There is always hope.
And by banding together, all people, regardless of age, can make a difference when it comes to bullying.
Those were a few of the important messages delivered by Carol Todd, mother of Amanda Todd, who committed suicide after being bullied.
Amanda Michelle Todd’s [Nov. 27, 1996 – Oct. 10, 2012] story is tragic. She killed herself at the age of 15 at her home in Port Coquitlam, B.C. Before her death, she posted a video on YouTube in which she used a series of flash cards to tell her experience of being blackmailed into exposing her breasts via webcam, and of being bullied and physically assaulted. The video went viral after her death, resulting in international media attention. The video has had more than 19 million views as of June 2016.
The RCMP and British Columbia Coroners Service launched investigations into the suicide.
Carol visited Gift Lake and gave a presentation at the community hall July 8. She warned such incidents could happen anywhere at any time.
“We’re not isolated by culture. We’re not isolated by religion, we’re not isolated by race,” Todd told about 150 youth.
She said stopping bullying must occur from each person looking inward to gather the strength to make a difference.
“Do you want your friends to be hurt? My daughter was. She was hurt by people she thought were her friends.
“The only reason I can do this today is by telling her story I know I can make things better.”
Carol spoke in detail about the blackmail, about how a man gained her trust as a “friend”. After she was blackmailed into exposing her breasts, the man posted the photos. The result was a downward spiral.
Carol warned the youth about the dangers of social media, especially regarding the decisions of who your friends really are and what you share.
“Once your share pictures, they are out there forever,” she said. “Do you want your life posted on the grocery bulletin board?”
Her daughter’s efforts to change schools to escape her situation did not work.
“She was still alone. She was getting beat up.”
Classmates posted on social media that “they wished her dead”. Amanda drank bleach one day but she was taken to hospital and survived after her stomach was pumped.
Later, after millions more views, Amanda committed suicide.
The harsh reality of Amanda’s death may result in some good. In death, Amanda has become the spokesperson for anti-bullying.
Carol warned youth they have a tremendous amount of power with their phones and computers. She urged them to make good choices.
“You kids, as people, you can teach adults,” she said, realizing how quick youth are to keep up with technology.
And, she challenged them, what would you do if you saw someone getting beat up?
“Would you go outside and watch or would you go tell someone? We need to step up and we need to do something.”
And the incident regarding Amanda?
“These girls were relentless. You guys need to be the eyes and ears of the public you care about. You need to be a supportive, caring person.”
The man who posed Amanda’s breasts on social media faces criminal charges. Wikipedia reports in January 2014, Dutch police arrested Aydin Coban, 35, on multiple charges involving multiple victims in the Netherlands, England and Canada. Charges include indecent assault and child pornography. Later, he was charged with extortion, Internet luring, criminal harassment and the possession and distribution of child pornography for his alleged activities against Amanda Todd and other child victims, both male and female.
The word ‘sextortion” did not exist before Amanda’s case.
In response to the death, B.C. Premier Christy Clark made an online statement of condolence and suggested a national discussion on criminalizing cyberbullying.
Also, a motion was introduced in the Canadian House of Commons to propose a study of the scope of bullying in Canada, and for more funding and support for anti-bullying organizations.
Meanwhile, Carol has established the Amanda Todd Trust, receiving donations to support anti-bullying awareness education and programs for young people with mental health problems.
Carol’ Gift Lake visit was sponsored by Community Adult Literacy Program, Justice Program, STI, Metis Settlement Community Family Services, and the Tri-Settlements of Pea- vine, East Prairie and Gift Lake.