Cry for Help Ignored: The Amanda Todd Story

By Julio Avila

The death of 15-year-old Amanda Todd from Vancouver, Canada, was the result of online cyber bullying attacks. The only difference with this story is that it has hit the major news networks, as well as many people across the internet sharing the story on social media sites such as Facebook where groups in memory of Todd have appeared.

Her death was sadly the result of pedophilia, bullies but also dumb mistakes that were made on her part. Mistakes that once they are made, can never be undone, and in her case the consequences will last until the internet ceases to exist. Each of us has experienced a time in our lives where we have made stupid mistakes, and have had to pay the price for them. In some cases, the consequences of our mistakes may have been severe in that they may have lasted for a while. One of the places a lot of us may have made mistakes, especially in the digital age, would no doubt be the internet, and on sites such as Facebook.

Is there a picture that you have taken of yourself and it looks embarrassing, insulting towards yourself, degrading yourself and drawing negative attention? Then time passes, you realize how embarrassing, humiliating and insulting the picture is that you want to remove the picture and hope it will be the end of all the negative and lewd comments your picture has received? This is mainly the case of those who post sexually lewd pictures on themselves but whether the person shows up covered or not, most of us get the message the person is trying to spread.

If you think it’s the end, then you need to get your head checked! Sadly for some, Facebook has the option to share pictures with others. Even worse, someone could save a picture onto their computers and share it with the rest of the internet and there is no way you could possibly get that picture back. And while we’re at it, let us not forget those “nice and friendly” pedophiles on the internet that may have stumbled upon your picture and are doing god knows what with it.

As you may recall, one reason Amanda took her life was because of a 32-year-old man who she was talking to in a chat room. That was mistake number one she made, going into a public chat room with people she has never met and has no idea that they are or what they could be capable of.
I am not saying people shouldn’t socialize online but to what extent should people be seeking opportunities to talk to just anybody? We have been told since we were kids and it should even be common sense that not everyone online is who they say they are, and some people do have negative intentions.

The man Amanda was speaking to was 32 years old; this is mistake number two she made. There cannot be a reason why an underage girl has to talk to some random person who is nearly 20 years older than she was.

Mistake number three she made was the most detrimental. The 32-year-old man asked her to reveal herself to him, and she complied. Did she not have any natural instincts to realize that there was something wrong with this?

Normally, humans have a natural tendency to realize when something is wrong and when we’re fitted into tight corners, but Amanda had no instinct whatsoever that she let this sick man see her revealed chest. Even worse, the guy took an on screen photo of her only to share it around the internet. The photo reached her friends, millions of other people and eventually found its way back to Amanda.

Why she did not tell her parents or law enforcement about the man soliciting her sexually is beyond me. From childhood, most of us are told if a stranger is insistent on wanting to talk to us to the point of harassment, we need to tell an adult and perhaps law enforcement if the situation is dire. It’s like the saying goes, “what goes around comes around,” and did that picture definitely come back around to everyone she knew which lead to her fellow classmates bullying her which even included cyber bullying.

Agreeably, this is the pedophile’s fault in coaxing the girl and spreading the picture. It’s no surprise that these kinds of people are lurking on the internet and because of this we have organizations such as Perverted Justice, a nonprofit group based in California and in Oregon whose purpose is to find and bring online child predators to justice. Also, this is why shows such as Dateline NBC’s segment “To Catch a Predator” are on TV.

To those who have not heard of this show, I highly recommend watching it as you actually see what can happen on an online chat room and who could possibly be engaging in conversation with your underage siblings or children. While there are students at the college who have younger siblings, myself included, and those who have children, we are skeptical at what they may be doing online which is why, as the grown up setting the example for our children, we need to keep an eye on their online activity. Heaven forbid they ever do end up in a situation like Amanda was in.
The only difference between real life and the show “To Catch a Predator”, the child predators on the show actually get brought to justice after being interrogated by Chris Hansen, the host of the show.

Perverted Justice was founded by Xavier Von Erck in 2003 who was chatting with a person on an online chat room and both noted how there were people in these rooms deemed creepy that would make abusive solicitations towards others. When the site launched, it was slow at first with no actual budget plan, but once other websites linked Perverted Justice to their sites, they got viewers checking out their site and accumulated volunteers who have also wanted to help out in capturing online child predators. The organization has received lots of positive attention and recognition such as Dateline NBC (in which both would be working together for the “To Catch a Predator” segments), law enforcement and from politicians such as Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah.

As for Amanda getting bullied online, cyber bullying is nothing of a surprise as many children do fall victim to it. It is upsetting to see the sorrow that comes from a child’s face when they see their Facebook page bombarded with insulting comments, abusive photo-shopped pictures, random IM’s poking fun and untold abuses.

According to Internetsafety101, a subsidiary organization of “Enough is Enough” that helps give parents, educators and kids thorough information about cyber bullying, 95 percent of teenagers who have witnessed cruel behavior on social networking sites say they have seen others ignoring the mean behavior while 55 percent witness this frequently.

Fortunately as stated, 84 percent have seen other teenagers defend the person being harassed which gives me the notion that there are good-hearted teens that don’t want cyber bullying to be an epidemic. What is scary is that 52 percent of parents are worried their child will be bullied via social networking sites which is leaving a huge chunk of parents out of this equation which seems to be telling us some parents are doing a horrible job parenting when leaving their kids accessing the internet and social sites.

While it may look like a large portion of parents may not care, the same youth that cyber bullying affects seem to be doing a good job watching over each other. Sixty-eight percent of teens agree that cyber bullying is a serious problem with today’s youth and perhaps explains the defending of other teenagers mentioned earlier.

According to teenagers surveyed, cyber bullying is done because some teens want to show off to friends, to be mean, to embarrass them and for fun or entertainment. The largest reasons for cyber bullying, each with a statistic of 58 percent was to get back at someone or because they deserved it.
Not only did Amanda make the mistake of showing the 32-year-old man her chest, she ultimately gave him an opportunity to make her the target of bullying. But what about the other behaviors she admitted to such as sleeping with other guys as well as cutting herself? She claimed she did these things as a solution to her depression?

Her parents thought that perhaps moving to another town to attend another school would do the trick, which worked for a while until her past caught up with her and she was notified by police that her degrading picture was still circulating as well as receiving the same abuse she did from these students as from before.

Anyone could try running away from their problems and their past but they know deep down the truth and what happened, but in today’s age where anything can be archived and spread through the internet, there is really nowhere to hide.

This brings us to her telling the world about her hard and troubling life in a nine minute YouTube video that went viral where she explained all she went through and the torment she was plagued with. Like I mentioned before, she admitted what she did as her fault in that video. Tragically for her and her parents, she took her life on Oct. 10 by hanging herself. It is truly sad when someone dies by suicide that at that moment, you forget all the bad and focus on the good and the fact that someone died. She did not deserve this end as she was still young and had a whole future ahead of her and the ones to blame are the bullies who taunted her towards her demise.

Her angst from all those who abused her pushed her to the limit to commit this act and because of this, she could even be seen as martyr for those who have to constantly suffer from abuses they face online or in real life. Many send their condolences; I included and no doubt the people at the college who have heard of her story.

The media and social networking sites have given this story widespread attention and it does deserve this attention as sadly, another person has become a statistic and it needs to remind us that action needs to be taken to combat this problem. But how much coverage is really needed? It seems like the media and people on networking sites are going too in-depth in the Amanda Todd story by making it sound like a large scale tragedy. There are starving kids dying in poor countries, soldiers dying in the Middle East defending our freedom, even political prisoners being executed for speaking against the unjust North Korean Government.

Don’t these people deserve as much TV airtime as Amanda Todd is getting? Perhaps more?
Though this loss is tragic, learning of it could help save the lives of many more children from falling victim to bullying and abuse. The prevention however will need to administered by grown-ups. Safety measures put in place for all to follow to respect one another and set aside differences and who knows, it may lead up to legislation by governments.

Only in a perfect world would this exist and with the world having a population in the billions, it won’t be easy to prevent cyber bullying, abuses, or attacks from child predators. Even for us at the college, keeping an eye on our siblings and children is a start in protecting our children from the dangers lurking on the internet and from real life situations so they do not have to become a statistic and a symbol of negligence.

One response

  1. Very powerful piece Julio. Your best yet!

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