Hundreds mourn B.C. bullying victim Amanda Todd
The organizer behind the global vigils that took place for British Columbia bullying victim Amanda Todd says she believes Todd’s story has the potential to inspire real change.
“I have no doubt in my mind that the millions of people who have seen Amanda’s video, whether they are being bullied or contributing to bullying, in one way or another it’s made in impact,” Navi Gill told CTV News Channel on Saturday.
Gill co-ordinated a candlelight vigil for Todd through her organization Global Girl Power.
After posting the event on Facebook, Gill said she was stunned to see the event catch on so quickly.
Candlelight vigils across Canada and overseas took place in honour of Todd on Friday night, as mourners gathered to remember the Coquitlam teen and vowed to prevent others from undergoing the same pain.
“Over seven days, every day we had cities joining us,” said Gill, with vigils taking place as far away as India, Spain, Russia and Japan. “The global response was unbelievable.”
Gill said it’s vital for those who are witnesses to bullying to not simply stand idly by.
“It’s really important when you know someone is suffering to speak out on their behalf if they’re not able to do so,” she said.
During the vigil Gill told the crowd she too was bullied in high school, and called on those gathered to protect bullying victims.
“Amanda made me even more sure than I was before that as an individual, you must step up so others don't get stepped on,” she said.
Emotions ran high during the events, as some vowed to stand up against the kind of suffering that led to Todd’s suicide, while others remembered a girl overwhelmed by depression.
“A lot of people loved her. As much as she didn't want to believe it or she couldn't believe it, people did,” fellow teen Danica Raman told CTV British Columbia Friday night.
“If she was here today and she saw this, she'd be so overwhelmed,” said Josie Driscoll, who knew Todd.
Driscoll said she hoped the vigils would help make more people realize that bullying might be common, but it’s not acceptable.
“I really hope it makes a difference, because everyone gets bullied at least once in their life,” she said.
One of the largest gatherings took place at Holland Park in Surrey, B.C. Attendees wore pink in Todd’s memory and Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts urged others who are similarly being bullied to seek help.
"The death of Amanda Todd is a heart-wrenching case of exploitation, torment and ultimately suicide. No child should feel such pain and helplessness,” Watts said.
“To those are that are still suffering in silence, I want to send one message: that there is help available and that you are not alone. You need to just reach out.”
The observances came the same day that eight girls were charged by police in an alleged case of physical, emotional and online harassment of one student at a high school in London, Ont.
The girls are each charged with criminal harassment and have been released from custody on a promise to appear in court. Police said information about the alleged bullying came from direct statements and through an anonymous reporting portal on the school’s website.
Todd killed herself on Oct. 10, after enduring an incident of Internet sexual exploitation and years of bullying by her peers.
A month before her death, she posted a video to YouTube in which she flipped through dozens of cards, writing her story in short, black sentences.
She said she was in Grade 7 when she was lured by an unidentified male to expose her breasts during a chat. A year later the man threatened that if she didn't give him “a show,” he would send the webcam picture to her friends and family. She didn’t follow his wishes and he went through with his threat.
In the video that has now been viewed more than 8.5 million times, Todd described more recent bullying over her relationship with a boy that escalated to an assault that left her lying bloodied in a ditch.
She said she tried to kill herself twice.
Her last words on the video were: "I have nobody. I need someone."
Police have launched an investigation into all aspects of Todd’s case, but were forced earlier this week to deny online rumours and accusations that named a Vancouver-area man as Todd's tormentor.
Police said the rumours and resulting Internet vigilante threats were delaying their investigation.