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Cyber-Bully Victim Dies of Huntington’s Disease
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Kathleen Edward, 9, from Trenton, Michigan, passed away from Huntington’s disease on Wednesday. The disease also killed her mother back in 2009. In 2010, a neighbor from the same block as Edward, Jennifer Petkov (33), began bullying the girl on the internet.

The cyber abuse began on a Facebook page in the name of Petkov. Petkov posted pictures of Kathleen’s mother being held by the Grim Reaper and of Kathleen above crossbones. Petkov was also accused of building a coffin along with her husband Scott, putting on the family truck, and parading past the Edward home while honking the horn.

  
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Petkov said she posted the photos for personal satisfaction because she knew it would upset the girl’s grandmother. During the time of the abuse, the grandmother and Petkov were in the midst of a heated battle that supposedly had Petkov peeved because her children were not invited to a birthday party the grandmother held.

Social media pages attacking Petkov began appearing all over the internet as the plight of the little girl gained media attention across the country. The Petkov family reportedly also received death threats and their house was egged multiple times. Petkov did apologize to the family, saying that her actions were ignorant.

“This is probably the most extreme case of cyber-bullying I’ve ever heard of,” said Cheryl Dellasega, author and professor of humanities at Penn State University College of Medicine in Hershey, Pennsylvania. “It’s another way that people can say things that are really cruel that they wouldn’t say to somebody’s face. They’re angry, resentful and jealous and put it up on Facebook knowing that the other person will see it.”

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A professor and clinical psychologist at the University of Virginia, Peter Sheras, had the following to say about Petkov and her actions:

“We don’t have very good skills at managing conflict,” said Sheras. “We don’t have enough mechanisms for socializing people into civility.”



A clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Ken Robbins, said, “Some people don’t make it to full moral development and don’t learn about empathy or feel guilt or remorse. It’s a way to feel like they’re taking control of a situation, acquiring power by demeaning others and by making others feel humiliated.”

Some experts also think that there could very well be an underlying psychological problem in adults who bully.

“I have to wonder if there wasn’t some pathology involved that they would need to express something so heinous online,” said Dellasega. “They couldn’t work their negative feelings out in some other way, like through counseling.”

Experts say that people need to be given more lessons in civility so that cyber-bullying does not become a national epidemic, especially since these cases are highly publicized in the media.

“There are lots of ways to solve problems. We need to have a commitment to actually resolve the problem in different ways,” said Sheras.

“We need classes on being a good citizen, on supporting each other and being aware of the culture we live in,” said Dellasega.



 

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