It’s November 29th, 2016. Brandy Vela’s family is in their home in Texas, when she decides to end her life. Her sister heard her crying, came into the room and saw Brandy with a gun to her chest. The eighteen year old took her life, having been pushed to the edge by bullying. Her final text to her family was “I love you so much just remember that please and I am sorry for everything”. Her family tried to dissuade her, but the teen said that she had gone too far to turn back.
Stop and think about that. This is someone’s sister, someone’s daughter, someone’s friend. She could have been a doctor, a lawyer, an artist… she could have been anything she wanted; but her potential will never be realized. Why? Because people can be cruel. In this age of technology and photo shop it is far too easy to grab a photo and, say, put a person’s head on a pig’s body to remind them of how fat they are. It’s too easy to verbally abuse someone online, while you are safe at home- you can even do it anonymously. To many, this is just a “joke”. Just for kicks. Just this last month I have seen at least two dozen memes of people, unflattering and hurtful, and on the pick it will say “I’m looking for so-and-so”. You get the drift. There will be pages of cruel comments and laughter- what if that was your picture someone used? It happened, you know. A woman with a birth defect so that her face is imperfect saw her picture used like that. It’s cruel and petty, my only consolation is that not only did she have the confidence to not let it hurt her too badly but she had the strength to speak out.
Let’s talk numbers. Some people think that this is a small thing- it can’t happen in their community. They “would know” if it were happening to their kids. But how would anyone know? Unless the victim discussed what was going on, how would they have any idea of what was happening. So many victims are ashamed, they assume that it will get worse if they talk; or they feel they did something to deserve this. This is happening everywhere- it can hit anyone. I found this on a website about different cyberbullying cases and it just broke my heart.
Now I am not saying that bullying, cyber or otherwise, is behind all these numbers; I just feel like it’s risen a lot in the last decade and a half when these things became more prevalent. A good website I found with information on this is stop bullying.
That said, what can you do about it? Talk to the young people in your life- even if it makes you “uncool”. Share Brandy’s story. Make sure they understand just how badly these types of things can hurt and that they should talk to you if they see it online. Monitor what they are doing online. I know we are going into the uncool category again, but if they are being harassed you need to know. Tell them all the time all the things that make them special- not just looks. Their intelligence, or what they can do that no one else can. Boost their self image so that they can’t be torn down, or wish to tear anyone else down. Explain their importance to you. If you believe your child might be bullying another, put a stop to it. There are therapy groups, councilors, people that can help. I fear that “disciplining” the culprit will sometimes only make them angry. Make them lash out. We have to see why they behave this way and help them fix this. Together, as a family and a community, we can stop bullying. I firmly believe this. But everyone has to be all in. I am invested in stopping bullying of all kinds. I am all in.