Much of the outrage following a story about online harassment and suicide tends to be over a perceived lack of punishment: The bullies are rarely charged, let alone brought into the spotlight to explain or apologize for their actions. But a Florida law has resulted in the arrest of two young girls who allegedly helped convince 12-year-old Rebecca Ann Sedwick to kill herself.
Charged with felony aggravated stalking, the girls, ages 12 and 14, were among a group of at least fifteen peers who sent cruel messages to Sedwick via Facebook and then, when Sedwick’s mother deleted her account, various other social apps. The elder girl was apparently the one with whom the original fight—over a boy—developed. According to the Daily News, she “had admitted Saturday to bullying Rebecca Sedwick with an online post, and authorities were concerned she would continue harassing other girls.”
At one point, she told Sedwick to “drink bleach and die.” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said that on Saturday, she wrote a post on Facebook saying she had bullied Sedwick but didn’t care. He described her demeanor at the time of the arrest as “very cold ... no emotion at all." She is also thought to have turned the 12-year-old, formerly Sedwick’s best friend, against her. Both were released to parental custody and are under home detention.
In December 2012, Sedwick cut her wrists and was hospitalized for several days. Last month, she jumped to her death from a tower at an abandoned concrete plant in Lakeland, Fla. Her family has lamented “missing the signs” of cyberbullying, even though they made every effort to cut off contact between her and her tormenters. The father of the arrested 14-year-old, meanwhile, rejected the sheriff’s narrative: "My daughter's a good girl and I'm 100 percent sure that whatever they're saying about my daughter is not true."
Photo by Rachel Molina/Flickr