I’m sure you’ve recently heard the story of 17-year old Canadian girl Rehtaeh Parsons
Rehtaeh tried to commit suicide on April 4th by hanging herself in her bathroom; By the time her mother reached her, she was unconscious. Rehtaeh went in to a coma and just a few days later, her parents decided to take her off of life support, ending her life at just 18 years old.
Rehtaeh was the victim of constant cyber bullying after photographs of her rape at the age of 15 were circulated around her small town. Eventually, the bullying got so bad, Rehtaeh and her family had to move to a different city and try and start fresh.
I wish this was an isolated incident, I wish I could say there weren’t other stories of teens deciding to end their life after suffering harrasment and betrayal at the hands of anonymous internet bullies after they were the victims of horrific crimes. This is not the first such incident: Take another Canadian teen, Amanda Todd: the 15-year old committed herself after pictures of her exposed breasts were leaked; she endured months of cyber bullying and heckling by her classmates and total strangers. She changed schools twice before committing suicide just a month before her 16th birthday.
These heart-breaking incidents happen all too often and it brings a question to light: has the internet created a society of bullies? Profile pictures and harsh words? Where total strangers or people you thought were your friends can post demeaning comments and photographs about you?
The truth is, in this day and age there are too many social networks and other avenues for teens to ostracize their peers. Between Facebok, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube (to name a few), there are literally a ton of chances for these “viral” photographs and videos to be shared, and their hatred along with them.
This culture has got to STOP. Why bully a girl who has already suffered through the ordeal of sexual assault? Why allow her attackers to walk around with a clear conscious while she suffers at the hands of her classmates? And what girl can feel good about herself knowing she is shaming another young girl in public?
This made me think about the prevalence of internet trolling…people who feel okay making fun of others and say hurtful things to strangers because they are “protected” by the anonymity of the internet. These are the same people who wouldn’t bust a grape in a fruit fight but have no problem whatsoever threatening and spreading their hatred and bigotry around the internet. What makes these incidents even worse is the prevalence in which they are joined by countless others. It wasn’t just one or two people harassing Amanda and Rehtaeh, it was a mass of people.
I’m not blaming the internet or social networking; in fact, millions of people use the internet and social networks every day to connect with friends, find jobs, raise awareness and spread positivity. Bullying isn’t new either, people have been bullying each other since the dawn of man (even animals do it) and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon. So what does need to change?
I can’t say. I honestly don’t have any fun tips or advice; I do know that parents should be more vigilant with internet usage and I hate to say it, but more consequences. People need to know that they can’t drive a young girl to take her life without there being some sort of consequence.
I’m not saying send every one of Rehtaeh’s tormentors to jail, but would I be against making them do 100 hours of community service? No, I wouldn’t. And let’s get the parents involved; if they knew that their teen was tormenting a helpless girl, how would they feel? Let’s band together and start making it next to impossible for this type of behavior to exist.
I am deeply saddened by the loss of Rehtaeh, Amanda and the countless others who have been on the receiving end of taunts and threats. My heart goes out to you and I want you to know, I’m in your corner.
Thanks for reading and until next time,