By Caitlin Kelly
It’s shocking and depressing that so many young people, struggling with their sexuality, identity, self-confidence and future wonder how they’ll even survive the next few hours — bullied 24/7 by peers whose toxicity is relentless, vicious, heartless and widespread.
Yesterday’s New York Times carried two stories about the aftermath of teens who killed themselves after having been bullied, one about Joe Bell, the father of 15-year-old Jadin Bell,who committed suicide, who was struck and killed as he walked across the U.S. to draw awareness to the issue, the other about two girls, 12 and 14 (WTH?) arrested in Florida for their behavior after their bullying led to the suicide of Rebecca Ann Sedwick:
In Internet shorthand it began “Yes, ik” — I know — “I bullied Rebecca
nd she killed herself.” The writer concluded that she didn’t care, using
an obscenity to make the point and a heart as a perverse flourish. Five
weeks ago, Rebecca Ann Sedwick, a seventh grader in Lakeland in central
Florida, jumped to her death from an abandoned cement factory silo
after enduring a year, on and off, of face-to-face and online bullying.
The Facebook post, Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County said, was so
offensive that he decided to move forward with the arrest immediately
rather than continue to gather evidence. With a probable cause affidavit
in hand, he sent his deputies Monday night to arrest two girls, calling
them the “primary harassers.” The first, a 14-year-old, is the one who
posted the comment Saturday, he said. The second is her friend, and
Rebecca’s former best friend, a 12-year-old.
Both were charged with aggravated stalking, a third-degree felony and will be processed through the juvenile court system.
What on earth is driving these wretched children to torment one another to death?
“As a child, I can remember sticks and stones can break your bones but
words will never hurt you,” the sheriff said. “Today, words stick
because they are printed and they are there forever.”
I’ve blogged about this before and will likely return to it because, as someone badly bullied in high school for three years, I’ve lived this firsthand. It was long before the Internet, so my bullying was only daily, public and within the physical confines of my Toronto high school.
I arrived at my school at 14, reeling from the sudden move into my father’s home after seven years with my mother; arriving halfway through the year into a group of people who had all grown up together in neighborhood schools and a girl both plagued with acne and intellectual confidence.
I was nicknamed Doglin, barked at in the hallways and a dog biscuit was laid on my desk. Three boys spent a lot of time and energy making sure I was as miserable as they could possibly make me.
Thank heaven for dear friends, male and female, who kept me going. Thank heaven for winning awards for my writing, which buoyed my confidence. Thank heaven for a teen quiz show (then hosted by Jeopardy’s host Alex Trebek) which I competed on two years in a row, taking our school to the semi-finals.
But once bullied, scarred for life.
Here’s my USA Today essay about it.
If you have children you hope to protect from bullying, here’s a link to a free webinar being offered Thursday October 17 at 8pm EST, 5pm PT.
Have you — or you kids — been bullied?
Are you working to prevent teen bullying?