Tough action needed to bring bullies to justice

Too often you hear of children taking their own lives because bullies drove them to a dark world that they could not escape from.

A child died last week. She didn’t have to. But 15-year-old Amanda Todd was so cruelly victimized by bullying that she took her own life last Wednesday.

In a heart-wrenching online video posted a month ago, she told her stark story on simple, hand-written cards. It was almost too painful to watch. She had been swept up by Internet chat rooms, sidelined by flattery, and was then persuaded to flash her breasts. That image was sent to everyone she knew and across the Internet. That single mistake became her head-on crash with the virtual world and the real one.

Her life spiralled into a nightmare of taunts, a beating, and endless harassments by both cyber and on-the-ground bullies and tyrants. And somewhere out there is the original creep who started this mess. In tow were the low-life nothings who continued to drive Amanda on and who, even now, continue to post cruel comments on line.

Where does this level of bullying come from?  The Internet with its chat rooms and social sites sheltered in a lawless unchartered cyber world is one place to start. People can say anything about anyone and never face the consequences. And what about the accountability of sites like Facebook?  Bullies can hide behind faceless anonymity for years.

There have always been bullies. But when many of us were growing up, a swift upper cut to the nose took care of them. Law authorities might call that assault today. Back then – at least pre-Internet days – we’d call it justice. Some healthy, assertive push-back made sure the gig was up. Not so now. Bullies attract the morally-challenged swarm crowd, those clones who stand around jeering, pushing the bullies on, and videoing images on their cell phones to upload to YouTube for millions to see. Remember the 16-year-old girl who police say was gang raped at a rave party in Pitt Meadows in 2010? The kid who posted the images got 12 months’ probation this year. How does that compensate for the level of torment done to a teenager? Charges against the one man accused of sexual assault were stayed.

The cruelty by children and youth toward their peers is a dark world that is often marginalized. We know it’s there. We don’t know how to process it. The swarm mob reminds me of the murder of Rena Virk in 1997 when teenagers, later called the Shoreline Six, severely beat her before she was murdered by Kelly Ellard.

Amanda’s tragedy is society’s tragedy. Too often you hear of children taking their own lives because bullies drove them to a dark world that they could neither cope with nor escape from. Anxiety, fear, depression, zero self-worth, and loneliness all ate away at their psyche and their soul, driving them further and further into isolation.

Tweens (8-12 year olds) and young teenage children are at high risk for sexual assault and our society provides the ‘tools’ – films, music, magazines, fashion, and cosmetics all emphasizing their youthful sex appeal. And even before that, there are those hideous beauty contests for pre-schoolers. For many people, they are nothing short of child abuse.

Amanda Dodd’s story has gone viral. Her crisis will be raised in the House of Commons this week with NDP MP Dany Morin calling for a national bullying prevention strategy. Premier Christy Clark, who championed pink shirt day, was all over the media about bullying last week. As parents, schools, and families search for solutions, the RCMP  has begun an investigation into Amanda’s suicide, drawing on tips and tracking the original unnamed ‘he’ in her video.

That person needs to be found and held to account. Because a child died last week.

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