I’ll start this by saying, I have no answers. As a mom, when I think about the incidents of bullying that have been in the media lately I have that worried sick in the pit of my stomach feeling. How could this have been prevented? How can I protect my own daughters from having the same thing happen to them? I think about about Rehtaeh Parsons and I cry. I bawl. But the truth is I’m not really thinking about my kids. I’m thinking about me.
When I read about Rehtaeh Parsons I think, “Dear God that could so easily have been me”. No, I was never a rape victim. But I was mercilessly bullied as a child, physically and verbally abused by my peers from the time I was 8 years old. And my one refuge was my home. I had a good home life, a loving family, and none of the crap that happened at school could follow me back there.
I remember my childhood. School was a danger zone. I was beat up, I was ostracized. I was hurt and I was miserable. But at 3:30 everyday I got to head home, where their taunts couldn’t follow me and the only words I heard were encouraging ones.
I think of the time in Grade 7 when I went to a slumber party because every girl in the class was invited, only once I was there I was forced to sleep on the cement ground behind the furnace. (What if someone had an iphone and photos of me sleeping in the furnace room were posted online? Yeah I realize this doesn’t exactly compare to having photos of you being raped posted online. But I think about how would 12 year old me feel with that small embarrassment constantly in my face?)
I remember in highschool the handful of times some anonymous git called the house muttering death threats in the phone. According to them I wasn’t allowed downtown, and if I continued to go to x coffee shop after school they’d see to it that something nasty happened to me. (What if my parents didn’t have to answer the phone and hand it over to me? What it this was just in my inbox. Every day.)
I recall how once we’d been dating for several years my husband-to-be confided in me the horrible things people at our school had said to him when he first started dating me. (What if instead of private taunts this had been all over his Facebook wall?)
I think of incidents like this and I think… What if it had all been public? Out there on the web for everyone to see? What if the the horrible words they said hadn’t followed me home merely as echoes in my head, but if instead they were in my inbox every time I turned on the computer? How would it affect my relationships with others? If my date or my best friend wasn’t just privately belittled for associating with me, but publicly online, permanently there for everyone to see? How the hell do you live with that? How could anyone live with that?
So my heart breaks for kids like Rehtaeh Parsons and Amanda Todd. How the hell can you cope with cyberbullying? How can you make it stop? I don’t know the answers. For the sake of my kids and their peers I pray that someone does.