Sunday, October 20, 2013

Suicide from Bullying: Should the Bullies Be Held Legally Accountable?

            Tragically, in September, a 12 year-old girl jumped to her death from a tower after being a victim of prolonged bullying and cyberbullying. Like many children who commit suicide when the bullying becomes overwhelming, Rebecca Sedwick apparently decided that taking her own life was the only solution.  Statistics show that victims of bullying are up to nine times more likely to consider suicide as a solution. Not only does bullying need to be addressed and dealt with in schools, but also by parents. No child should ever have to resort to such desperate measures as taking his or her own life. Is holding the bullies accountable and legally liable for the suicide of someone who was a victim of their tormenting the answer? This solution is controversial, but some believe it may be necessary in order to better address the bullying pandemic and possibly save lives.  

Two girls were arrested by the Polk County Florida sheriff and charged with felony aggravated stalking in Rebecca's death. The sheriff has also stated that he believes that the parents of the two tormenters should also be held accountable on a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He also believes the administration of the school also should be held accountable for failing to properly address the victimization of Rebecca. The Polk County sheriff made the arrests because, post the suicide, the bullies seemed to show no remorse. He said that the older suspect was gloating on Facebook, after the suicide, about bullying Rebecca. He believes the arrests have the potential of sending a much needed message to children and teens who bully and torment others in schools, the community, and on the Internet.

The alleged bullying of Rebecca started in December 2012 when she and the two suspects were students at Crystal Lake Middle School. According to a statement from the Polk County Sheriff's Office, Rebecca was bullied online for 10 months and had been physically attacked five times before that. 

The two teen bullies allegedly sent Rebecca menacing messages on Facebook calling her ugly, telling her to "drink bleach and die," and encouraging her to kill herself, according to police reports.  The 14-year-old suspect also allegedly bullied anyone who was friends with Rebecca, according to police, and even encouraged the 12-year-old suspect, who had been Rebecca's friend, to turn on her, as well. 

Clearly, with bullying being an increasing trend and with the statistics showing that bullying has the potential to cause victims to take their own lives, the dilemma needs to be better addressed. Hopefully, the recent arrests of Rebecca’s bullies will send a message to other bullies that such tormenting will not be tolerated. Maybe legal accountability for a bullycide, the suicide committed as a result of being bullied, is an additional answer to such a travesty. What do you think? I would love to read your opinions and comments to this blog post.

Picture credit: sanja gjenero

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