29 October, 2012

Amanda Todd's Legacy

I watched Amanda's video the other day and cried.

Amanda Todd, after being viciously bullied at school and via Facebook and the internet, killed herself earlier this month. Why, you ask?

From Naomi Wolf at The Guardian:

In seventh grade, Todd had logged onto a webcam site where she met a 30-year-old man who cajoled her into showing him her breasts. When she sought to withdraw from the man's persistent attentions, he contacted her via Facebook. He threatened to send the topless photos of her to "everyone" if she did not "put on a show". 
Unfortunately for Todd, it was no empty threat: the man had obtained her personal data, including where she lived and went to school, and made good on his word. When she changed schools to avoid the people who had seen the uncensored photo, he made it his profile picture on Facebook. 
The media, as well as the girl's school, have stressed the issue of bullying in this story, but they must also address adult male cyberstalking and the influence of porn on teenage social interaction. The last two issues are often considered too "difficult" to address in the mainstream, even though their influences are very much ingrained in the mainstream.


There are several issues in Amanda's story. She was the victim of coercion, pornography, bullying, assault - and the systems that are supposed to protect her failed - repeatedly.

There are numerous studies on the how kids are sending explicit images of themselves, images that can never be taken back. The internet makes it so easy to go into another world and do things you never would otherwise. There is a false sense of "trust" on the internet, so many let their guard down. She was stalked by the man she met online, she was violated, repeatedly, for one bad decision.

She tried to do the right thing, to start over, to move on - but others would not let her. Ms. Wolf speaks of the need to address the underlying issues Amanda encountered. A big one is the lack of intervention, the need for vengeance and retribution against someone who just needed a friend.

I wish the police could find the man who exploited her and the kids who beat her and charge them with her murder. They might not have done it directly, but their actions are what brought about Amanda taking her own life. Maybe if we started prosecuting bullies and stalkers for the consequences of their decisions it would send a message that enough is enough.

It is shocking how isolated, cruel and truly not right this situation is.

There are no easy answers here. Yet Amanda's story is far from being a one time thing. Parents reach out to your kids, take time to listen without offering up pat answers. Kids being bullied need you to reach out and be a parent! Reach out to the quiet kid at school, the one who is isolated and alone. Talk to the stranger crying, reach out to someone in need.

Amanda's life was ruined by cruelty. All she was searching for was a little bit of kindness. 

Additional information to stop bullying can be found here.