it bodes well for the species if we've lost our ability to generate compassion.
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Old 07-06-2008, 02:49 PM   #9
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Well, schadenfreude rather refers to the joy when some harmless misfortune happens to another person, rarely when it's something more serious.
This would be called "sick behaviour" or "sadism" I would say.
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Old 07-07-2008, 10:52 AM   #10
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That is just wrong plain and simple in so very many ways. Very very sad and I Feel for that poor family.
So do I.

To the sick individual who did this.....I believe in Karma and you will reap what you sow.
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Old 07-15-2008, 04:12 PM   #11
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Do they still show Red Asphalt in driver's ed classes? No wonder kids are desensitized.
Is that the one that was made back in the 50's? When the cars didn't have seat belts and all?

I've always dealt with blood and accidents well, I have to being in the medical field and being in Nursing school, but that movie we saw in Drivers Ed was horrible. I had to get up and leave, it made me sick to my stomach.

I can't believe that anyone would ever think that was okay to send or take pictures. Even the media should have SOME kind of censorship. Bull crap about not having censorship, if there's a mutilated body it should be out of the question to photograph it. Media and other people shouldnt be allowed near the crash when there's still a body. I don't mind pictures of accidents when it's a car or something, but come on....have SOME sort of decency for the families and friends.
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Old 07-15-2008, 04:40 PM   #12
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Well, here it apparently wasn't the media taking pictures and not the media in any way publishing it.
But the police officer who leaked the pictures should be thrown out of his job.


Don't know about the American media, but in comparison I found the Australian media quite bad in that they used a lot of pictures where you could see more than you wanted to see, though. So of course in other cases, when the media publishes pictures of people that have died in accidents or such, I would agree that this is not justified by freedom of press and the person's rights should trump that freedom.

I can't really understand how one can become obsessed with such pictures, but that some actually send those to the family leaves me speechless.
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Old 07-15-2008, 04:40 PM   #13
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I can't believe that anyone would ever think that was okay to send or take pictures. Even the media should have SOME kind of censorship. Bull crap about not having censorship, if there's a mutilated body it should be out of the question to photograph it. Media and other people shouldnt be allowed near the crash when there's still a body. I don't mind pictures of accidents when it's a car or something, but come on....have SOME sort of decency for the families and friends.
The media didn't take or distribute these pictures, they were taken by the investigating agency (California Highway Patrol) at the scene. For God knows what reason, a CHP employee emailed them to himself at his personal email addy and then sent them to family and friends. That is how they started spreading all over the internet.
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Old 07-16-2008, 06:30 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Vincent Vega View Post
Well, here it apparently wasn't the media taking pictures and not the media in any way publishing it.
But the police officer who leaked the pictures should be thrown out of his job.


Don't know about the American media, but in comparison I found the Australian media quite bad in that they used a lot of pictures where you could see more than you wanted to see, though. So of course in other cases, when the media publishes pictures of people that have died in accidents or such, I would agree that this is not justified by freedom of press and the person's rights should trump that freedom.

I can't really understand how one can become obsessed with such pictures, but that some actually send those to the family leaves me speechless.

I remember recently looking at our local paper and they had a very graphic photo of a man on fire, it was repulsive and lots of people complained.
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Old 07-16-2008, 12:19 PM   #15
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Oh god if this is the same girl, I think I've seen these pics and they are absolutely horrendous photos.. they should not be online at all.
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