I was bullied as a kid. I was a shy, geeky girl who would cry at the drop of a hat – a prime target for anyone who wanted to assert dominance over me. My childhood experiences are what influenced my advocacy efforts in adulthood. These days I have little patience for bullies whether they are individuals, cliques, or organizations. I am quick to respond to those who use their status, sense of superiority, or power to squash the little guy or gal. The bullied child still lives in me and I remain acutely sensitive to the wounds that harsh words and hateful behavior can create to a child’s psyche.
I was very disheartened to learn from an Associated Press article about the recent suicide of a 12-year-old girl in Florida. The girl – Rebecca Sedwick – jumped to her death at an abandoned concrete plant. Her suicide was allegedly prompted by relentless bullying by primarily two girls – ages 12 and 14.
This story – the story of kids committing suicide to escape bullying – has become far too prevalent. Yet, it is a rare occasion when their deaths make the national news. In Rebecca’s case, the two girls who were bullying her found their way into the headlines when they were arrested as part of a bullying-suicide investigation.
Apparently, the 14-year-old girl posted the following message on Facebook after Rebecca’s death: “Yes, I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself but I don’t give a f**k.” That comment led Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd to arrest the girls. Sheriff Judd “was aggravated the girl’s parents allowed her access to social networks after Rebecca’s death and said he made the arrest so she wouldn’t bully anyone else.” The parents of the 14-year-old assert that their daughter’s Facebook account was hacked, but Sheriff Judd is not buying that story. The two girls were charged with third-degree felony aggravated stalking. According to Sheriff Judd, “even if they are convicted, they probably won’t spend time in juvenile detention because they don’t have a criminal history.”
The bullying began about a year ago “after the 14-year-old girl started dating Rebecca’s ex-boyfriend. The older girl threatened to fight Rebecca while they were sixth-graders at Crystal Lake Middle School and told her “to drink bleach and die,” the Sheriff said. She also convinced the younger girl to bully Rebecca, even though they had been best friends.” According to authorities as many as 15 girls ganged up on Rebecca over that year-long period. They cyber-bullied her by bombarding her with online messages such as “You should die” and “Why don’t you go kill yourself.” Cellphones and computers of the other girls have also been seized and are being reviewed to see if additional girls will be charged.
According to Sheriff Judd, the younger girl that was arrested showed remorse about her actions, but the 14-year-old was “very cold, had no emotion at all upon her arrest.” The 14-year-old’s parents have granted interviews where they adamantly deny that their daughter did anything wrong. Yet, they agree that those who were involved in the bullying should be charged and that the parents of those who did the bullying should be somehow held accountable as well.
What a sad state of affairs – kids bullying kids to the point of suicide. Can’t we do more to stop this madness? Why our some of these children so callous and uncaring about others’ feelings? It seems like bullying these days is even more brutal with the advent of cyber-bullying. It is apparently inescapable for the bullied. Poor young Rebecca could not bear the torment any longer. What a tragedy for her family.
Parents teach your children well. Teach them about how vile bullying is and remind them to exercise compassion toward others. Teach them what to do if they are being bullied. Teach them to speak up if they know of someone else who is being bullied.
A 12-year-old girl should not be made to feel that her only choice is suicide. The children whose taunts and bullying pushed Rebecca to suicide should carry with them the burden of knowing that they played a part in her death. What we say and do matters…what they said and did to Rebecca mattered.
Rest in peace Rebecca. I hope your story will save others from a similar plight. Your death sheds light on the insidious power of bullying to eat away at one’s soul. May your family find some peace in the knowledge that others may be spared because your story has been told.
Day one thousand one hundred and four of the new forty – obla di obla da