While no good ever comes from bullying, at least the police are starting to take its tragic consequences a bit more seriously. After 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick committed suicide by jumping off of a tower at a concrete plant in Florida as a result to online and extreme in-school bullying, police charged two underaged girls who pushed her to the edge. Even more heartbreaking, the police didn’t even have to investigate the case very far – it was a coldhearted Facebook post from the older bully, a 14-year-old, that made authorities act quickly.
“‘Yes, I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself but I don’t give a f**k”, the post read (without the stars, of course.)
Authorities in central Florida said Rebecca was tormented online and at school by as many as 15 girls prior to her death on September 9th. According to a sheriff on the case, the older girl threatened to fight Rebecca while they were sixth-graders at Crystal Lake Middle School a year prior, and told her “to drink bleach and die.” The younger bully, who was 12-years-old, used to be best friends with Rebecca until the 14-year-old convinced her to join in on the hatred (to the extreme where the 12-year-old actually physically beat up Rebecca based on the peer pressure.)
The bullying was said to have started over a boy, as Rebecca reportedly used to date someone who was now involved with the older girl. Her parents tried to alleviate the problem by sending her to get mental help after they realized she’d been cutting herself, and also tried to transfer her out of the school – but the attacks continued through the internet.
Both girls were charged as juveniles with third-degree felony aggravated stalking, and police are questioning whether or not to charge their parents as well.
The parents of the older girl are sticking with the theory that her Facebook was hacked, which – come on. According to the police, she already admitted that she had taken part in bullying Rebecca. She said she had sent Rebecca a Facebook message saying that “nobody” liked her, and also admitted that she texted Rebecca that she wanted to “fight” her.
“My daughter’s a good girl and I’m 100 percent sure that whatever they’re saying about my daughter is not true,” the 14-year-old’s father said to reporters.
His neighbor, George Colom, said that while he’s never interacted with the girl, he saw her playing roughly with other children outside. “Kids getting beat up, kids crying,” Colom said. “The kids hang loose unsupervised all the time.”
All of this should bother you – it’s becoming too common for kids to kill themselves over the stress of being bullied at all hours of the day. Rebecca’s family must be devastated that hurtful comments were enough to push her over the edge, when the only real “crime” she committed was liking a boy – a completely normal and healthy practice for a 12-year-old.
It should also bother you that parents aren’t taking accountability for their children. They’re too quick to blame hackers, despite the fact that the evidence is clear. It’s similar to the story of the children who destroyed NFLer Brian Holloway’s house – despite proof all over the internet, parents were quick to pull the “not my child!” card, and refused to help the victim.
I’m beyond thrilled that police considered the stalking and bullying a crime – even though both of the criminals were quite under-aged, it serves as a message that these incidents are extremely serious, and threats and negativity posted online can last forever. Hopefully age will bring wisdom to these two children, and they’ll realize that their horrific actions only encouraged a girl to end her life that could have been positive and fulfilling.
If you’re being cyberbullied, or witness cyberbullying, here are some actions you can take:
First, don’t address the negative comments. Any type of reaction will only inspire the bully to keep the harsh words coming. Second, make sure to save every incident. Take screencaps, report the times the cruel comments were posted, and compile enough evidence against your cyberbully. Afterward, block the bully from your Facebook wall, and try your hardest to monitor your privacy on social networking sites. Always remember to never post anything you’d be ashamed of your grandparents seeing. Photos have a habit of being circulated, regardless of your settings.
Any evidence of violence or stalking can be taken to the police. And trust me – they’ll take you seriously. Don’t try to shrug off any threat. Living your life in fear is not a healthy way to live, and nobody whose worth knowing will give you grief for trying to stay safe.
Lastly, remember that no bully is ever worth extreme measures. Know who else was bullied in school? Sandra Bullock, based on her clothes. Justin Timberlake, for being more into music and the arts than football. Tyra Banks, for the size of her forehead. Jessica Alba, for not having a lot of money growing up. Jennifer Lawrence, who had to change elementary schools based on how bad the girls treated her. And many, many other people who are talented, beautiful, successful, and real. Just like you.
Image Credit: dailymail.co.uk (Memorial), Alan Archibald (featured), everyjoe.com (Facebook)