In early October of 2012, the Amanda Todd case was being covered by news stations globally, it was a distressing case that caused the authorities and government to question if there should be more laws surrounding internet safety.
Amanda Todd was only 15 when she committed suicide after enduring severe bullying both online and in person. In 7th grade, she moved with her father, and used a video chatting platform to meet new people which ended up taking a turn for the worst. During one of these calls, a stranger convinced Amanda to flash her breasts. The stranger then used a screen capturing service to get a picture of them. He then threatened her by saying he would send the photo of her to all her friends if she didn't “put on a show”. After this encounter, Amanda's life started to go downhill. During the winter break of 2010, cops showed up at Amanda's door at 4am to inform her that the aforementioned photo was circulating on the internet. This incident resulted in her family moving, and it was the beginning of her drug and alcohol use.
About a year later, the man came back, but this time he made a new Facebook profile using the topless photo of Amanda. The man then contacted her friends and classmates, which resulted in bullying causing Amanda's Family to move a second time. After awhile, Amanda began chatting with an old “friend” and they became quite close. The friend later invited Amanda to his house where they had intercourse. This meeting ended up having some dire consequences as the friend had a girlfriend who was out of town when they met up. A week or so later the girlfriend and a company of about 15 others accosted her at school, both verbally and physically assaulting her. Todd got knocked out and went to lie in a ditch where later her father found her and took her to the hospital. After her attack, she tried to commit suicide by drinking bleach. Her parents found out and rushed her to the hospital where her stomach got pumped. During that time, her Facebook profile was blowing up with comments about how she should kill herself.
In March of 2012, Amanda moved to another city to start anew, but the damage has already been done. No matter how many times Amanda attempted to rid herself of the past, the man would follow her and make her life a living nightmare. Amanda began to self harm as her already bad mental state was worsening, and even though she was taking her prescribed antidepressant medication, she ended up overdosing and being sent to the hospital. The kids at her school would taunt and tease her, saying things such as “she went to a crazy hospital” or that she was a “psycho”. Sadly, on October 10th at around 6:00 pm. Amanda was found hanging in her home. She was in 10th grade when she decided to take her life.
(Video Amanda Todd posted before her death talking about what happened to her)
After, some investigation coroners confirmed that Amanda's death was indeed a suicide, however the exact cause of death was not revealed to the public. To solve this case, the RCMP put 20 full-time investigators on it. After much research, in 2014, the Dutch police arrested a man involved in multiple cases involving many victims in the Netherlands. He had a dual Turkish and Dutch citizenship, numerous logs of extortion, child pornography and 5,800 logs of names and socials for potential victims. He had 35 victims including Amanda, victims were both male and female. He wrote an open letter proclaiming his innocence. After much effort from Dutch authorities and Canadian authorities he was convicted for 11 years in 2021. Amanda's mother now runs an anti-bullying trust, called the “Amanda Todd Trust”. It helps bring awareness and education about cyber bullying for young people struggling with mental health problems. She tells Amanda's story and gives her daughter a voice to help people even though Amanda is no longer with us.
The case of Amanda Todd would later contribute to the introduction of Bill C-13 on November 20th, 2013, by Minister of Justice, Peter Mackay. The Bill was an act to make amendments to Canada’s Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act, the Competition Act, and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act. Under the Criminal Code, the sharing of intimate or sexual pictures without consent became an offence. Section 162.1 was amended to include that “Everyone who knowingly publishes distributes, transmits, sells, makes available or advertises an intimate image of a person knowing that the person depicted in the image did not give their consent to that conduct, or being reckless as to whether or not that person gave their consent to that conduct, is guilty.” The bill, however, brought up concerns about privacy. Police would be allowed to obtain a warrant to get information from a person should there be reasonable suspicion that the person has committed cyberbullying-related offences. Critics argued that this violated citizen’s privacy as authorities could now investigate a person's online activity. Amanda Todd’s mother, Carol Todd herself, shared that she was not against the bill, but was “troubled by certain portions of it.”
“We should not have to choose between privacy and our safety,” said Carol.
Could This Have Been Prevented?
The Canadian national organization reported that they had received a tip almost a year before Amanda’s suicide, and a concerned citizen also reported that Amanda's photos where circulating the internet in November of 2011. This information was then given to law enforcement and child welfare agencies, and according to the 5th estate (a CBC news program), the RCMP were constantly receiving reports about what was happening with Amanda. In response to this, the RCMP told her family that there was nothing that could be done. However, the crime of sextortion can be investigated quite in depth, so if the RCMP had started investigating these tips earlier, then maybe Amanda Todd would still be with us today.
Cyberbullying is a serious issue that is plaguing the youth all over the world. It leaves long lasting impacts that affects not only the victims, but also the ones around them. To dive deeper into how big the impacts are, the case of Ryan Halligan is explored. Ryan Halligan was an 13 year old American teenager who died by suicide due to being cyberbullied and bullied in-person by his classmates.
In Ryan’s early life, he was frequently bullied by classmates in school due to his speech impediment and other developmental delays such as with his coordination skills. Although he would have overcome those difficulties in fourth grade, he would still be bullied over it.
The cyberbullying started in February 2003, when Ryan had shared an intimate and embarrassing story with who he thought was a friend. That person twisted Ryan’s stories and then instigated that Ryan was gay. Ryan was continually taunted and bullied due to the rumormongering.
Later in Summer of that year, he started talking online with a girl at school named Ashley. Ashley was popular in school and someone that Ryan was infatuated with. She pretended to like Ryan back and they would start chatting with each other continuously. Ryan would share his stories and experiences with her, believing that they had become close friends. However, this was Ashley and her friends’ plan, they would circulate his messages throughout the school to further humiliate him. When Ryan approached Ashley at school, she shrugged him off, denying ever being his friend and called him a loser among other names. This was a huge factor into what Ryan went through, he said that it was because of girls like her, that he wanted to kill himself. Around that time in Summer, he was also messaging his pen pal. It was found that the messages discussed were on suicide. The two of them would share information on these topics and the pen pal would be counselling suicide and further encouraging the actions to Ryan. When Ryan publicized his thoughts, his pen pal expressed that it was about time. That would be their final interactions recorded, before Ryan committed suicide two weeks later.
On October 7, 2003, Ryan committed suicide by hanging himself in the washroom while nobody was home.
After Ryan Halligan's death, his family was devastated, and his father sought answers and action to be taken. Ryan’s father tried to file charges against the bullies but what had happened was not under any laws. Undeterred, he began pressuring lawmakers in Vermont to do something on the schools’ responses to bullying and suicide prevention.
In 2004, with the father’s determination, Vermont passed the Bullying Prevention Policy Law, with the Suicide Prevention Law (Act 114) following suit a year later. And to this day, the father continues to advocate anti-bullying and suicide prevention in schools nationwide. Ryan’s story has been shared on T.V., documentaries, and more, in hopes of shedding light on bullying and the impact it may have.
Tyler Clementi was a talented student with a bright future ahead of him that was cut short when he killed himself at the age of 18 due to invasions of his privacy, hate crimes, and cyberbullying.
A few days before Clementi went to university, he came out to his parents as gay. They both supported him. On September 19, 2010, a few weeks after joining Rutgers University, he asked his roommate, Dharun Ravi, for privacy. Ravi agreed, but before he left, he pointed a webcam that he borrowed from his friend Molly Wei towards Clementi's bed. Ravi said that he did this because he was worried about theft, while other witnesses said that he wanted to confirm if Clementi was gay. The webcam recorded Clementi kissing another guy. Wei, Ravi, and four others watched this through iChat. Clementi found out about it when he checked Ravi’s Twitter on September 20. He saw that Ravi tweeted, "Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay." He also saw that he was being made fun of by his peers. On September 21, at around 4 a.m., Clementi sent an online request to move into a single room. Later on that day, Ravi sent text messages saying that there would be a viewing party of Clementi and his guest with directions on how to view it. At 6:39 p.m., Ravi posted, "Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes, it's happening again." When Clementi returned to his room, he noticed the webcam pointed towards his bed and unplugged Ravi’s power strip to stop the stream.
Clementi then went to complain to a resident assistant and two other officials. The resident assistant said that Clementi seemed shaky and uncomfortable when they met around 11 p.m. and that Clementi asked for a room change and punishment for Ravi. Clementi also wrote an email to the resident assistant. In the email, he described the events, quoted some of Ravi’s tweets, and wrote, "I feel that my privacy has been violated and I am extremely uncomfortable sharing a room with someone who would act in this wildly inappropriate manner." Clementi also wrote his complaints in detail on the JustUsBoys (a pornographic website and message board for gay men) and Yahoo! message boards. The posts say that he didn’t want to share a room with Ravi, and then he found out that Ravi invited his followers to watch another sexual interaction. He also said that his resident assistant seemed to take it seriously. He posted this around 15 hours before he killed himself.
On September 22, 2010, at 6:30 p.m., Clementi started walking towards the George Washington Bridge, and at 8:42 p.m., he posted on Facebook, "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry". His suicide note and the documents on his computer were never released to the public. Clementi’s body was found on September 29 in the Hudson River. The cause of death was drowning, and there were blunt impact injuries to the torso as well.
This case took the internet by storm. Ravi’s phone number and address were posted, and he was attacked by others online for what he did. In early 2012, Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei were charged with invasion of privacy. On May 6, 2012, Wei entered a plea where she testified against Ravi. This let her avoid prosecution. On May 21, 2012, Ravi was charged with 15 criminal charges of invasion of privacy, bias intimidation (hate crimes), witness tampering, and evidence tampering. On October 27, 2016, Ravi pleaded guilty to one count of invasion of privacy.
In the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, Rutgers University implemented a pilot program that allowed students to choose their dormmate regardless of gender. The members of the LGBT2Q+ community who go to the university said that gender-neutral housing would create a more inclusive environment. By September 2012, Rutgers University introduced several new programs to create a more supportive space for LGBT2Q+ students. Students have said that the school environment has improved a lot. In 2011, Clementi’s parents created the Tyler Clementi Foundation. This foundation focuses on promoting acceptance of LGBT2Q+ youth and others marginalized by society, providing education against all forms of bullying, including promoting research and development into the causes and prevention of teenage suicide. His story was also linked to the "It Gets Better" Project. This is a nonprofit organization that was launched a day before Clementi died. Its goal is to prevent suicide among young members of the LGBT2Q+ community by having adults from the community tell them that it gets better and that their lives will improve. To honor Clementi, a bill called The Tyler Clementi Higher Education Harassment Act was passed in 2019. This act requires post-secondary schools to have anti-harassment policies and expand bullying prevention programs.
Phoebe had just moved from Ireland to South Hadley along with her mother and younger sister. She was described as pretty, funny, charming, and vulnerable. At the beginning of the school year everything was all right, but she would begin to date Sean Mulveyhill. Mulveyhill was a popular older boy and was on the football team. However, he was in an on-and-off relationship with another girl. Shortly after Prince and Mulveyhill would start dating, Mulveyhill would reunite with this other girl, and this is when the bullying of Pheobe Prince began. Several people including Mulveyhill and his girlfriend began to “punish” Prince for getting involved with “another girl’s guy.” Students began to torment her, physically threatening her both in person and online, calling her names, shoving her in halls, chasing her into classrooms. All of this was done with little intervention from teachers and other responsible adults or fellow students. Eventually, after school, she would commit suicide using a scarf given to her by her sister for Christmas.
Even after news of her death was spread, the bullying did not stop. 6 days later after her suicide, a Facebook page was created titled: “We Murdered Pheobe Prince.” This page would quickly gather comments suggesting that Prince had “deserved it.” This Facebook page made South Hadley’s issue with bullying impossible to disregard.
The district attorney charged 6 students with crimes connected to the emotional and physical abuse that Prince was forced to endure. These crimes included statutory rape, violation of civil rights with bodily injury, harassment, stalking, and disturbing a school assembly. Of these 6 students, aged 16-18, 5 were sentenced to community service on harassment or civil rights charges, including Mulveyhill. No adults were charged but were not left without consequence. The South Hadley superintendent and high school principal retired the year after, the school committee chairman stepped down, and in 2010, Phoebe Prince’s family settled a lawsuit against the school district for $225,000.
Megan Meier was an exceptionally beautiful young girl who enjoyed swimming, boating, fishing, dogs, rap music, and boys. Unfortunately, she had a history with poor body image and depression, although she was actively trying to get better and had been seeing a therapist for years. In the fall of 2006, a “Josh Evans” added her on MySpace where the two, under the observation of Megan’s mother, began a friendship. It is crucial to note that having struggled with her body and self-confidence, Josh was incredibly special to her because he was the first boy to call her pretty. Randomly, Josh messaged Megan and said he wanted to end their friendship because he had heard rumours of her being mean to others. In the following days, Josh and peers continued to send her vulgar and mean messages which eventually culminated in her suicide, three weeks before her 14th birthday. It was later revealed that “Josh Evans” was a fictious façade that two parents on Megan’s former friend, with whom she had a falling out with created.
Following Megan’s suicide, her parents attended grief counselling where they would have a meeting with a parent from the neighborhood. The parent informed Megan’s parents that the “Josh Evans” MySpace was created by Megan’s former friend’s parents, and that her daughter who was around Megan’s age had been encouraged by them to join in and send vulgar messages. Immediately following the death of Megan, the former friend’s asked the other young girl to keep the MySpace page a secret. No criminal charges were filed in relation to Megan Meier’s suicide.
As a result of Megan’s suicide, the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act was created. It amended the federal criminal code to impose criminal penalties on those that communicate electronically with the purpose to coerce, intimidate, harass or cause emotional damage.
In 2009, in Sundance Florida, during the last week of school, Hope Sitwell sent a picture of her breasts to her boyfriend. Another girl who went to the same school as Sitwell obtained Sitwell’s boyfriend’s phone and found the picture. She would then proceed to send it to students at 6 different schools in the area. The photo went viral, and the school notified Sitwell’s parents.
"The assistant principal had a meeting with my husband and I and pretty much told us that he did not see the image but that he had heard that it was Hope and when he confronted Hope, Hope did not deny it. She wasn't proud of it but she didn't lie," Hope's mother said.
Sitwell did not share her pain with her parents. Terrible things were written about Hope on a MySpace page titled “Shields Middle School Burn Book,” and later, another page titled “Hope Hater Page” would be created as well. Throughout this, Sitwell would remain silent, not sharing her feelings with anyone.
The torment would worsen when school began. Finally, on September 12, 2009, after helping her father mow the lawn and cooking a seafood dinner together with her family, Sitwell went upstairs to her room. Unbeknownst to her family, she would then continue to commit suicide, hanging herself using her favorite scarves. Her mother, who along with her father had stayed downstairs to watch television, would find her dead after heading up to kiss her goodnight. She immediately started CPR and called for her husband after seeing Hope, but it was much too late. Hope was long gone.
After Hope’s death, her parent would learn that Hope had met with a school social worker. The spokesperson for Hope’s school shared that the social worker had worried that Hope may have been trying to harm herself. The worker had Hope sign a “no harm” contract that said would talk to an adult first should she ever think about doing such a thing. This contract was later found crumpled up in the garbage in Hope’s bedroom.
Days after Hope’s unfortunate death, her sister, Samantha Beattie, made a startling discovery. Even then, the bullying had still not stopped.
"I knew she had MySpace and Facebook. There were people putting comments on there: 'Did Hope really kill herself?' 'I can't believe that whore did that.' Just obscene things that I would never expect from a 12-year-old or a 13-year-old," said Samantha.
Within a year, Hope’s mother, Donna, started a group called Hope’s Warriors with the goal of combatting bullying and preventing anyone from experiencing what she and her daughter had gone through.
"It happened to my daughter, it can happen to yours too. No one is untouchable. No one is untouchable."
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