October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness month, and a perfect time to discuss the inexcusable horror that is childhood bullying.
For too many children and young adults, the fear of being teased and taunted—maybe even physically abused—is a daily reality. In recent years, more attention has been given to the bullying epidemic, mainly because of the impact the internet can have on intensifying an attack and disseminating evidence of it.
Cyberbullying—or the use of social media, email and other digital channels to verbally and emotionally torment a victim—makes incessant bullying too easy for aggressors. In many ways, cyberbullying has enhanced a bully’s ability to harass their victim from afar, even from the safety of the child’s own home.
Bullying is not only a terrible behavior, but stories of child suicide linked to bullying are continuing to play out on a very public stage. The stories of bullied teens taking their own lives are beyond discouraging; they call for legal action to be taken to prevent similar events from occurring to more and more children.
Tricia Norman is one surviving victim doing just that. Her daughter, 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick of Florida, took her own life after two girls allegedly bullied her online in September 2013. Norman has filed a wrongful death suit against the girls claiming that their negligence contributed to Sedwick’s death.
The suit raises a number of legal questions, such as whether the bullies’ actions could be considered a contributing factor in Sedwick’s suicide. Anti-cyberbullying legislation passed by Florida in 2013 may also come into play in this case.
The statistics on bullying and suicide are alarming: bullyingstatistics.org says that bullied teens are between two and nine times more likely to commit suicide than their peers, according to studies conducted by Yale University. Additionally, the same study revealed that girls ages 10 to 14 are at the greatest risk of suicide.
While proving liability may be a major piece of the legal puzzle in a wrongful death suit, there is no doubt that a human element connects a child’s persistent torment to their desire to escape what has become an awful reality. If families of survivors can take comfort in anything, it may be that their stories have sparked a movement to end bullying—in schools, online, and in every other walk of life—and that telling their child’s story can help save other victims’ lives.
Bailey & Oliver Law Firm encourages everyone to participate in Bullying Prevention Awareness month. Share stories, support victims, spread the word in your community. When even one person stands up to bullying, we all win.