Adolescents have an amphibious relationship to the legal world; they are somewhat accountable before the law, and yet in many ways beyond it, so that while an adult could readily sue a coworker for giving him a black eye, or sue the company he works for, high school students often simply have to stick it out when they get bullied. But when bullying becomes systematic, cruel, and persistent, teenagers, who are already struggling with becoming an adult, can be lead to despair. This has come starkly into public light with Amanda Todd, a Canadian teen who produced a video about being bullied went viral.
The 7 minute video features Amanda expressing her story through a series of messages written on a stack of papers. They detail how she was tricked into flashing a stranger on her webcam and how the man later attempted to blackmail her with the pictures, sending them out to “everybody” as the police explained when they visited 4 a.m. The cyber-bully had access to her friends and family.
This gave her panic attacks, major depression and anxiety. She then details how a fellow student pretended to be interested in her only to orchestrate her public humiliation; his girlfriend, accompanied by the boy and also a crowd of students, punched her repeatedly till she fell on the ground in a ditch; this was video taped and later shared among students. On Facebook, people commented that she deserved it and they hope she dies.
Alcohol, drugs, and cutting were her desperate attempts to overcome her pain, and she made a suicide attempt by drinking bleach. She attempted to change school, but fellow students sent pictures of ditches and bleach bottles to haunt her and mock her pain, and her troubled past caught up with her.
The cards conclude with her saying “I have nobody. I need someone. My name is Amanda Todd…”
The viciousness and persistence of the students’ cruelty does not speak well of human nature, but fortunately most people outgrow such things. Amanda will not outgrow it. She commit suicide last Wednesday.
Her family has not publicly commented, but many people want her video to be her legacy. There are some concerns that it might inspire copy-cat suicides, but it is hoped teens realize through it how damaging their cruelty can be, and are meanwhile reassured that they are not alone in their turmoil.
The gym where Amanda was a cheerleader posted a statement on its Facebook page:
“I ask that we all watch her video and share her story so that her loss is not in vain. Allow this to be her legacy. Allow us to all look around and find the next Amanda before another precious spunky teenager is lost.”
Legislation can’t fully reach this community. Amanda, for one, said she didn’t press charges against being attacked at school because she “wanted to move on.” Many hope that schools can foster an attitude where bullying is seen for what it is, a vicious and deplorable way to treat one’s peers, and somehow communicate to teenagers that no matter how bad it seems, life will get better.