Bullicide is the unofficial term for being bullied to death. The bullies that used to torment their victims in the schoolyard have gone online and now it’s 24/7. This is ripping families apart. The bullying tactics have become a lot more invasive in the online world. From using private spycams and organising viewing parties, to online trickery and blackmail and setting up hoax accounts, bullies have a lot more tools at their disposal but also a lot more to lose. The barriers of traditional bullying have been completely broken and this new form of cyberbullying is terrifying.
1. Ryan Halligan
Ryan Halligan of Vermont US took his own life at the tender age of 13 in 2003. Due to a stroke of bad luck, he became the target of school bullies. One of the bullies was a popular girl called Ashley who he had a crush on. She began chatting to him online to gain personal information about him that would later be copied into other chats. This included private confessions of his learning difficulties. Bullies also spread rumours about him, leading to more online bullying. Although his parents knew about the school bullying, they didn’t realise that his torment would carry on well into the night. He found no way to escape and instead searched for ways to end his life. His lifeless body was discovered by his older sister.
2. Megan Meier
Leading up to her 14th birthday, Megan Meier took her life in 2006. Her bully was a former friend who set up a fake online persona, a 16 year old boy called Josh Evans to deliver cruel messages to her. At first, “Josh” showed an interest in her, telling her that she was pretty, adding her on MySpace and regularly communicating with her online. Then the exchanges took a colder turn when “Josh” lost interest in her, shared embarrassing exchanges online with others, told her that she was hated by everyone and to essentially kill herself. According to her mum, Megan struggled with weight and self-esteem all her life and Josh was the first guy to tell her that he found her pretty. Her small body was discovered by her mother.
3. Amanda Todd
At the age of 13, Amanda Todd began using video chat to meet new people. It was through this that she came across a relentless cyber stalker who had managed to convince her to show him her breasts. Despite declining this request for a whole year, she finally gave in. Once he obtained the footage, he used it to attempt to blackmail her into further sexual acts. When she declined, he circulated her video online which led to her being bullied at school. She tried to change schools twice and even tried to move to a new city, but each time, he would track her down, share her video with her new classmates and teachers, and resume the cycle of abuse. She was hospitalised for depression, engaged in self-harm and bullied at every school. On September 7, 2012, Amanda posted a video online titled “My story: Struggling, bullying, suicide, self-harm”. A month later, she took her life. She was 15.
4. Daniel Perry
At the age of 17, Daniel was targeted by online scammers who tricked him into recording an explicit video to blackmail him. At the time, he believed he was chatting to a girl his own age. They threatened to share his video with family and friends if he didn’t pay. An hour after receiving the threat, he jumped off a bridge and died shortly after being rescued. Before his jump, he asked the blackmailers what options he had to avoid payment. He was told that he would be better off dead if he couldn’t pay. What is remarkable about this is that despite being very close to his family, he didn’t want them to know this was happening to him. He was left so embarrassed that he decided that ending his life would be better than having those videos circulated to his friends and family.
5. Tyler Clementi
Tyler Clementi, a talented violinist from Rutgers University was only 18 years old when two roommates bullied him into taking his own life. The world may have lost a great musical prodigy, but this is something we will never know now because Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei robbed us of this legacy. Dharun deliberately targeted Tyler for reasons unknown to anyone but himself. It was an organised attack. He conducted a background research into Tyler and found out that he was gay. That was all he needed to do something as ruthless as it was illegal. He and his sidekick privately filmed Tyler’s sexual encounters in the dorm room on two separate encounters without his knowledge, streamed this online and even organised a viewing party to add insult to injury. Dharun also encouraged his Twitter followers to share these encounters. Although Tyler was confident about coming out and stood up to his roommate’s trysts, it was the online taunting about his sexuality that got to him. He died in 2010.
On rallying the troops
“Children can be cruel”. A statement that is oft repeated and is true. It is also true to say that children aren’t usually aware of how cruel their actions might be. There are psychological reasons for this but it basically means that most people who aren’t bad may end up doing bad things (this is true of some adults as well). In many of these cases, there would have been classmates and friends who would have done little to help or even participated themselves. It’s easier to participate by “liking” or “sharing” a disturbing post than it is stick up for the victim and potentially become one yourself. What is also true about the online world is how unforgiving it can be. Once something is shared, you can’t take it back nor control the consequences. There are growing legal and employment consequences for perpetrating and/or participating in online bullying.