Victims raise bullying awareness

by Stacey Oparnica

Like a scene out of the horror film, “Carrie,” a 16-year-old girl was in disbelief when she was nominated as homecoming queen of her small Michigan high school, only to learn she had been selected as a joke by several of her peers.

Whitney Kropp, a sophomore at Ogemaw Heights High School in West Branch, Mich., was told the boy nominated for homecoming king dropped out because he didn’t want to be paired with her. Kropp told ABC News she was so distraught after learning of the prank, she considered killing herself.

The incident prompted an outpouring of national support for Kropp, including the creation of a Facebook page titled “Support Whitney Kropp,” which has garnered more than 145,000 “likes.”

October, which is national Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, serves as a platform for promoting awareness and generating discussion on the topic of bullying, specifically among youth. Kropp repre- sents a vast population of teens who endure various forms of bullying in silence. Twenty percent of U.S. teens say they have experienced some form of bullying within the past year, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center.

Associate Director of Counseling and Psychological Services Jennifer Rikard at San Diego State advises students who may be dealing with bullying to seek help from C&PS through individual counseling and group workshops.

“At any age, if someone is sub- ject to coercion, hostility or abuse, he or she would be encouraged to seek support to address the issue,” Rikard said.

Bullying manifests itself in a mul- titude of ways, but generally entails verbal, physical or psychological abuse or intimidation. The effects can last a month or a lifetime, depending on the situation, and can include physical injury, emotional distress, depression and anxiety, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In short, the consequences can be disastrous, even fatal.

Last month, in a small town in British Columbia, 15-year-old Amanda Todd uploaded a YouTube video titled “My story: Struggling, bullying, suicide, self harm,” in which she detailed her three-year history of being bullied. Using sheets of paper she wrote on to tell her story, Todd explained how, in seventh grade, she and her friends communicated with random people on webcam chats.

She was 12 years old when a stranger convinced her to flash the camera, which she did. He threatened to distribute the photo if she didn’t reveal more and proceeded to harass her consistently, even tracking her when she moved and creating a Facebook page with the photo of her breasts as the profile picture.

She recounted being harassed, stalked, physically assaulted or tormented by the stranger or by her peers at school. After falling into a depression, she resorted to drugs, alcohol and cutting.

Students encouraged her to kill herself and tagged her in pictures of bleach, which she had ingested in an attempt to commit suicide. In the beginning of Todd’s video, one of the first sheets of paper she holds up reads, “I’ve decided to tell you about my neverending story.”

Last Wednesday, Todd committed suicide.

Her mother, Carol Todd, expressed disbelief in an interview with The Vancouver Sun and said her daughter was “getting much better” in recent weeks, receiving treatment and counseling. According to the article. “Something happened to shatter that fragile recovery.”

Bullying is no longer solely restricted to the small kid getting beat up after school, the way older movies generally portray the issue. Today, people of all ages with In- ternet access bully others from the comfort of their own homes.

“Recently, there have been cases of adults bullying teenagers on- line,” according to Bullying Statis- tics “When you think of bullies, you often think of children terror- izing other children. However, it is important to note that even parents can be bullies. Bullying parents ex- ist, and they can cause real prob- lems in children’s lives.”