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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Amanda Todd - the tragic story of bullying

Amanda Todd committed is dead. By her own hand. She is the victim of bullying. She poignantly told her own story on YouTube. It is a difficult watch when you know that the ultimate ending is her death some time after the video.

Her story is a reflection of values in society at large. She was vulnerable and had become disconnected. We, society, did not protect her and we, society, found more space for the bully group. We, society, failed her. We, society, fail to protect children from bullying on a daily basis. But this is not new.

Today's generation faces a much greater challenge than prior ones. Victims, in the past, could often find shelter away from their tormentors - at home typically. Today, that is not possible. Technology means that the bully can stream into a victim's life without interruption. The Amanda Todd story illustrates that.

Research tends to tell us that our bullying programs are not working. People will feel sorry for her but will then go on to bully others. Perhaps we need to frame bullying as part of a series of behaviours that fall under the tittle Inter Personal Violence (IPV). For what distinguishes bullying from other forms of IPV is just that - it is a form. There is a victim; there are perpetrators; there is harm; there is intent to harm; there is escalation in frequency and intensity and, as her story shows, there is also physical, verbal and emotional violence.

By calling it bullying, we connect to an age old view that this is something that kids do. We normalize it as part of growing up. Yet, it normalizes sexual harassment, dating violence, child abuse, workplace harassment and so on. When we accept that any form of assault is acceptable (in this case one form called bullying) we grant acceptance of the behaviors linked to it.

Families need to think about the messages that they give about what is acceptable in all forms of relationships - including with people you don't like very much. One has to wonder if the parents of those who did this to Amanda Todd are proud. As a society, are we proud of how we treated her? Or should we be putting more and more effort into treating people well.

I am reminded of the very powerful TedTalk by Jeremy Rifkin on the need for an empathic civilization. It can be seen via YouTibe and allows one to reflect on he very piece that is in individual control - how I treat those with whom I interact.

Child protection is about our every interaction as well as about the principles that we are prepared to stand up for.


  1. I like the IPV thing. You are right that bullying is often associated with 'what kids do'. It's much more than that now. I see the pictures everywhere that say things like, "Stand Up" and "speak Out", but I have yet to see one that tells people HOW to to stand up against bullies. I'm almost an SSW and I don't even know how...

  2. The people who drove Amanda to commit suicide should know what they have done, and regret it. She doesn't deserve it.