By Samantha Kearney
It was October 12, 2012 when I first viewed the UTube video Amanda Todd posted a month earlier. In it she shares her experiences of being harassed, sexually violated, and physically and socially assaulted. I was saddened by what this 15 year old girl had to go through and her action of ending her life. Proud, though, at the same time of her courage and brilliance in making her personal nightmare public for all to see and feel.
How come though I did not see this beforehand? How come nothing was reported back then? How come it is often after the fact when a girl or woman is missing, murdered, or takes her life, we are all in an uproar? And what are we going to do? Post, share, give condolescences, and then move on with our lives? Or are we going to do something constructive in making social change and ending violence against girls and women?
Right after viewing Amanda’s video, Christie Clark, BC Premier, was on Global BC Morning News stating how bullying has to stop and what the government is doing about it. Great…how wonderful…can the government also ensure adequate funding for schools, counsellors, and women’s and youth organizations? Can the funding not be in constant jeopardy year after year – open to cuts at any time – and not involve new procedures that only increase competitiveness among social service providing agencies just to barely survive?
I then read in an article that a school liaison officer offered Amanda support services…and??? What else was done? Giving a girl a list of resources is not enough.
Also naming the behaviour and talking about it as “bullying” only softens it all. It is violence – period. In many schools there are established zero tolerance policies for violence, at least where I grew up, Montreal. If we call it “bullying”, it only keeps it pertaining to a school and/or a youth phenomenon just smoothing the issue over.
We need to call it what it is – violence. If we do then schools that have zero tolerance policies on violence have to act. If we do then police have to act because we have laws against violence. And if not then we can advocate and hold those systems accountable for failing to take action.
We do not need more funding taken away from support services to do reports on the issue of “bullying” in schools and violence in our society. Violence is happening. Girls and women are dying because of it. We know what is happening. We know why it is happening. And if you do not, please just Google and read all that has been written on the issue because it is all there. Some of the better statements in response to Amanda’s death were from women’s organizations, please check them out:
The question is how are we going to stop the deaths, killings, and assaults on girls and women? What are you going to do? What am I going to do?
Well, I am going to speak the truth – we failed you, Amanda – I failed you.
I am putting a call out to myself and to others to join the efforts to end violence against girls and women.
- Start naming “bullying” for what it is – violence.
- Get your school, your child’s school, schools to have clear zero tolerance policies on violence.
- Get your school, your child’s school, schools to ensure teachers, counsellors, school liaison officers are emotionally and institutionally supported to take action against any violence.
- Keep the government on their word of providing training and see that the training is provided by experienced sources.
- Keep the government funding and increase the funding to support services for girls and women who have experienced violence – take action when they try to take funding away and/or decrease it.
- Volunteer at organizations supporting and empowering girls in your local community.
- Put pressure on Facebook to remove people who use girls and women’s bodies as their profile pictures or anywhere.
Throughout that day I connected with others, sharing my reaction and hearing theirs. A woman on the skytrain was reading my scribbling of this reaction piece (very impressive she could actually read it!). She said, “I see what you are writing about that girl who took her life”. I said, “yes” and then shared my shock, anger, and sadness around the loss of Amanda, not knowing about it a month ago, and also being an anti-violence worker myself.
This mother then shared how she fears for her daughter who is 13 and has been the recipient of aggressive behaviour from her classmates. She worries that one day her daughter will be hurt and she so wants to protect her daughter from that. This Mom took action when the school did not. She succeeded in stopping the aggressive behaviour.
I then spoke to a young woman who shared how she went to school with welts on her face when she was a young girl and when the Principal saw her she said, “Oh, I guess your father got a hold of you again”. That was it. This woman as a young girl was being brutally beaten by her father and that was the school’s response. Years later this woman wrote to that principal using her voice and pen to share the truths, the realities, the failures, and the changes needed.
We each have the power to make change – in our selves, in our relationships, in our communities, in our schools, in our world.
How are you going to use your power? Where can you make change? What tool can you use to create that change?
I am using my pen to share my truths.
I will not stop there and I hope you do not either…because we lost another girl, 16-year-old Jessica Laney just last Sunday.
Lets do what we can with the power we each have to make real change so no more girls and women are lost to violence.
For further information on violence against girls and Battered Women’s Support Services YOUth Ending Violence Program, please click on the following links: