One Family's Nightmare-Daughter's Accident Photos Go Viral

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MrsSpringsteen

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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."
 
:mad: 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. :down:
 
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.
 
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.
 
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.
 
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.
 
... 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. :sad: :reject:
 
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.
 
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.
 
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 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.
 
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.
 
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. :|
 
i hadn't realized at the time it was a cop that took the pictures. Last night I was talking to my husband about this and we realized we'd seen the pictures. He reminded me that the email we'd been sent was from someone I'm in nursing school with. Thinking back to the pictures, they are just as horendous (sp?) as the article makes them sound, in fact they're even worse. I still don't agree that they should be on the internet or people should be stupid and sick enough to send them on to the family, but if the family were to release the photos for emergency medical lectures, things like that, then it would make sense. Speaking from a medical background, they're extremely disturbing and harsh, but if it were to be used in an educational setting for the purpose of something like EMT training or Emergency medicine, I could understand showing the pictures to people. But to have them on the net and because the family is completely against it, have some decency people and knock the bull shit off.
 
I haven't seen the pictures, but from the description in the article I don't think they are of much value even in an emergency medicine setting.
But generally I would agree that this could be a setting in which, after the approval of at least the family, it would be tolerable to be shown.
On the other hand, you could be certain that in that case eventually the pictures would be leaked either.

On a slightly related topic: For my time in the US I wanted to carry a donor card with me. I found one where it also asks for two witnesses to sign. Is that mandatory in the US or could I leave those fields blank? (Didn't want to open an extra thread for that.)
 
Yes, I believe they both need to sign. Also, I'm not sure where the card is from, but on the back of our drivers licenses you can sign to donate and have a witness sign but I was told these are no longer enough and you have to actually register to donate. Hopefully the donor card is the same as registering.

As for the photos, I've seen some really nasty ones in criminal justice classes, but that was an academic setting. You can't learn about blood spatter or the difference between a murder and a suicide without looking at the evidence. No one (at least I hope not) was joking about it or stealing the photos to pass around online. I can't fathom taking pictures of someone's brain matter spilling off the bed and sending it back to the family... that's WAY more sick than the photos themselves.
 
But the police officer who leaked the pictures should be thrown out of his job.

That's it, right there.

It's all that can be done or should be done.

I knew a guy who worked for one of the biggest Insurance companies in the US, he had access to some graphic pictures and our mutual friend, we always had a gross-out, desensitized sense of humor. He brought in some pictures of a woman who was torn to pieces trying to cross I-35 in Dallas. Apparently she was a prostitute of some sort, whatever she was, it didn't matter. I felt sick seeing the pictures. Not because of the graphic nature, I am callous to that shit, but because of the devaluement of the human being and those who cared about her.

This insurance agent (casual "friend") and our mutual friend laughed at the pictures. I probably nodded in agreement out of deference and carried on, blah blah, I feel horrible about it right now. For at least two reasons. One, I should have had the stones to say to them, "hey, c'mon, this was a person, someone loved them, let's not gawk at her demise". The other was, how does this insurance agent, one of multiple thousands, get access to these pictures and what does that say about who might circulate a similar picture of my loved ones?

Maybe this woman was a horrid human being. But the least that death should give us (in whatever form) is rest from the ridiculous judgement of the assholes of this world. Which might be the majority for all I know. I'd bet those favorable odds.
 
Yes, I believe they both need to sign. Also, I'm not sure where the card is from, but on the back of our drivers licenses you can sign to donate and have a witness sign but I was told these are no longer enough and you have to actually register to donate. Hopefully the donor card is the same as registering.

Thank you!

It is the card here: OrganDonor.gov I will then let my mother and another person sign.
 
That's it, right there.

It's all that can be done or should be done.

I knew a guy who worked for one of the biggest Insurance companies in the US, he had access to some graphic pictures and our mutual friend, we always had a gross-out, desensitized sense of humor. He brought in some pictures of a woman who was torn to pieces trying to cross I-35 in Dallas. Apparently she was a prostitute of some sort, whatever she was, it didn't matter. I felt sick seeing the pictures. Not because of the graphic nature, I am callous to that shit, but because of the devaluement of the human being and those who cared about her.

This insurance agent (casual "friend") and our mutual friend laughed at the pictures. I probably nodded in agreement out of deference and carried on, blah blah, I feel horrible about it right now. For at least two reasons. One, I should have had the stones to say to them, "hey, c'mon, this was a person, someone loved them, let's not gawk at her demise". The other was, how does this insurance agent, one of multiple thousands, get access to these pictures and what does that say about who might circulate a similar picture of my loved ones?

Maybe this woman was a horrid human being. But the least that death should give us (in whatever form) is rest from the ridiculous judgement of the assholes of this world. Which might be the majority for all I know. I'd bet those favorable odds.

From my limited legal understanding of at least German law, that guy would have made himself criminal.
Unfortunately, with most companies it is far too easy to get stuff out there. Most don't even recognize when you put a USB stick into a PC and load something onto it, or they simply don't check the computer logs.

I guess I would be the same, and rather not say would should be said, and sad about it. I know people who could get said what is to be said, regardless if it's friends or strangers, but from my experience most people, and I would count me in it, would just think "How gross to laugh about it" (and I have a pretty black humour as well) and let it go. And then be mad at myself to not having said anything.
Me and my brother have a really black, cynic and sometimes morbid humour, but we both never got behind how some people can find such pictures, videos etc. in any way funny. That's no humour at all.
 
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