So, I met with a family this week with a simply stunning 15 year old daughter. I’m not exaggerating when I say that by our society’s standards she is really very beautiful. When people see her they automatically stop and look. She is also so very sweet.
The story that came along with her, though? I died a little just hearing it. I know being physically attractive can bring on the haters, but flat out torment and abuse by other kids? Apparently so.
She was a freshman this past year in a new school, and for the first couple of months everything was great. New and old friends, new classes, new activities, and high school was off to a great start.
Until the unsolicited di^# pics started. At one point it was so bad her mom said she’d get 5-7 a day, from boys at her school or boys who would be given her info from someone else. From boys who were supposed to be her friends. Boys who mostly didn’t even send them anonymously. The harassment by 14-16 year old boys who felt entitled to her and girls who were jealous or angry over the attention boys wanted to give her has been absolutely unreal. The unwanted gross comments by boys her age and older in her high school on her social media pages make my heart hurt. I’ve seen them. The pictures kids would take of her at school without her permission, post on their social media pages and then make rude and nasty sexual comments on. Kids spreading rumors like she was hooking up with five guys at a time after school when her parents actually picked her up every day. Boys saying to her “If you do that, then why won’t you do me?” Girls calling her every horrible name you can possibly imagine and then some. In public online pages, which then led to it in person.
It didn’t end when her parents shut down all of her social media accounts, because kids created new ones with which to torment her. It didn’t end when her parents pulled her from school after she was assaulted in the girls’ bathroom twice by boys who thought they had the right to her because they liked what they saw, and believed they could torment her with threats on social media. One boy grabbed her and said “Suck my d#%^ or I will tell everyone you sent me nudes.” To a then 14 year old girl. I honestly can’t even repeat the rest. The school had footage of one of her stalkers following her to the bathroom and a security officer intervened, thank goodness. That boy was expelled from the school, and still did not leave her alone online.
She has been enrolled in online school since leaving after the first semester. The torment hasn’t stopped. Her parents just cannot believe how far some of these kids will go to stalk, torment, and to be just plain mean.
Her mom cried when she talked about how upsetting it was to know that parents and families she admired were unaware of how many photos their sons send of their private parts with rude comments, especially when not asked to do so, and when, in fact, were asked repeatedly to stop. She talked about how disheartening it was when bringing these issues to those same parents didn’t resolve things, but more often than not made things worse and isolated their family socially. She talked about how hurtful it was that these kids who were doing this were leaders in their classes, sports and activities. You know, the “good kids”. She talked about how some of these kids her daughter grew up with, and those relationships, at least from their perspective, are ruined. She doesn’t even think these boys understand that. They think it is normal behavior.
Not much shocks me anymore, but hearing this story and seeing the proof of it absolutely did. It’s heartbreaking - for her, for her parents, for her siblings, and you know what? It’s even heartbreaking for these boys who for whatever reason, are growing up thinking that girls want to be treated this way, that the hurt they are causing isn’t as important as their own gratification. It’s heartbreaking for these girls to not realize or not care that the pain they are inflicting on others is life altering, in the worst ways possible. And it’s heartbreaking that their parents either don’t know what their kids are doing, or who believe “not my kid”.
“Not my kid” no longer applies. Good kids are learning very destructive things, and making very bad choices. When they are learning about sex and relationships from unfettered access to porn when they are in 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grade, they don’t have the context to understand that some things they see may be unrealistic, some may be a fetish, and some things may actually be a crime against women. Their view of what is normal and healthy is becoming wildly distorted, and our children - all of them - are paying the price.
This is what spending less time being engaged in the real world and more time isolated and alone hiding with a device behind a bedroom door does. The average teen spends 8 hours a day online outside of school or homework - how much of that time can truly be spent making them a better person? They work less, participate in fewer activities, they date less, they drive less, they spend less time with friends and family because they think they are getting everything they need from a device. They aren't learning how to grow into relationships, how to treat others, or how to resolve conflict, or how to know they've gone too far.
This beautiful girl (inside and out) has been completely traumatized, and her teenage experience thus far is one nightmares are made of. She has never been on a date, and while she has never even been kissed (willingly), has been assaulted repeatedly: physically, emotionally, socially and mentally by her own peers. With social media being the primary weapon.
When will we wake up?
PS. Her mother has given me permission to anonymously share her experience. Please recognize and honor that before responding. Also, please know that law enforcement has been involved, and I have seen enough proof for myself to write this.