But this post is extremely serious.
An issue far too close to home, literally and figuratively, has shocked and saddened me, along with most of the world aware of it. I have been losing sleep over it. So I figured I would take to the blog to vent and decompress a little.
For those of you who aren't aware of the suicide of a 15 year old girl named Amanda Todd, you can read about her heartbreaking experience and tragic early death here. You can also view the video cry for help that she posted on YouTube here, one month before she took her own life.
|This post is for 15 year old Amanda Todd, who took her own life in Port Coquitlam, BC. (Image credit: Facebook)|
I am furious. Furious that no one could help her. Furious that kids are that cruel. Furious that some sick bastard lured her into trusting him and then would not cease humiliating her. And furious that all kinds of school board members and politicians are making heartfelt statements about bullying being a community issue that should be stopped... without any real plan, course of action, or tangible solution for kids experiencing this.
Solutions suggested thus far? Talk to your parents. Talk to a counsellor. Seek help.
Because that will stop the asshole kids who taunt, name call, harass, humiliate, follow, shout out, circle, threaten, assault, and terrorize victims.
Think I sound harsh? Think I am only referring to extreme cases? I am not. If you were lucky enough to escape bullying in your youth, you are one exception to this.
Why am I so very extremely furious? Because I was in her shoes 22 years ago, and I continued to wear them until after my sister was married. Yet without the proliferation and immediate humiliation of social media, which only makes things exponentially worse.
My personal hell started in grade 5 or so. I held hands with a boy two years older than me. That is when I recall the worst of the torment starting. I was called a slut, a whore, a hooker. I had groups of girls who would walk around me in a circle, yell obscene things at me, and tell me I was a worthless piece of shit.
I WAS TEN YEARS OLD.
TEN GODDAMNED YEARS OLD.
Wash, rinse, repeat. It didn't matter if I was kind, or quiet, or crying. It didn't matter if I ignored them, pretended I couldn't hear them. It didn't matter if I ignored the boys who liked me, or if I played terribly in gym class. Didn't matter if I made the volleyball team, found excuses to not go outside at lunch or if I didn't go out socially.
Back then the biggest technological advance was three-way calling, in which you could be convinced to share something personal only to find out that your crush, or your enemy, was listening on the line the entire time. But then, the worst was through word-of-mouth, and I dreaded getting on the country school bus the next day. It wasn't broadcast instantly to hundreds of others via Facebook. The thought makes me shudder.
I know, and I think that you will agree, that most kids just have a deep, deep desire to be accepted. To be "one of the group", and to feel like they have a place to belong. If kids reject you, you try to make friends with other people. You try to find your place. The place where you can be yourself without being torn to shreds and left in tears. You try to find even one friend who will let you feel like you are not alone in this world.
Amanda Todd did just that. She was trying to meet people. She chatted online with others. And being young, unaware and impressionable, when someone showed her that friendliness and acceptance, I imagine that Amanda felt a huge weight lifted off - a huge relief to finally connect with another person. She found solidarity and someone who was kind and complimentary to her.
|Amanda M. Todd died October 10, 2012. (Image Credit: Facebook)|
How could she have known, at 12 years old, that the sick f*ck on the other end of the chat was a man looking to destroy her sense of self worth?
Amanda Todd trusted her new friend, and in a moment of youthful indiscretion - a moment that she could not have begun to comprehend what possible consequences would be involved - she did something risky and "big girl" and she flashed her webcam as asked.
Before you say "Amanda should have known better, she should never have done that, she didn't know who it was, or what they could do with the image", I'd like you to ask yourself the differences between your jaded, aware adult brain (aware of the evil that some people are capable of in this world) and what your mind was thinking of at the age of 12. My guess is that the two are very different, and that the 12 year old you was simply seeking the connection, acceptance and compliments of that seemingly kind person on the other end of the chat.
People keep talking about how she "made mistakes" but shouldn't have to pay for them for the rest of her life. But I take that even a step further. She was twelve years old. She likely had no idea that those few seconds in time could last the last three years of her life. Her tormented, lonely life.
Amanda Todd was having an online chat. She wasn't drinking and driving. She wasn't shoplifting. Amanda had fleeting seconds that changed things forever. If it was a normal person on the opposite end of her chat, it would have been a non-issue. It wouldn't be considered a mistake. The moment would have passed and she may have realized she didn't want to do something like that again. In the moment she was being a kid - having fun, trying to be accepted, trying to please. It is only because the twisted idiot that she was chatting with turned it into a disgusting, life changing moment for her. So was it really her mistake? She had no control over what the bastard did with her image after the fact. The blame lies with the harasser, people.
When Amanda didn't provide more graphic content to the harasser, he threatened to share the image with the world. And he did. And the police were called once her exposure was shared with her teachers and friends. And her life would never, ever be the same again.
I remember watching a movie recently where the starlet was accused of sleeping around the school. It was entirely false, but the entire school was made aware within a short period of time. I commented to my husband how horrible bullying and harassment must be today in school, with people being able to simultaneously take your photo or video, upload it online, and share it via Facebook, Twitter and email.
Remember when you tripped in the cafeteria and landed face down in your chocolate milk in grade nine? People laughed, kids pointed, you were called a dumb klutz, someone might have even kicked you when you were down. You may have endured teasing for the week, or a few weeks. But you were never immortalized at once on social media sites for the entire world to see.
And we aren't talking chocolate milk here. We are essentially talking what comes down to some sick pervert posting and circulating a version of child pornography with the world. With malicious and cruel intent.
My personal torment continued into high school. When I wouldn't sleep with my boyfriend at the time, Jay C., I was subjected to being called a "tight bitch", baby, suck, and was told I would die with a tight p**sy. His ex girlfriend Tina, her friend Tammy, his friend Curt, and himself, decided to shout this to me regularly around the door to the school cafeteria.
And this was after months of being followed by Tina and Tammy, with them waiting and staring at me outside my geography class door. I used to feel sick knowing I had no choice but to walk by them to get to my next class. They used to bark at me. Because I was a female dog, a bitch. I assume she was mad that I was dating her ex.
It became so severe and so consuming, I eventually had to drop out for a semester, even though I was on track to graduate a year early. I was being constantly followed in the halls, yelled at, threatened, being told in the same breath that I was a slut and that I was tight. That I was a bitch and that I was a goody two-shoes. It was relentless.
And this was before digital cameras, webcams, hell, even scanners. I have to thank goodness that it wasn't worse than it was, which is really saying something.
Amanda Todd STILL persevered throughout this. She changed schools, twice. It haunted her and followed her no matter where she went. It wasn't just the harasser from the webcam. It was her classmates, people who claimed to like her/be into her/be her friends. Her Mom tried to find help for her. She saw doctors. She was "referred to services".
You know what? IT DIDN'T HELP.
You know why? BECAUSE THE BULLYING DIDN'T STOP.
If you have had traumatic events in your life, you never forget them. Depending on the severity of the traumas, a person can be plagued with flashbacks, intrusive dreams or thoughts, general anxiety, fear, constant vigilance, depression and low-to-non-existent self esteem and feelings of no self worth.
But if they happen, and they stop, you can try to talk through the pain and the hurt and take medication and do your best to survive through it. I've been through some horrible, horrible things that I haven't shared on this blog, but may some day. I still cry about them to this day. And I stumble and struggle and muster through my life as an adult, still not sure how to cope with some of it.
Amanda Todd tried to cope with this from age 12 to 15.
You tell me how the hell A CHILD can make sense of something like this.
I had to stand and testify at 16 years of age. I had the support of my parents, my sister, and I sat there wanting to just die and never have to think again.
Somehow, we got through it. Somehow.
Amanda was dealing with such torment on such a massive scale, and she tried to get away from it. She moved schools, she moved out of her city, she could never get away.
Amanda Todd's suffering was inescapable, because no matter what medications, therapies, counselling or support that could have been offered to her - no matter the amount of love from her family, or those who were as close to friends as she had - the harassment never stopped.
If, for some reason, you are a teenager, or a young adult, or adult reading this who is experiencing such torment - please know that ONE DAY it will stop, even if it means changing your name completely and moving to another province, state or country. Even if it means adopting an entirely different email address, cutting off communication with people from your old life, and deleting any and all Facebook, YouTube or Twitter accounts. YOU CAN ESCAPE IT, even if it seems impossible.
But this is where I am also furious.
It's damn hard, and the effects run deep.
The elementary school where I was followed, circled, and threatened to be stabbed at the end of the school year? Yeah, they had a "zero tolerance" policy for bullying. The girl threatening to kill me, Tricia G*****s, was part of the "troubled child" part of our school. They got to play video games and go bowling because they "had issues". I got to cry myself to sleep at night and live in fear at school.
That's a really clutch policy there.
The high school where my friend was beaten and had her head slammed into ceramic tile? The one where I was shoved, barked at, humiliated and followed? Well, P.J. also had a zero tolerance policy. Even on the stand, when I testified at my friend's trial about the abuse she suffered, one of the school counsellors, Pam B., managed to quote the wrong date on the stand and essentially throw both her and our testimony into question. Nothing was ever done. The tormenting didn't stop, until those bullies left school, and then finally when I got the hell out and went to college in another city.
You can make all the committees you want, school board. You can have a compendium on bullying and vow that the community needs to step in. You can have think tanks about what services should be available to students.
IT'S ALL BULLSHIT.
Because the very thing that needs to be changed is ALLOWING THE BULLIES TO KEEP BULLYING.
I talked my face off through my experience. My mom listened to tears and worry and sadness for days on end. My dad tried to step in and tell a few to stop or else we would pursue things through police. I had counselling, I talked to doctors, I was medicated.
IT ONLY CHANGED ONCE THE BULLIES WERE REMOVED FROM MY LIFE.
So while I would be pissed off if the community didn't respond with some kind of strategy to improve things, it ultimately comes down to the fact that TALK IS CHEAP.
I wish they could start implementing mandatory reporting from classmates, surveillance on the school ground, strict expulsion for students who bully, kids who monitor for such activity in case the bullies corroborate each others' stories and claim innocence, and strict legal and criminal record penalties for verbal, emotional and physical abuse for anyone regardless if they are under 18.
But you know what? Then the bullies wait until kids like Amanda Todd are off school property and are walking home. Or until they are on the city bus, or at the mall. Or they take to the internet, where there appears to be no goddamn consequences or follow up to online harassment.
THERE NEEDS TO BE SERIOUS, LEGAL CONSEQUENCES FOR BULLIES. If this were adults tormenting each other with hurled insults, stalking and threatening emails, it would be taken slightly more seriously.
But yet the burden of proof still lies with the victim.
Our justice system is warped. Victims are being further victimized.
When I was 15 and trusted an older guy who seemed to like and accept me, I was victimized. I even went to trial. I sat on the stand and had to detail every last humiliating detail.
You know what happened?
He got 3 months of house arrest, and the local paper cut me to shreds.
|Amanda, I'm so sorry that you endured this and that no one could stop the bullying. (Image Credit: YouTube)|
I am so sorry you had to endure this hatred, this evil, Amanda Todd. I wish that you didn't take your own life, as do the GOOD people of Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam, Port Moody, Burnaby, Vancouver, and the rest of the people who have a heart and a soul in this world.
I hope that you may rest in peace finally, since there is no way for us to help you now. I wish we could get you back and help you escape it and make the bad guys pay for all they have done. I hope that something, anything, positive can come of this, since we can't get you back, but the world has noticed how insane things were allowed to get, with nothing being done.
I hope that your sad, early, unnecessary death will help others out there hang on a little longer, be able to find others experiencing the same, and be able to survive the torment.
Amanda Todd didn't deserve this.
Something big needs to change.