Bullying: A Perspective

Some stories are timely, and some timeless. There are stories defined by the moment in which they happened, and there are those that have no beginning and no end. Unfortunately, whether they make the headlines or go quietly unnoticed, the innumerable stories of bullying and suicide are stories the world cannot seem to permanently cease. As I am sure many of you have read or seen on the news, 15-year-old Canadian teen, Amanda Todd, took her own life on Oct. 10 to escape years of bullying.

It started in her seventh grade year, when she would spend nights at her friend’s house and video chat with strangers; one individual even convinced her to flash the camera. That same man began to threaten Todd left and right, saying that he would send the picture of her bare chest to everyone if she did not “put on a show.” He obtained all of her personal information, including her address and the names of her family and friends.

Eventually, Todd was informed that her picture had been circling the Internet and she began to be taunted by everyone she knew. Todd transferred to multiple different schools, moved houses, developed depression and anxiety disorders and even abused drugs and alcohol. The bullying persisted. The man responsible created a Facebook page with her chest as the profile picture, and the teasing accelerated again. She was used by an older male friend, physically assaulted by his girlfriend and still attacked on Facebook. She attempted suicide by drinking bleach and was rushed to the hospital.

Even after her family’s second move, Todd could not escape the attacks. On Sept. 7, she posted a video on Facebook that went viral. It showed her motioning through a series of flashcards that told her story of pain and endless bullying. Just over a month later, she was gone. While Todd’s story is nothing short of tragic, what about the thousands of other cases of bullying that happen every day, many that lead to suicide as well? These nightmares are happening around every corner, in every city and state in the US, yet the only one with enough of our attention happened outside our borders. That’s not to say that Todd’s case is any less heart-wrenching, but what about the horrible things that happened to teens such as 16-year-olds Shania Gray of Texas or David Hernandez of New York? Their stories haven’t even touched the news, yet they suffered the same hellish tormenting that Todd did.

In September, young Shania Gray from Carrollton, Texas, babysat the two children of the man who went on to rape her. After many declines to babysit for him again and threatening to testify about the rape, he threatened to kill her if she sold him out. The man made a fake Facebook account to “get more details about the case” from Gray, and used a prepaid cell phone to set up a meeting with her at her high school. He met her there and convinced her to get into his car to talk. He then drove her to a remote area near a river, shot her twice and stepped on her neck until she stopped breathing. Now, after the trauma he caused Gray and the grief he brought upon her family, the man is trying to plead insanity saying that he had no intention of hurting Gray; that “demons came over him” and he had no control of himself.

Last month, high school junior David Hernandez, of East Hampton, New York took his own life after being constantly bullied about his sexual orientation. His mother blamed his suicide on the school administration that ignored the struggles that Hernandez was facing because he was a Latino immigrant; the second at the school to commit suicide in less than three years.
Where does the bullying end? When will the time come that people like Amanda Todd will not fight a daily battle against their peers who taunt their appearance, when people like David Hernandez can be given the freedom and courage to flaunt their ethnicity and sexual orientation, or when teens like Shania Gray can be free from caution and fear when seeking to make a little extra cash?

The countless number of suicide hotlines and anti-bullying organizations such as To Write Love on Her Arms and The Trevor Project should be a fair hint that bullying is a serious problem that continues to proliferate through society.

But what measures can be taken to bring it to a halt? Could Shania have knowingly avoided that man? Could Amanda’s parents have done anything more to prevent her death? Was David expected to hide from his true self for the rest of his life? The real issue with bullying is that there are so many different issues involved. There is not one classification of hatred – there are several. There can only be hope that sometime in the future, in the most cliché of terms, “world peace” will exist, not just between nations, but by neighbors alike.

I hope dearly for humanity that it may grow tired of the tragedies that happen left and right and be able to find the good in everyone. However, that possibility is far off. The world thrives on conflict, and putting others down to raise ourselves up. Being vulnerable and emotional is a part of being human, and there’s nothing harder that maintaining a positive image of oneself when everyone around is throwing darts at it. Bullying is a real issue, and it can be stopped, if only to find the good in everyone. Whether you find meaning in religion or fate, by getting the most out of the world or by finding your place in it, life is meant to be a gift, and the world is meant to be a beautiful place, for everyone.

Some people should focus more on building up their own lives and less on tearing down others. But don’t think that if you don’t outwardly harass people that you aren’t involved in the issue. The end of bullying and such tragedies is the responsibility of the bully, the bullied and everyone else involved; it’s a team effort. We live in a society that makes it so easy to pull people down; technology has facilitated harassment capabilities; and caution needs to be taken to cease misfortunes like those of Amanda Todd, Shania Gray, David Hernandez and so many others.

Cassandra Vick is a first-year criminology, law and society major. She can be reached at cvick@uci.edu.