Brandy Vela, a beautiful eighteen-year-old senior at Texas City High School, passed away by her own hand several months ago after relentless cyber-bullying by internet trolls who tormented her online about her weight and spread rumors about her.
Believe it or not, her tragic death wasn’t the end of the harassment. Only days after this sweet girl had been laid to rest, her tormentors, the very people who drove her to her death, took the harassment to a new low.
A social media page, which seemed to be a memorial, appeared soon after her death. Caring people everywhere could post their deepest sympathies and honor Brandy’s memory. Most assumed that the page had been created by the family. However, after a few condolences were posted, Brandy’s tormentors began their attack with appalling comments such as, “…big fat cow” or “You finally did it! You’re a coward! You should have done this a long time ago!” There was a picture of a stick man holding a gun with the words, “Oops! Am I dead?” And another picture of Brandy smiling that was captioned, “My face when you shoot yourself in front of your family.”
What kind of person does this? I cannot fathom what anyone would have to gain from bullying a grieving family, especially so soon after their loss. It’s just kicking them when they’re already down and refusing to let them pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and heal.
People capable of this are the sickest and most cowardly. Hiding behind fake profiles and screen names to avoid accountability, they know good and well that what they are doing is not only wrong, but downright atrocious! I wonder how a person such as this can stand to even look at his or her own mug in the mirror. They are truly the lowest of the low!
The one thing the Internet has proven to me is that there are some truly despicable people in the world. And the sad thing is that they’re more numerous than we know. They can be anyone…the mail carrier, the next-door neighbor, the teacher at the blackboard, the kind barista at the coffee shop, the employee of the month at your job, a few seemingly perfect soccer moms who have kids on your son’s team, the football coach held in high regard, even the smiling lady at church a few pews in front of you, who everyone thinks so highly of!
The internet cloaks these people from visibility. Emboldened by anonymity they do what they do for shock-value, and the more malicious and shocking they can be, the more outrage the reactions to their comments produce, the more entertaining they and their kind find it! Never do they stop and think, nor do they care that they hurt people and destroy lives—as long as they aren’t on the receiving end, they remain unfazed. Or worse, they’re egged on to go even lower.
This is why we need much tougher laws against cyber-harassment and bullying, with much stiffer penalties. Those browbeat and torment someone to the point that death seems their only way out should be charged with manslaughter at the very least, or as an accessory after the fact.
The same thing happened to Jamey Rodemeyer just a few years ago. He took his own life because of unrelenting bullying. Not long after, his sister was attending the Homecoming dance when the deejay played Jamey’s favorite song. His friends began to cheer his name. Then the bullies, who had literally run him in the ground, began to chant, “You’re better off dead!” and “We’re glad you’re dead!”
My question when I hear of these sorts of things is: Where do monsters like this come from? What kind of parents are raising them? And I’ve learned, as they say, that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…You only have to look at TV, to the news and even worse, reality shows, to see how utterly shameless and without conscience people have become. People like that care nothing for others. And they’re raising kids with the same values.
So, there must be consequences—severe consequences—for bullying. Even the most shameless will respond, out of plain fear and self-preservation.
Only then will we even begin to see significant change in bullying and the agony it causes.
Cherie White, both a writer and author, joined the team after being discovered by Brian through her own personal blog and through social media. She has been writing ever since she was ten years old and has a love for writing articles, short stories and novels. She became intrigued with the new Pyngby app because it helps victims pinpoint victims and their harassers for easy protection and litigation if need be. Because she experienced severe bullying from sixth grade until changing schools during her last year of high school, she has a passion for spreading bullying awareness and helping those who are bullied and abused today. Her goal is to bring down the suicide rate among bullied children, teens and young adults. Her debut novel, “From Victim to Victor” is available now at LuLu. Cherie looks forward to helping victims through Watchdog Creative.
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