Group victim blaming…

The internet is full of memes meant to shame all different types of people, especially parents.  I think that if you have time to judge other people for who they are and what they choose to do, you probably could use that time to work on yourself and whatever insecurities you have that make you feel the need to pass judgement on to others. That’s just my opinion.

I have a teen daughter. We’ve had a rocky past few months and have gone through a lot. For whatever reason, without her consent, a friend recorded video of her in the bathroom and shared the images with a large group of people. My daughter is 15, so this is essentially, pornography depicting a minor. Not soon after, she tried to commit suicide by overdose and things have been a bit difficult from then on.

She has been in counseling and doing very well lately on her medication. She has been earning things back like usage of her technology. We have had a few bumps, but nothing as severe as the episodes that landed her in inpatient care at a facility. Then comes this weekend, where someone starts sending her ominous messages about how she will ‘ruin her’ and ‘share her nudes’. Suddenly, a boy posts the photos to social media and a group conversation turns to calls of “kill yourself” to my teen daughter and “you should’ve taken more [pills used redacted].”

So, this week, I did the right thing. I consented to press charges against the person who posted the images. This has not turned out well for my daughter, who is being called names at school and told that she is ruining the boy’s life by having him arrested. Other kids have told her that her mother (that’s me) is suing all of these people and posting things with a “#free[the perpetrator]”. This behavior is dangerous. This behavior among a group is ridiculous.

Not only are they literally blaming the victim, they are siding with the person who committed the crime here. They’re also confusing criminal with civil legal proceedings. I haven’t sued anyone. The perpetrator committed a crime and now he may face criminal charges. In a court of law. This isn’t a modern idea where people blame the victims of crimes for somehow causing the crime itself. What is more modern is that people use the internet to say and do horrible things and don’t anticipate consequences.

This is about parents looking at their own kids’ social media accounts and making sure they aren’t using them to hurt someone else. This is about asking other people in your friends or family group to follow them and pay attention to help you catch on. Raising a kid actually does take a village and if you’re so busy judging watching other people raise their kids, why can’t you use that time to offer a helping hand or at least a head’s up?

You can assume what you will about what transpired. You can even assume that I’m in the wrong, but when will we stop saying that someone was asking to be hurt by being present? When can we honestly stop saying that criminals act because their victims somehow lured them into a crime? Do you honestly think that the person who set out to hurt my daughter is sorry or feels any remorse? What if this had been someone in a much worse place and someone lost his/her life over this? Would people still be blaming my daughter if his post caused her suicide? Pressing charges may make someone else think twice before doing something so careless and wrong and I will not stop pursuing what will protect my family and potentially prevent other families from having this experience.

 

Teens kind of suck

In a couple of past posts, I’ve mentioned my daughter being one of the many teens experiencing harassment at the hands of a fellow teen hiding behind the confines of a keyboard to make terrible comments.  I even expressed concern for her friend Ally, who was suffering from online bullying and even in person bullying at school.  I was so wrong.

Ally, who is 13, recently started having sex with her boyfriend.  She told my daughter about this.  Someone told Ally’s mom about it, which was likely her sister who is close in age to her.  Somehow, her ‘cool mom’ managed to get Ally to blame my daughter for this.  Ally has now targeted my daughter.  I read the text discussions between the two.  While my daughter used language that is inappropriate for her age, Ally made threats of physical harm to her and tried to instigate a fight with her.  I blocked Ally’s number from texting or calling my daughter’s phone.  She went on ask.fm to anonymously harass her within 10 minutes of me blocking her.  The next day at school, Ally and another girl named Leah tried to instigate a fight at lunchtime.  They all had to go to the school office where they talked things out and the principal let me know they’ve smoothed things over, cried, and made up.  This…was bullshit.  I knew it, but I waited until my daughter got home to confirm my suspicion.

Ally continued sending her messages asking my daughter to  punch her (so Ally wouldn’t be the one starting the fight) and telling my daughter she was too much of a coward to fight.  Ally spoke to friends of my daughter and had them send her texts about fighting.  Also, she told my daughters close friend Renee that she was talking bad about her at the lunch table.  This is stupid on so many levels.  I would talk to Ally’s mom again, but I think that she knows who her daughter is and is comfortable lying for her .  I think she believes her own bullshit.

I’ve talked to  my daughter, who doesn’t want anything to do with Ally, about the situation.  She absolutely doesn’t want to fight her.  She has verbally expressed that physical violence solves nothing in the matter of personal conflict and I am proud of her for that.  She’s also said that fighting is for people who are “trashy”, which I agree.  I’ve let her know that the only reason Ally is upset is because she’s ashamed of what she did when she had sex and her anger toward my daughter is misdirected shame for herself.  I’ve also let her know that hanging out with people who do that sort of thing can unfortunately put a mark on her own reputation even if she isn’t involved in the same activities.

What I’ve learned is that I’m a sucker for a sad story and that I’ll defend people when I think they are going through something hard.  I don’t lie, and therefore assume that other people don’t.   Some naïve part of me wants to be the person who stands up for what I believe is right and fair.  Sometimes, the two aren’t the same thing.   I wasted an hour talking on the phone with Ally’s mom about her daughter being bullied at school and getting beat up for no reason, then getting suspending for egging it on.  I did research for this woman on how to discuss the matter with the school board.  I believed her because my daughter was being picked on and because she said that she was involved to the point of checking her daughter’s communication tools.  These were most likely lies.  The mom wasn’t being vigilant.  Ally was lying to her mom and instigating a fight just like she’s trying to do now with my daughter.  So either her mom is lying or she’s trying so hard to be friends with her kids, that she forgot to parent them.

I’d like to note that I know my teen daughter, and my other children, are not perfect angels who can do no wrong.  Children and teens are young people who require that we nurture them and that we keep an eye on their path.  They sometimes need a nudge in the right direction and sometimes need to be permitted to get lost and find their own way back or blaze their own trail.  While I cannot watch and correct each move, I’m clear about my expectations.   My daughter might not always say the right thing in the heat of the moment, but its unlikely that she would enlist people to hurt someone else through words or threats of physical violence.  

Teens (still) Bullying

I don’t know if this is just the norm now.  Perhaps it was in my day and I was oblivious to it.  I’m talking about the way I hear about teens interacting with each other and behave so carelessly and violently.

My daughter and her friend Ally were eating lunch at school recently when a larger, older student approached their table and told the friend to get up so she could fight her.  Ally didn’t want to fight and had been told by her mother not to.  So she sat there until the bigger girl pulled her back and started punching her.  The girl started repeatedly using the heel of her hand to try to break Ally’s nose.  I heard about this when my daughter got home, and then I saw it for myself on a video posted on Facebook.  Ally’s mom called me at home that night and we spoke for an hour about the chain of events leading to this “fight”.  I used quotes around fight because it was really just an attack.

Ally had been suspended for one week along with her aggressor for two weeks because she told the girl in a Facebook message that she wouldn’t fight her.  Somehow, this was interpreted by the school administration as Ally initiating the fight.  Her mom had been in contact with the school prior to the attack about her concerns regarding lly.  She was being hassled online by this girl.  According to the mom, the school told her that they could not use social networking to punish a student.  I checked the school’s handbook and it states that students are liable for social networking comments that involve physical threats regardless of the time or place the comments were made.  I let the mom know that she needs to complain to the school board.  When I read the facebook page of the aggressor, she was proud that she was suspended for 2 weeks.  Another friend of hers commented that she was ready for round 2.  I checked the school handbook again, saw that making videos or photos at the school was also against their policies.  I made copies of what I saw on the website and emailed it to the school along with copy and paste paragraphs from the handbook citing which rules had been violated.  The school ensured that the safety concern I had for my daughter would be addressed.

The next day that my daughter had school, she went directly to the office as the guidance counselor I was in contact with recommended.  The girls were brought to the school office and spoken to.  They were advised that any further threats would result in punishment.  My daughter was afraid to sit out in the open in the lunchroom, so she used a lunch pod, which is used for lunch detentions.  Someone approached her during the lunch and asked if she was in trouble.  When she told this person that she wasn’t in trouble, he proceeded to tell everyone that she was sitting there because she was scared of a friend of the girl that attacked Ally.  My daughter was upset that people thought she was afraid of the girl.  It is almost impossible to describe to someone that avoiding a physical altercation is not cowardly.  I wouldn’t walk into a dark alley in the middle of the night because someone might be there.  Its just smart.

Most importantly, I need to know why these kids feel they need to physically harm someone to validate themselves?  Where are their parents and why don’t they know what their kids are doing online?  I realize its a pain in the ass to go through all possible social networks, but it is necessary.  I can’t imagine discovering that my child was making another one too sad or scared to go on about her daily life.  I would be hurt and angry and I would want to do something about it.  I would want her to make amends.  I can’t understand the mindset that someone would have in order to be cruel to someone else for any reason.

Teens Cyber Bullying…(sigh)

The week before last, I was dealing with my teen daughter being bullied by a classmate that thought it was ok to tell her she was a “negative zero” on a scale of one to ten, then went on to tell her to kill herself when my daughter inquired as to why she’d said that about her.  While I can understand that this classmate is only a child, I have a hard time understanding that she is permitted to use the foul language and be such a bully to my child and others.  Her behavior is toxic to those around her and she is a virus spreading negativity and passing it along to other people making them fear her wrath if they oppose her.

The teen years are hard for most everyone no matter the social class or ethnicity.  They are different levels of difficult, but teens start having new and different feelings that make them feel it much stronger than we do as we get older and more accustomed to deal with these emotions.

I reported this girl to the social network, Facebook, for “encouraging self harm,” which against their terms.  Facebook returned my concern stating that none of their terms were violated and they would do nothing to remove the post.  After I printed the post to a PDF file and saved it, my daughter deleted it herself.  I decided to hang on to it in case she made another attempt to contact my daughter for the purpose of harassing her.

Yesterday, my daughter told me her friend was being picked on the same way as she had been.  I went into Facebook and there it was.  The same girl, we’ll call her Phoebe, was picking on my daughter’s friend, we’ll call her Ally.  I couldn’t see what she had said to Ally, but a new post was on Phoebe’s page with many comments against Ally.  Ally’s mom intervened and asked them to stop.  The kids respectfully apologized and quit.  Just kidding.  The little jerks started in on Ally’s mom telling her to “butt out” and “act grown”.  They started name calling and addressing Ally’s mom in the most inappropriate ways.

I sent a private message to Ally’s mom and asked her if we could talk.  She was polite, kind, and wanted to find a way to resolve the issues with Phoebe as well.  She said she’d already talked to the school about the issues with this girl and one other that has been harassing my daughter, Ally, and another girl in that social circle.  The school doesn’t appear to have spoken to the girl or her parents about this problem.

I still plan to take the issue with my daughter to the school.  I plan to stay on the administrators and ask whether they’ve contacted the girls parents.  I want the school to take the issue of bullying more seriously.  It seems like this is a much bigger problem at her school than some others and that the kids are especially eager to threaten physical violence.  This is unacceptable.  I’ve been doing some research on http://www.meganmeierfoundation.org/   about cyber bullying and it is unsettling.

Are parents really doing enough to prevent their kids from being a cyber bully or being the victim of it?  Will people please watch what their kids do and say online and take personal responsibility for helping them make good choices when it comes to the internet?  I have a contract with my daughter about internet use.  She is to disclose her username on all accounts and give me access as requested.  It also outlines responsibility to avoid hate speech, profanity, and other things that may hurt her online persona.  While I don’t read everything she does every day, she knows I’m instilling good habits and won’t always be lurking in the shadows.

Please, when thinking about letting your kid get online, remember that they need guidance.  This is a scary place where people aren’t usually what they seem to be.  People are less likely to use discretion with their words because they can  hide behind a keyboard, blame a hacker, and/or they don’t think anybody is watching.

If you’re a teen and someone is saying terrible things about you or to you, please tell someone you trust.  It can be your parents, another relative, a teacher, school counselor, or even a friend’s parent.  They care more than you think.  You aren’t alone.  You aren’t the words they’re trying to hurt you with.  There are more people who love you than that small group of people who are being nasty.

If you’re a witness to bullying, report it.

This is a very real problem.  It isn’t just a hot button topic that just came along.  Bullying is worse now than it was before because it is much harder to escape than before the digital age.  Now the bullies are at school, on the phone, and the computer.  They don’t go away.