Slut-Shamed To Death, We Need To Start Bullying Our Teens Into Not Bullying

Felicia Garcia, a 15-year-old Staten Island teenager, committed suicide Wednesday when she jumped in front of a subway train. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people. Nearly 30 percent of kids are either bullies or the victims of bullying. Almost every day we read or hear about another teen or kid who decided to end their life due to bullying and harassment, and parents need to radically address this with our kids. I don’t care if you think your child would never bully another kid. I don’t care if your kid is an honor roll student and spends every weekend doing volunteer work. I don’t care if your kid is a victim of bullying themselves. We need to talk to our kids about this, and we need to do it now.

From The NY Post:

A Tottenville High School student jumped in front of a train after she was bullied for having sex with four football players at the same time during a party after a game this weekend, sources said.

Felicia Garcia, 15, jumped to her death at the Huguenot station moments after a group of classmates, described by witnesses as members of the football team, heaped abuse at her.

A senior who knew her, 17-year-old Victoria, who asked her last name not be used, said the bullying happened in hallways and online.

“This poor girl was called a sl–. She was teased on Facebook. People knock books out of kids hands,” she said.

They said some of the players were on the platform with her yesterday afternoon and taunting her with sexually explicit jeers when she suddenly jumped.

I really don’t give a f*ck if this little girl had sex with the entire football team plus every member of her school. If you hear from your kid that another kid at their school is having sex with numerous people or something else that conflicts with your own morals or what you are teaching your own kids about sexuality, you need to phrase the discussion that you may not agree with what you are hearing, but that teens who are sexually active shouldn’t be bullied for their behavior. No kid should feel this despondent that they feel the only way to deal with bullying is to take their own life.

“I cant, im done, I give up,” she tweeted Monday.

School officials heard of the bullying and set up a mediation session Wednesday with a counselor and one of the 17-year-old boys. The teenager denied harassing the girl, the sources said.

Leaving the office, Felicia later ran into the other 17-year-old who had been making her life miserable — and they exchanged words, the sources said.

Police did not say what was said. But it was enough to send Felicia marching off to the Huguenot station of the Staten Island Railroad, where she killed herself in front of horrified classmates.

Lately we’ve been discussing teens and privacy on Mommyish. I appreciate and understand how teens need privacy to an extent, but I also feel as parents we are ignoring a lot of warning signs that our own kids are displaying at the dinner table every night. If you have a son that refers to a woman in a derogatory way, parents need to stop that shit that right now. I don’t care if you give him a stern talking to. I don’t care if you wash his mouth out with soap. I don’t care if you ground him for a week. Your kid refers to a girl as a “slut” or a “whore” in front of you? You need to fully explain in no uncertain terms that language like that is unacceptable. It doesn’t matter if he is talking about a classmate or Rhianna’s latest music video. You overhear your daughter referring to someone as a “fag” or making fun of one of her classmates or gossiping about the sexual exploits of someone at school? Sit her down right then and there and explain to her why this sort of gossip and language hurts. Ground her. Most importantly, talk to your kids. Talk to them constantly. Talk to them until your jaw aches from stressing that they need to be good humans, good people, empathetic people who stand up for kids being bullied, who makes friends with the outcasts, who find the kids sitting alone at the cafeteria lunch table and include them.

As parents of these not-fully-formed-yet humans, we need to teach them by example. We need to curb the gossiping and backbiting we do to our own friends, over coffee, on the telephone, at family gatherings. We need to make the men our kids have in their lives be fiercely strong role models that respect women, that don’t objectify women, that do their part to teach our sons and daughters that everyone has the right to be treated with respect and dignity regardless of race, appearance, sexual orientation, religious beliefs and their gender. We need to get in their faces. I know that this is not a popular parenting method in this day and age but I really don’t care. Call CPS on me if you want to, but if I hear one of my kids calling a woman a “whore” they will be getting a bar of soap in the mouth, at least ten hours of lectures on why this is unacceptable, and a week’s worth of raking leaves off all of my neighbor’s lawns. 

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    • LoveyDovey

      Thank you! This shit is NOT acceptable.

    • therealKelly

      This is powerful stuff. EVERY parent needs to read it.

    • Gwen

      Another big part of raising respectful kids is being respectful ourselves — don’t call your unpleasant co-worker a b!$#h, don’t make fun of the mannerisms of someone you know. Men, if you want to admire the nice new wall-hangings in your living room, refrain from doing so without a lisp in your voice. I know lots of people who would bring the hammer down on their kids for bullying, but who model the behaviors above.

    • Alexandra

      If she had sex with four gus at a party at once, she probably had problems before, and the bullying just drew her over the line. The poor girl probably needed counseling way before that happened.

      • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

        Ya know, I’m way too upset about this bullshit. so I am going to sit back and let another of our amazing readers address this comment because I just can’t deal today. I can’t.

      • TheLily

        There could be many reasons she had sex with those four guys. Drinking or drugs could have made her more pliable to the idea. She could have been an unpopular girl already so they used that to their advantage. Hell, maybe that’s just what she liked. It doesn’t matter at all WHY it happened, only that people were attacking her.

        Would this have been different if it was a football player scoring with four cheerleaders? Not one bit.

        The BS here in this story is that she did something and people wouldn’t get off of her case. Each persons actions are their own and so long as they aren’t hurting anyone, it shouldn’t matter to anyone else! She had every right, if it was her choice, to have sex with those four boys, just as they had the choice to have sex with her. They all had that choice.

        Did it hurt anyone? Well, other than the bullying, I’m going to say not.

        Sex with a group of people doesn’t mean she needed help for anything. It happens as adults, there is nothing to say as a teen you can’t do that. Hell, I did it as a teen. I don’t regret it. I don’t think it’s fair to say that she was messed up in any way before that.

        Even if she was, it shouldn’t matter because she shouldn’t have been bullied, end of story.

      • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

        thank you

      • http://www.facebook.com/houde.veronique Véronique Houde

        Working for a teen help line in Canada, I encounter these types of problems on a highly regular basis, and it makes me angry EVERY time. There are so many reasons why this girl could have been with 4 guys, just like TheLily stated. Hell, she might even have been raped, or, she was dared, or she wanted to, or… – we just don’t know, and saying that she needed counselling is kind of victim-blaming in a certain, indirect and perhaps well-meaning way… The fact is that young women are prisoners to their sexualities, and as teenagers, it seems as though much of who they are revolves around what they look like, what their body shape is, how sexually active they are, what they post about it online… And once you get a label from other kids, it just doesn’t seem to go away. I’ve spoken to so many kids who did something when they were 13, and by the age of 17, they are still getting harassed by it, and nothing they try to do about it seems to help…

        I feel very sorry about what happened to this girl. You know the worst part of this is? The fact that so many teenagers are committing suicide right now will only make the teen suicide rate go up temporarily. It’s scientifically proven that when one teenager commits suicide due to bullying and it’s talked about a lot in the media, it inspires other kids to do the same thing. All of a sudden, a forgotten, alone, bullied kid gets glorified – people start talking about what went wrong, what was so great about the kid, why the kid didn’t deserve that. Kids who are vulnerable and lonely are craving that kind of relief, and often times think that the only way they will finally get it is by killing themselves. Unbelievably, in schools, when one teenager commits suicide, we are not supposed to talk more about it in order to not send the message that the suicide is a solution in order to get the relief you need. What do we then do as adults to help stop the problem?? I ask myself that question every day.

        Let’s remember that a lot of people who bully others have bad self-esteem themselves, do it to make themselves feel better, or just have plain old bad conflict resolution skills. How many times does the bullying stem from one fight, or someone getting offended – and teenagers just don’t seem to know how to properly talk to the other person in order to resolve the issue. We are like this ourselves – hell, I remember one article that Rebecca Eckler wrote recently where one writer completely insulted her over a misread line – and not many people spoke up to call her out on it. We all need to look at ourselves, and when we disagree with each other, we need to learn better ways of saying what we feel without having to insult the other person. After all, it’s so easy to do when you’re anonymous online, isn’t it? We don’t even need to use our real names… Perhaps some of you should use your real names – it can serve as a good buffer for controlling your tongues ;) Then, we need to turn around and teach this to the kids around us – not just our own kids, but the kids we see in the street, and that we work with…

      • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

        all I can say is thank you.

      • TheLily

        Your comment is wonderful. I know that Eve already said thank you, but honestly, I feel the need to compliment it. It’s well thought out and written to encapsulate your point.

      • Alexandra

        I just meant that someone doesn’t jump in front of a train just because they were bullied, he probably had problems before (I’m not victim-blaming here at all, I have problems too), and it’s unfortunate that no one noticed before.

      • Julie

        Actually, bullying does lead to suicide. And it can lead to all other kinds of violence as well. Maybe you were never bullied, so you don’t know what it feels like (I don’t know, not trying to make assumptions here) or maybe you were and you handled it better than others can. I clearly remember that the main reason given behind the Columbine disaster was that the boys were bullied, so they decided to shoot up their school. And this isn’t the first case of a teen killing themselves because they couldn’t find relief from bullying that we’ve heard of even in the last few months. When someone deals with being barraged and slammed with insults, teasing, physical violence against them and feeling like they have no way out, especially when they are a young adult, it can lead to them acting out in ways that no one could have predicted. I understand your comment was well meaning, but I saw nothing in her story that shows she needed help or counseling before the event occurred.

      • Alexandra

        I’ve been bullied my whole life (well, from kindergarten to when I graduated high school mainly), it’s just the way the story was told sounded like she committed suicide shortly after the bullying started, so she must have had problems to begin with, because no one would degenerate that quickly.

      • Julie

        I didn’t see anywhere where it mentions the amount of time that she was bullied before she took her life. So we shouldn’t make assumptions about that either. Unless I missed it somewhere.

      • Alexandra

        “A Tottenville High School student jumped in front of a train after she was bullied for having sex with four football players at the same time during a party after a game this weekend, sources said.”

      • Julie

        Ok. That still doesn’t mean she was troubled beforehand though. You keep saying “she must have been”. But I disagree and think it’s wrong to assume.

      • Alexandra

        You seriously think someone can kill themselves after being bullied for less than a week?

      • Julie

        I never said that. I’m saying that its wrong to say she “must have been” troubled. She could have been, sure. But we don’t know that.

      • http://www.facebook.com/houde.veronique Véronique Houde

        I’m just wondering… Does the fact that she would have been bullied or had issues beforehand make this situation more or less alarming? Either way (because nothing is impossible – she could have possibly been highly traumatized by an isolated event and jumped in front of the train Without thinking – crazier things have happened) does any make much difference to the result of this situation.

      • Alexandra

        I think we need to offer more support to bullying victims, and to teens in general, instead of telling them “it gets better” or “just ignore it”.
        Of course teaching children it’s wrong to bully others is important, but it’s just as important to help the victims.

      • Alexandra

        And considering I’ve considered suicide , have self esteem issues, go see a therapist that can’t seem to help, and go through phases of extreme sadness and extreme anxiety, I’d say no, I didn’t handle it better than most people.

      • Julie

        Believe me, I know what that feels like. I go through the same things, only stemming from different sources. Like I said, I wasn’t trying to assume anything, just listing a couple different possible scenarios. All I’m saying is that everyone is different- maybe she DID have other issues going on, but it doesn’t say that anywhere in this article OR in others that I read. You handled your issues one way. Sadly, she handled them another. But just because she took things to the extreme, doesn’t mean she was a troubled child to begin with. Just because she had sex with multiple partners, that doesn’t automatically tell me that she had other problems. Teens do things for no reason sometimes. They do them just because they can. I know I did. And I know a lot of my other friends did. And we weren’t troubled, or depressed or in need of therapists. I’m not saying that she wasn’t, but I’m not saying that she was either. Because I have nothing to go off of to tell me where she stood on that matter.

      • ksdg

        I tried to kill myself because of bullying in high school. It also led to an eating disorder and alcohol and drug abuse. And once I was out of high school and no longer being bullied daily? My depression vanished, I no longer felt suicidal, I ate, and I healed. So please don’t be so naive as to think that bullying doesn’t push people so far as to kill themselves. People can be vicious, mean, and awful. These days (and when I was in high school 3 years ago) the bullying follows you home online and via cell phone. It’s inescapable, and it can absolutely make you feel like you have nowhere else to turn.

      • http://www.facebook.com/houde.veronique Véronique Houde

        I don’t believe anyone is implying here that bullying doesn’t lead to suicidal ideation. Of course, there is a direct link between both. To be honest, I find this whole back and forth a bit of a waste of time. We should be focusing on strategies to help stop bullying instead of debating whether a kid could commit suicide after having been bullied for a day because it really makes no difference.

        One thing that I can suggest to parents, teachers, and other adults of the community, is to encourage kids that are WITNESSES to bullying to stand up and say something when they see something that is wrong. There has been a lot of research that has proven that nearly all bullying would stop if only bullies’ friends would tell them to stop. If you ask your kids if they’ve ever seen bullying happen, they would probably tell you that they see it a lot. Ask them if they ever say anything to the bullies – they will most likely say no. Why? Because, either they’re afraid that speaking up will get them a huge target on their backs, or they want to be accepted by the bully because the bully is “cool”. Most teens that are being bullied think that, because the only people who are talking are saying horrible things, most people agree with them, which is far from the truth. Just having one person stand up and say “enough” is more than miraculous for the teen that’s being bullied, the sense of relief is incredible, and they no longer feel as though they’re a pariah.

        Also, in most cases, when one person speaks up, more will follow, and what can happen is that, instead of having a group of bullies (one leader and a whole bunch of bully followers who are only bullying to be “cool” themselves), you have an environment where kids learn to accept themselves and can just be whoever they want.

        That is why peer interventions are always more effective than parent and teacher interventions. Even if the teachers tried to stop this situation, the teens still cornered the girl outside of school grounds.

        Hopefully, this will help ;).

      • http://www.facebook.com/houde.veronique Véronique Houde

        Huh… I would be curious to know who downvoted me and why?

    • Cait

      She was sexuality-shamed to death. Let’s not call the harassment she endured “slut-shaming” when she very literally died because people were calling her a slut. It’s a pretty callous term.

      • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

        If someone is being called a “slut” they are being “slut shamed.” But I appreciate what you are saying, really.

      • Cait

        That implies that the person being shamed is a slut. Considering this young girl killed herself because she was being called a slut, it seems pretty heartless to imply that she’s a slut here too. I’m familiar with the term and I hate it. Some people might identify themselves as sluts or otherwise reclaim the term, but to blanket-label the sexual shaming of women as “slut-shaming” labels the women the shaming is harming as sluts themselves, something that is not okay, especially when we’re talking about a now-dead fifteen year old. It’s really not difficult to describe her situation as being sexually shamed or to use another combination of words that doesn’t make that connection.

      • Julie

        You don’t have to “be a slut” to be slut-shamed. There are girls who are virgins who get slut shamed just for the clothes they wear, whether those clothes could be considered “sexy” or not. Eve is NOT in any way, implying that this young girl was a slut by using that term. She’s saying that slut shaming is wrong, plain and simple. The term is what it is. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to use it, but don’t define it as something that it’s not.

      • Cait

        I’m not defining it as anything, nor accusing Eve of meaning to say this girl was “a slut”, just pointing out the implication of the term and why a lot of people have a big problem with it’s use. “Slut-shaming” is, by name, shaming sluts and/or slutty behavior, which means the victims are themselves labeled sluts whether they want to be or not. It’s a novel idea to think about the term rather than blindly accept that it “is what it is” because it’s come into popular use. The very thing that anti-”slut-shaming” fights for is reducing the stigma surrounding women’s sexual freedom, and yet the term that’s been chosen just reinforces it.

        It’s just as easy and much more respectful and sensible to change the phrase to something that doesn’t have this (unintentional or not) implication.

      • Julie

        “That implies the young girl being shamed is a slut.” Then I said Eve isn’t doing that and you said you never said that. Excuse me but, …what?

      • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

        I think this just detracts from the issue. It’s my belief that no girl/ woman should ever be called a ” slut” no matter what they do, sexually or otherwise. ” slut shaming ” is an appropriate term here, because she WAS called a slut. And thanks Julie for explaining. I’d hope we can focus more on trying to stop bullying rather than semantics, but oh well

      • Julie

        I agree with you Eve. No girl, (or guy for that matter) young or old, should ever have to go through what she did. The fact is that we shouldn’t be picking apart the little details when there is a much larger issue at hand. A young girl is dead. The reason why could have been avoided if these children were taught how to handle themselves better. I think your comment, Eve, explains perfectly my reaction to Caits comment. I can understand where she’s coming from, but right now I really don’t think it matters. I also don’t think it’s fair to speculate about her mental condition when she isn’t even here to defend herself.

      • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

        Thank you!

    • C.J.

      I can’t even think of anything to say, you have said everything I was thinking.

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    • Chelsea

      Good riddance, the shamers were right. She’ll find justice in the afterlife, as everyone does, and thankfully we’re saved from her and her offspring in this one.

    • teacher

      I’m a teacher. I was teaching a lesson about Eckels from the Sound of Thunder and I asked the students to describe his character – One of the boys said, “he’s a little b*tch” and another said, “he’s a p*ssy”. And I stopped the lesson right there and had a discussion with the class about this kind of language and how it is harmful to all because if we are using words that are associated with women to describe negative traits of a man, we are saying that it’s not okay to be a woman. I asked them to name some women that they look up to, they said their moms, grandmas, aunts, etc. I then told them, are these women less important or less because they are women. They all said no. So why use words that are associated with one sex, a sex that has members you look up to, to describe negative traits? We continued on with the original lesson but I know that this side lesson will be one that is revisited throughout the year.

    • Guest

      My boyfriend was relentlessly bullied his whole life and never tried to commit suicide. I still don’t see that as a reason to believe that anyone who does must have other issues. Everyone is different.

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    • Ivy

      Girls are taught bullying by their mothers. My minor private skeletons from 20 years ago leaked out and women far and low (family, friends, teachers, ANYONE) were too happy and quick to spread vicious, exaggerated lies about me and they still do!!! Even my own mom does it, for reasons of personal power. She’s always been out to destroy me, deep down. Sadly, stats show monogamy doesn’t work for all but women are hellbent on making all women be perfect…they seem to can’t help themselves, to judge/gossip/hate forever. It is sick and sad and has destroyed my life and golly I’ve never slept with a married man, not once in my whole life. I’ve tried to be sooo moral and caring, not to avoid bullying but because I truly care about people’s feelings. Imagine that.