B.C. teen's death inspires action against bullying -- online and off
Published Monday, October 15, 2012 10:50AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, October 16, 2012 12:07AM EDT
The Internet -- the same forum that gave Amanda Todd’s tormenters an opportunity to harass her beyond the schoolyard -- has become an organizing point for all those impassioned by the B.C. teenager, who took her own life last week after months of bullying.
Todd was found dead in her Port Coquitlam, B.C., home on Wednesday, about a month after she posted a video to YouTube describing the bullying she endured over a number of months. In the clip, the 15-year-old holds up signs detailing her anxiety and sadness, as well as one that refers to her abuse as a “never-ending story.”
But Todd’s current legacy on social media, where bullies are said to have threatened and taunted the teen, is one of collective reflection. Twitter users posting under the hashtag #RIPAmanda have pledged to wear pink, Todd’s favourite colour, on Monday. Others have posted tribute videos to YouTube, some of which detail the filmmaker’s own struggles with bullying. Memorials have been organized over Facebook, where a page dedicated to Todd had nearly 800,000 “likes” as of Monday afternoon.
The question of how to prevent online bullying reached the House of Commons on Monday, when MPs debated New Democrat Dany Morin’s motion to create a national bullying prevention strategy.
“When we talk about cyber-bullying, through telecommunications regulations it falls right into federal jurisdiction,” Morin told Power Play. “There are so many laws and regulations that the federal government could (enact to) make a big difference in the lives of children who are being cyberbullied.”
Liberal MP Hedy Fry urged the House to act decisively in the face of “a serious, chronic problem.”
“The suicide of Amanda Todd and others who have found death to be their only haven will have been meaningless unless this House summons the political will not only to develop an immediate national strategy to educateand prevent bullying, but to find and punish perpetrators.”
Liberal MP Marc Garneau pointed to Canada’s high rate of bullying compared to other industrialized nations and spoke of the long-term health effects of bullying. “Amanda Todd’s suicide last week is tragic proof this is a public health issue and we must act now.”
Conservative MPs agreed with the spirit of the motion, but noted there are already two parliamentary committees studying the issue.
Queen’s University professor Wendy Craig, of the anti-violence group PREVnet, said the Todd case shows how “we must act as a country.”
“I think it’s fantastic that it came to the Commons today,” she told Power Play. “I think there are things that can be done -- I think it’s a public health issue and we need to take a public health approach, and that involves an education campaign to youth, parents, and anybody who works with children and youth.”
She added that for prevention to be most effective, educators must intervene with children at an early age -- before they turn to bullying.
In the days since her death, Todd’s story has inspired scores of self-described victims to go public with their own stories of bullying. Some who say they’ve moved on from being harassed in childhood offer words of support to others.
In one YouTube video, a woman who identifies herself as a transsexual named Julie Vu describes growing up with depression and an unsupportive family, among other troubles. Her video mimics the style of Todd’s now-famous video. Like Todd, Vu appears in the black-and-white clip with flashcards:
“You only live once / So be strong & Keep your head high / Surround yourself with people who do love you / And things do get better,” Vu’s signs read.
On Facebook, a group devoted to women’s rights has organized a candlelight vigil for Todd. The vigil, planned by Global Girl Power, is scheduled to take place outside of The Legislative Assembly of Manitoba in Winnipeg on Friday evening. Other vigils are slated to be held across the country.
Organizer Navi Gill said the group wants to condemn bullying and encourage lawmakers to devise stricter rules around the Internet and safety online.
“I couldn’t fathom how this girl was crying out for help, reaching out for help and no one heard her and it was too late. But we wanted to do something,” she told CTV British Columbia on Saturday.
Meanwhile, members of the hacker collective Anonymous claimed to have revealed one of the alleged tormenters of Todd.
Anonymous claimed the man helped spread a topless image of Todd and blackmailed her, but the man told CTV British Columbia he was a friend, and it was another man in New York who tormented the 15-year-old girl.
In an email to CTV, a member of Anonymous said: “We generally don't like to deal with police first hand but were compelled to put our skills to good use protecting kids.”
RCMP would not comment on the alleged tormenter, but said investigators had received more than 400 tips in the case.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Shannon Paterson