Thursday, October 18, 2012

Amanda Todd, Bullying, and Bullshit Committees

I usually try to keep this blog light. And by light, I mean frivolous, pointless, full of profanity, and lots of ridiculous photos modified in MS Paint. (Don't mock, I'm using a PC and have no apps. Also? I suck at art).

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.



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.

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.



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.


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.

It's bullshit.

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.

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  1. How sad this is. And sadder continues everywhere. Like gang members...bullies are known. Why can't they be sent someshere...where they are all together. They should not be given access to any technology. Those who brush it off saying.."Kids will be kids." I could just slap the shit out of them.
    For you? I have prayers. Only prayers. And I wish you peace. It is good that you got this message out.

    1. @middle child - Thanks for your words. These evil people need more than slaps. A long prison sentence is just the start.

      I will survive. I have survived. It's the kids I worry about. My niece, my nephew, and every other teen out there who is dealing with this and feeling like there is nowhere to turn.

  2. I promise this isn't SPAM. Some people from Anonymous tracked down the guy who started it all. The groups he belonged to online are hearbreaking.

    There was recently a redditor that was "outed"... he ran subreddits like "jailbait" and "creepshot". Gawper revealed his identity, and people are crying foul. Because apparently they thing a guy who takes pictures of women's boobs and posts them on the internet is protected under free speech. But free speech works both ways, and I never saw anything about "the right to remain anonymous".

    I hope they get enough evidence to convict Mr. Maxson. I hope he goes to jail for extortion. It won't fix Amanda Todd, but hopefully it will send message that people really won't put up with that shit.

    1. @Leauxra - I've put some screens in place to prevent haters and flamers from further disrespecting this topic.

      My husband first told me about Anonymous. I hope to hell that the bastards have to answer to this. Truly.

    2. Me, too. I was also terribly bullied in middle school. I can't even imagine if it were online, too. I simply have to believe that humans are better than this.

    3. @Leauxra - At times like this when the torment and harassment continues after her death, it really makes me question in. I'm sorry you endured it, too.

      I can't seem to stop crying. The more I learn, the worse I feel.

  3. I've been so sad reading about this, first that she couldn't get the help she needed, and that the police could track these creeps down. I'm glad someone outed him, though it seems there are a couple guys being accused. I'm maybe not tracking the details as closely as I could.

    But you hit the nail on the head. Until the bullying stops, nothing else can really help. And bullying isn't the right word in her case at least, criminal harassment and assault are more like it.

    I think it's a shame that we all know so many ways to make other people unhappy, and actually act on a regrettably large number of them. Imagine if we put that much effort into making other people happy?

    1. @Keith - I didn't get into the physical assault, but you are right. It goes beyond bullying. And bullying just seems to be the catchall term to say kids aren't being nice to each other.

      Which is quite the understatement here.

      Keith, I wish we tried this hard to make others happy. I appreciate everyone leaving a comment here on this. I have faith in you guys. And in my parents and my husband. I wish I could add more people to that list, but my bullies seem to outweigh the kind people.

  4. Oh Steph......I have no words. I wasn't aware of Amanda's story, but thank you for sharing. I've read more about it online after reading your post. How terribly sad. It breaks my heart.

    I was at home last weekend visiting my parents and I was walking my dog through the school yard. The playground brought back so many memories. I thought, "Kids are SO MEAN!"

    Why is that? I don't have the answer, but I know that kids are so mean and school can be so tough. :(

    Thanks for posting this.

    1. @L-Kat - I don't wish to exploit her suffering or her story, but I had to talk. I am so sad and so angry.

      I still feel sick to my stomach even driving by a school. When the time comes that I will have to take my own kids to school, I think the flashbacks are going to be hard to manage.

      Thanks for commenting.

  5. How awful and sad. Bullying is always so awful! I hate when it comes out lke this. My thoughts and prayers with her loved ones :/

    1. @Hey Monkey Butt - It is really awful. I can't imagine how her family feels, since they are still being taunted with horrible insults and images even now. So heartbreaking and unjust.

  6. I had short periods of time that I was bullied. I was teased often, but not always bullied. But I agree, all of that sticks with you. It's the bullies that need changing, not the kids being bullied. I fear for my future kids. Social media is only going to get worse. I feel bad for this girl. A promising young life taken by the worst kind of assholes.

    1. @J. Day - Teasing hurts, too, especially when we are young, vulnerable and impressionable. It sucks to hear you went through it, too.

      Even just on this blog's comments, it's clear that bullying is rampant and has been extremely common for years. But I am damn scared that my future kids may have to experience what Amanda Todd did.

      Your last sentence is utterly perfect.

  7. I am truly sorry that this was something you were forced to deal with in your childhood/teenage years.

    I only heard about Amanda's story briefly. It's sad. I fortunately didn't deal with any bullying when I was in school but the fact of the matter is it's a very real, very tragic problem. And you're right. Something needs to be done. Just providing counsellors and medication (bullshit) and people to "vent" to is not enough. These sick kids find joy in tormnting their peers. I mean seriously... what kid waits after school, or at the mall, or in the neighborhood to bully another??

    But how do we, as adults/teachers/parents/ be everywhere??

    1. @Michael Z. - I know - we can't be everywhere. It's disturbing and feels like a no win situation.

      If we can start putting harsh consequences in place for bullies - expulsion, removal, or some kind of serious legal consequence... I'd hope that something would help. But it's so rampant, it's so hard to monitor...

      I wish the non-bullies would help to report, record and share with the authorities when they witness bullying. If the good people stick together, there can be power in numbers.

      But there is no easy answer. That's why it's so sad and so hard.

      Thanks for reading, commenting and tweeting. I'd like to think that knowledge is power.

  8. There are so many of us who were bullied. It's sort of amazing to me still how cruel human beings can be.

    1. @pensive pumpkin - It's pretty disturbing knowing that it's so widespread... so common. No wonder we can't get things done as adults, if this behaviour is allowed in childhood.

      I just read today of 8 girls being charged with criminal harassment at a high school in London, Ontario. Apparently their school DOES have an anonymous tip/reporting form exactly for things like that.

      If students could band together and report the awful treatment of their fellow students, perhaps it could improve. I think everyone is just so afraid that they will be the next target.

  9. This post bought me to tears and took me back to a time when I was twelve. Yes I was bullied at school. I was shy, overweight, new kid, perfect target.
    At 12 though, I was also taken advantage of by an older male family member. I was innocent, so trusting and the atention was wonderful. I can so understand how she was able to be manipulated.
    With chldren of my own, it was always a constant fear that they would be subject to the same sort of bullying that I encountered. Happily their schools have always been very proactive and apart from a couple of minor issues (quickly sorted) their growing up has been mainly harrassment free.
    Perhaps there is still hope that eventually, we will find a solution to the awfulness of bullying

    1. @Mynx - I'm sorry, Mynx, I didn't mean to bring up pain for you with this post. It's awful that you had to experience that as a child. It is such a gross violation of trust and innocence. The adults in our families are the very people who are meant to protect us.

      I'm glad to hear that your kids have not been too tormented. I have to hope that something will change, and soon, when it comes to bullying at school and cyber-bullying online. What is happening now is destroying kids and it's only getting worse here in Canada. Schools and the law MUST get tougher. They just have to.

  10. i was bullied throughout school. i was abused and victimized by my own family members. i was called a pathological liar by a psychotherapist who was supposed to help me. when i told trusted adults about what was happening, they didn't believe me.

    it happens all the time. and i hate that it does. i had not heard about amanda, but we have had numerous cases like this down in the states too. schools need to start taking responsibility for teaching children things besides math and science. mandated reporting by adults needs to be enforced. children who report abuse need to be protected and granted immunity. children who abuse or bully other children need to be removed from the school and counseled before they can return to school.

    i worry how many young men and women will die before we figure this out.

    1. @steph gas - Steph that is horrible. I don't even know what to say when you asked for help and sought help and you were shot down and further bullied by your psychotherapist. It's infuriating and must have deeply affected your sense of trust.

      I love the concept of counselling bullies because you KNOW that they are having their own issues at home if they think that acting the way they do is acceptable.

      And my heart breaks knowing that more people will die.

  11. It really is horrible, and it's true, no-one really manages to 'solve' it. I have been bullied several times before but those people who bullied me still continue to do so to others. The really ridiculous thing is that at my school if you go to guidance about it, you are very rarely dealt with. It's shocking! x

    1. @Althea - It sucks you are in the midst of it, and that the bullies continue their work. And pathetic that the guidance counsellors don't do anything - or rarely, if they do.

      If you report it, you should be safe. Action should be taken. There should be consequences - hell, a criminal record.

      School policy needs to change, the law needs to change, and the penalties need to be severe and enforceable without delay.

      Thanks for commenting.

  12. And it is posts like these that I love the most on your blog. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about the glitter T-Rex and airplane seat room doodles. But this? I don't know what you do for a living, but I know that you would make a damned good activist and policy maker. Your own experience, your infallible sense of empathy, and astounding, to-the-point articulation of what is at stake here make me wish you were sitting somewhere making decisions that would introduce actual change.

    I was also bullied in middle school, insults, name-calling, made-up stories behind my back, threats and all. And it feels so futile to say it out loud here, in the circle of people who already understand, when it's the bullies who don't seem to get it no matter how loud you scream. But it's the gender-based violence (perpetrated by both genders, just to be clear) that has my hackles up lately more than anything else. The fact that, the first time my body was touched in a sexual manner, it was a grope by an uninvited and pushed-off stranger, and not a caress. The fact that you are either a tight bitch or a whore, the schizophrenia of which will drive you insane because it masks the true nature of that kind of insult, which is to hurt indiscriminately but have you feel like it is based on something you *did*. I'm done with being sad, it just makes me mad.

    Please keep writing like this. I know it's hard and takes its toll on one's own memories and emotions, but you are so good at it.

    1. @Chris - Thank you for such complimentary, kind words. This post hurts to think about, hurt to write, but brings a little comfort from the kindness of everyone else sharing their stories.

      You are so very right about it taking a toll on my own memories and emotions. I can't really explain how awful I've felt with all this. I can only imagine what Amanda Todd's family is feeling right now.

      These posts are rare. I just hope that people read this. That it makes someone pause, reflect, consider change. Then I look at my blogger stats and see the disgusting search terms that have brought people to this post, and it makes me regret posting it.

      I knew that the bullying impacted me, but I honestly don't think I realized just how deeply it has affected all aspects of my life until now. It's sad that such assholes could leave such an imprint.

      I'm sorry your experience was rotten, too. This just screams to me how unjust and how it's simply far too common. There needs to be punishment, and the law is too warped in my mind.

      I'm curious to know who from my past reads this blog. People who lurk and see my secrets - who judge me, laugh at me, take joy in my failures and struggles and never make their presence known. It's a risk, since my friends and family know who I am.

      I do so very appreciate when you and everyone above here take the time to comment. It helps me to feel connected to others and makes it feel worthwhile to share my stories, silly or serious.

      I'm sure it'll bite me in the ass one day.

      Thanks again, Chris.

  13. I thought I had posted a comment when I first read this post, but apparently not.

    I have no words of wisdom, as all the previous comments have said much what I think as well. I was bullied at my christian school and at church, tho thankfully my memories of school are more of the happy things than the mean. I can look back on the things I remember & compartmentalize. The scary thing for me is there are things i have no memories of which other ppl remember & won't even tell me details of bc they say I'm better off w/o those memories. I trust them & am even grateful that I don't have them! But every once in awhile, considering how aful some of the things I Do remember are, I wonder how awful these things had to be for my mind to protect me like that?

    And then I go back to being grateful I don't remember. I pray protection on my nieces & nephews, and try to teach them that it's never ok to be mean or make someone else feel bad. If parents & schools could focus on raising kids who care abt each other rather than only budgets & test scores... well, it would be a step in the right direction...

    *hugs* thank you for posting this!

    1. @CarrieMarie - How narrow minded of me - I was surprised to hear that the same happens at a Christian school... but kids are kids, no matter their religion, right? And parenting matters so much.

      Having repressed memories is very scary. I personally did about an awful event in my past. No one else knew. I didn't know. Then, about 3 years later, the memories came back one night after I saw something triggering on tv. It was truly awful. I'm not sure what decides when and if your brain thinks it's time to know. But for now, it's probably a blessing that you don't remember and can't remember.

      If you can carry on that way, it's probably best for you. Which makes me sad wondering what happened that was so bad that your brain is protecting you.

      Thanks for sharing your story Carrie... I know it's hard. This post brought up a lot of awful things for a lot of people. Until this post, I didn't realize just how deeply the bullying affected me.

      Hugs back to you!


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