We mourn the suicide of another teen whose tormenter relentlessly stalked her across the net and inspired real life bullies to complete the destruction of her ego via vicious beat-downs, bully-sessions, name-calling, and net gossip. The case of Amanda Todd, the 15-year-old Canadian girl who killed herself last week after years of abuse following her victimization by a pedophile, illustrates what can happen when our brilliant technology enables the most heinous of humans into our sanctuaries and how tolerated bullying can destroy the psychological health of an average girl.
The horror scenario began when a predator took advantage of an overly trusting 12-year-old 7th grader on the internet. A pedophile who stalked young girls with webcams called her “stunning, beautiful, perfect,” using the flattery to convince the child to reveal her breasts. Those few seconds of naivety set off a chain reaction that ultimately ended in Todd’s death. Eventually, the man began to blackmail her and when she refused to “put on a show” for him a year later, he e-mailed the pictures to her friends and family, eventually creating a Facebook page using her breasts as his profile picture. Can you imagine the horror for this family? They did what they could to protect her. The family moved her to several new schools and asked for help. While this information should have resulted in compassion and outrage from Todd’s classmates over a pervert who should have been pursued and prosecuted, instead Todd was targeted by bullies as a “porn star.”
Amanda did suffer from learning difficulties which in theory, put her ‘at risk’ for weakness. She indeed suffered weaknesses that many adults have also befallen while walking in her footsteps of harassment; but the onus is not on the victim, but on the perpetrators, who target the weak. Both bullies and pedophiles choose children who are helpless and desperate for any type of friendship or affirmation, kids who are isolated and feel bad about themselves for not fitting in. Many do not know how to tell when flattery or promises of friendship aren’t genuine but actual tools of cruel manipulation. Children, adults, and those ‘at risk’ are among those victimized.
Amanda Todd had already become alienated, depressed, and suicidal, and in an attempt to feel better, she began drinking and taking drugs. Studies show that this misguided “solution” often appeals to students in Todd’s situation, both as an escape and because of the strong social identity associated with teen substance misuse. “Stoners” and “burnouts” in most situations tend to be more accepting and supporting of misfits. However, the stalker reappeared in her new school, revealing the pictures again to her new classmates, prompting another round of bullying and isolation. Once more, she moved to a new school to try to escape.
But unfortunately, now settled reasonably well in yet another school, Amanda Todd again trusted the wrong people. Someone she described in her video as an “old guy friend,” got in touch, convincing her to “hook up” with him when his girlfriend was away. Word got out and soon the girlfriend, her friends and even the guy himself showed up at Todd’s new school, to administer a beating that they videotaped. Her undeserved “reputation” caught up with her all over again.
In despair, the teen drank bleach, resulting in hospitalization for the unsuccessful suicide attempt, and for which then she was socially harassed online again as a failure. Desperate, she posted a video detailing her ordeal. With great clarity she wrote: “I can never get that photo back,” she wrote. “It’s out there forever. Every day, I think, why am I here?” read the white cards that she holds throughout the silent black-and-white video. “I’m stuck. What’s left of me now? Nothing stops. I have nobody.” She attempted to take her life again, and this time, she succeeded.
Did the Internet kill Amanda Todd? And why was the predator who created child pornography and who blackmailed her allowed to go free? (According to my custom with PCM, I do not name criminals in print. They do not deserve the glory.) Hacker activists claim to have located the perpetrator, a 32-year-old Vancouver man who was charged with sexual assault with a minor in a case both related and unrelated to Todd’s according to CTV.
Like the case of Tyler Clementi who took his life in an event of cyber-bullying, I would say so; however, one must also factor in the actions of brutal classmates in 3 different schools and the educator bystanders who did nothing by acts of omission. I think we need to remember the victim, Amanda Todd wasn’t able to protect herself, she wasn’t the villain, but she was treated like one. If we want to stop bullying, we can’t allow the ongoing targeting of those who can’t defend themselves.
Amanda was not the only girl or boy in North America coping with this issue. This single pedophile has thousands of images to fuel his perversion. Multiply him by the millions and his thousands of images, each which represent a human being with an account, a life, a family, a school. The bullies are in every single school, in every club, in every church… regarding the weakest of the herd with Darwinian stealth. If we don’t teach in our every moment that even the weakest among us can be healed, that they have value of the brightest diamond …. then we are collaborators with that mentality.
So, if it is OK with you to bully against ‘some’ minorities … or not invite the Down Syndrome kid to the birthday party …or the bench sitters to the Victory celebration… or it is OK to do a little ‘hazing’ after all ‘boy will be boys’… Then just wait until YOUR son, daughter, niece, nephew, god-child, or neighbor is designated as one of the weak by the herd and left to the lions. They will be torn to shreds on the internet, by the class bullies, ignored by the administration, neglected by the adults in charge who did not see anything amiss ….and your heart with be as sore as the parents of Amanda Todd, Trayvon Martin, Tyler Clementi, Matthew Shepherd, …
If you or someone you love if feeling suicidal as a result of bullying or any other emotional stressor, please contact your local emergency crisis hotline via 911 or Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255): www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
HOW NOT TO PROMOTE CYBER BULLYING:
- Don’t post personal information online, like your home address, your email address, or mobile number. Keep personal information as general as possible.
- Never let anyone have access to your passwords. Check the privacy settings on accounts like Facebook and make sure you know how to keep your personal information private.
- Think very carefully before posting photos of yourself online. Once your picture is online, anyone can download it and share it or even change it.
- If you’re being bullied repeatedly, think about changing your user ID, nickname or profile. You can get off of the Internet for a while.
- Never respond or retaliate, as this can just make things worse. It might be difficult, but try to ignore the bullies. If someone threatens you harm, you may report this to the authorities by saving, printing, and making a police report.
- Block any users that send you nasty messages. Just don’t get into drama, block them.
- Save and print out any bullying messages, posts, pictures or videos you receive or see – whether it is to you or someone else. Make a note of the dates and times of bullying messages, along with any details you have about the sender’s ID and the URL.
- Don’t make or pass on cyber bullying videos or messages. Don’t ignore it. If you see cyber bullying going on, report it and offer your support.
Google yourself every now and again. It will show you what is online about you and what others can see and you can make changes if you don’t like what you see.
Other Well Versed Thoughts on this case:
Gail-Elaine Tinker, M.S. is a Psychotherapist in the Lehigh Valley, PA who specializes in Trauma, Grief, Autism, Chronic Pain, and General Psychology. Go to www.tinkerpsychotherapy.com to learn more about her counseling and her desire to help others.