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Cyber-harassment, Cyber-bullies, and Cyber-suicide
Two young women, one 13, the other 15, both believed the boy she had been interacting with online was 16. Both girls lived within miles of each other, in neighboring Missouri towns. Perhaps they knew each other in passing or through other friends. Ironically, their stories are eerily similar. In the end, both girls were deceived by adults who led each girl to believe they were talking to 16 year old boys, the adults knew what they were doing, harassing a minor over the internet, pretending to be someone they were not, and in the end two beautiful young girls were dead.
Megan Taylor Meier, weeks away from her 14th birthday when 16-year-old Josh Evans asked to talk to her, through her MySpace account. Megan begged her momís permission to allow her to add him to her friend list, she reluctantly agreed. A few weeks into talking with Josh, things turned ugly, he suddenly began taunting Megan, telling her she was a horrible friend, fat, a slut, and that this world would be better off with out her. Megan took his advice to heart, and 20 minutes after reading his last message, that October 16, 2006, Megan Meier hung herself in her bedroom closet.
Her mother found her. Meganís little sister ran to get a neighbor who did CPR, until paramedics arrived. She was rushed her to the hospital. Tina and Ron Meier, Meganís parents softly held and rocked her as angels gently lift her into their wings the next day. Weeks later, Meganís teen MySpace Internet love story began to unravel. The Meierís learned that Josh Evans was not a 16-year-old boy courting Megan, but instead the mother of one of Meganís friends, and a neighbor of the Meierís, who set up a fake MySpace account wanting to know what Megan, was saying about her own daughter.
The mother of Megan's friend was one of her cyber-bullies. The St. Charles County Police and the FBI both investigated Meganís case, which is exceptional in that there is no specific law that defines the internet harassment Megan received. What that means is authorities are unable to charge any of the adults that were Meganís cyber-bullies with wrongdoing.
However, since the Meierís have gone public with Meganís case the St. Charles County Prosecutor, Jack Banas is personally reviewing Meganís case to see if any charges exist. In addition, Meganís hometown Dardenne Prairie has recently passed an Internet Harassment Law, which now makes online harassment a misdemeanor. This week Florissant Missouri passed a similar law.
Before Megan ended her life in by cyber-suicide, there was the case of Chelsea Abram. Chelsea had also met what she thought was a 16 year old boy online. One night the 16 year old called Chelsea, encouraging her to meet him and go to a friendís home, but Chelsea was smart and said no. He called again from out front of her home, and this time since he had come to her house perhaps she felt an obligation to say yes. She went with him believing they were off to visit a friend. Instead, he drove her to his home an hour away in Collinsville Illinois, where he brutally raped her.
Sam Levitan was 22, not 16 and Chelsea was not his first victim. Chelsea told what Levitan did to her, leading police to arrested him and confiscate his computer and other evidence from his place of residence. When the story about Sam Levitan being arrested became public, police received phone calls from other women with similar stories.
Sadly, Chelsea found no real support at school amongst her peers, most of them made fun of Chelsea. Chelsea was briefly hospitalized after she took an overdose. Since Chelsea overdosed on school property, she was not permitted to return to her classes. Chelsea changed schools. She began attending an alternative school. Chelsea did well in alternative school but missed her best friend who was at her old school. At the alternative school Chelsea was making some progress, and slowly her grades were improving.
Yet, Chelsea remained impulsive in her behavior. At times she could have made better choices, like any teenager. She had played a part in egging a friendís home. On New Yearís Day 2006, Chelsea shot herself in the abdomen, with a .22 caliber gun from her parentís room. Her mother found her. Chelsea was alive, and apologetic as paramedics rushed her to the hospital. She died the next day.
Without Chelsea to testify the rape charges against Levitan were dropped, yet Levitan is serving ten years in prison for raping another woman he met online.
My Christmas wish for Chelsea is that each person who played a part in ridiculing her realizes how deeply words affect people. How different Chelseaís life might have been if her peers had been more supportive. What if just one of the people who ridiculed her instead said how could I help you get through this difficult time?
In both situations, one or more adults deceived a minor. In one case, it was written painfully through words, and in the other case, the adult coerced a physical meeting, and sexually assaulted the girl. Adults are ALWAYS the one responsible for their actions when it comes to having any kind of relationship with a minor, online or off line.
Girls are extremely vulnerable, trusting, and without life experience to know that there was perhaps a light at the end of the long dark tunnel she was currently in, each girl ended her life. Cyber-suicide is perhaps not an official word. Yet, cyber-suicide in my definition which refers to someone ending his or her life due to circumstances related to what has happened to them due to circumstances involving the internet.
Sadly, I believe cyber-suicide is occurring in our children and teens all across America at an alarming rate. I believe cyber-suicide is becoming increasingly commonplace as I type this story. Is the Internet a greater danger to our children than previously believed? If your child has attempted cyber-suicide or has become a cyber-suicide victim, please contact me through the BellaOnline Missing & Exploited Children Websites contact form.
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