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Friday, October 26, 2012

Amanda Todd's legacy - Have we really learned anything?

The tragic death of Amanda Todd is not an isolated incident, as news today carries the story of the death of Felicia Garcia. She too was apparently a victim of bullying. She made some mistakes which the news reports being related to sexual experiences with the school football team. She paid a high price.

What is interesting about these two events (and others) is the link between the "value" that we place on females as sexual objects. When they buy into that in some way, society too often condemns them for the very thing that they have been pressured into. There is a sense that the societal image of a sexual female (typically depicted as very young) is a goal that teenagers should aspire to. I wonder if we are asking why?

Felicia Garcia

In this context, then, is the further evidence of sexual exploitation that is taking place with a 20 year old Brazilian women who has sold her virginity for some $780,000. Catarina Migliorini seems to justify this as she will use some of the money for the benefit of her community. But is this something that money should be allowed to buy? She states that it is not prostitution as it is a one time event in her life that will not be repeated. However, it acts as the transferring of a female state (virginity) into a commodity. Before one suggests that there could be gender equality here, a male attempting the same thing only garnered $3000.

How can this be seen as anything up exploitation?

Part of the bullying of these girls is related to the reality that girls are a commodity to be used and abused for far too many in our society.

It is in this vein that I read a rather interesting piece of research soon to be published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence. It notes:

Victims of bullying commonly experience higher rates of school absenteeism, emotional maladjustment, psychosomatic problems, poor relationships and loss of friends, low self-worth and selfesteem, and rates of depression and anxiety, in comparison to the general school population

The victims pay a price but I worry that far too often, the perpetrator does not. Child protection is primarily a family responsibility. It is there that we should find the safest place in our lives, although that is far to often not the case. But what then of those families that try to do their best to protect their children who experience bullying? What happens when they really do try to be the place of protection. Well, this research says that they may not get the external supports that they need. Brown, Aaslma & Ott note in the discussion of their research:

During the discovery stage, parents made efforts to help their youth from home before reporting victimization to the school. Parents found that advice-giving failed to resolve the bullying. Similar to what has previously been reported (Terrean-Miller, 2006), parents’ monitoring of their youth’s behavioral changes as a result of being bullied, caused them to involve school officials. What is particularly troubling from these interviews is that parents who were aware of their youth being bullied in elementary school often saw a re-emergence from the same bullies again in middle school.

Many clients that I have worked with tell me that schools typically fail to effectively address what is going on. The research goes on to note that schools typically failed to even follow through despite the existence of policies.  In my view, this constitute systemic enabling of abuse. It is further evidence that we are a long way from solving sexism (and its various forms of oppression) and inter personal violence, including bullying.

Reference for the research:

Brown, J.R., Aaslma, M.C. & Ott, M.A. (2012). The experiences of parents who report bullying youth victimization to school officials. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, In Press. DOI: 10.1177/0886260512455513

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