Another Teen ‘Slut-Shamed’ To Death Due To Cyber Bullying

I’m starting to think that social media kills more kids annually than loaded handguns. We have another case where online bullying led to a teen’s suicide, and I know that whenever I report on a story like this one of the most common reader’s comments is “This kid was obviously troubled to begin with. A normal, healthy kid doesn’t commit suicide over being called ugly or a slut over the Internet.” But my answer to that is normal, healthy kids don’t call other kids sluts or ugly on the Internet. If a kid is lonely, and let’s face it, that is one of the side-effects of being a teenager, they want to reach out to others in order to alleviate that loneliness or connect with their peers or be reassured they aren’t ugly, and if all they are met with is insults and suggestions to kill themselves, I can see where it would bring a kid down. From WPTV:

Pasco County authorities say a 16-year-old Hudson girl took her own life Sunday night.  Friends of the Jessica Laney say bullying through social media played a major role.

An investigation into her suicide is underway.

Laney lived in Hudson, where friends say she attended Fivay High School and played soccer.

But when she was off the field, she spent time online, maintaining blogs on popular social network site Tumblr, and, a site where people could ask questions and make comments anonymously.

Valerie Canales, who calls Laney a friend, said people used the format to bully the victim.

If you take a look at Laney’s page, Jessicamarieee1, some of the anonymous questions asked are innocent enough, talking about boys, and even comments praising her beauty.

But her page is also peppered with disparaging comments, calling her fat and a loser.

One visitor asked her, “Can you kill yourself already?” and another commented “nobody even cares about you”.

Jessica Laney’s friends are blaming the social media site,, for contributing to Laney’s suicide. Valerie Canales, a friend of the victim’s wrote:

“…last night, my friend Jessica Laney took her life. She was constantly bullied and bullied. And she was pushed and pushed to the point where she couldn’t handle it anymore. And if you could spread the word about the website, & how it needs to be shut down, that would be amazing too. is a website where people can ask anonymous questions to anyone they want. And thats how Jessica was constantly put down and bullied. She was a beautiful girl & everyone loved her. Shes gonna be missed. We have to put an end to bullying. Please help…” she wrote on her Facebook page.

Laney’s page is heartbreaking, and incredibly difficult to read knowing that this girl is now dead. It is peppered with the typical “whore” and “slut” comments, as well as suggestions that she kill herself and replies from Jessica herself.

I know we talk about bullying with our kids, how not to put others down and how to reach out to kids sitting or playing alone, but we need to pay just as much attention to telling our kids that if they are considering joining social media websites they are putting themselves at risk for anonymous assholes to insult and berate them. I’m going to start telling my own kids that using social media is something I don’t want them engaging in until they are much older, just like drinking.

Officials say Laney hung herself. She was pronounced dead at 11:26 p.m. Sunday night.

(photo: Facebook)

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  • Carmen Finnigan

    I have no words.

    My children, if I can manage to have some, will be growing up with this technology. I am not sure how to protect them.

  • AP

    Slut-shaming is the wrong word for this. Slut-shaming is when you accuse a woman of promiscuity for engaging in sexual behavior that is otherwise accepted as socially normal and healthy.

    This girl was being verbally abused and sexually harassed. She was not slut-shamed.

    • Eve Vawter

      Calling someone a slut is slut shaming.

    • once upon a time

      Calling someone a slut is NOT slut shaming. It’s a nasty thing to do, no argument here, but it’s not slut shaming. Slut shaming is exactly what AP said – shaming a woman for being sexually active.

      Words lose their power when they’re frequently misused (see irony, literally.)

  • alice

    Eh, i’m going to take a slightly different stance here. While bullying is a monumental problem, and seems to thrive in Social Media Outlets, anti-bullying isn’t really the answer for me here.

    I want to see suicide-shaming. <– yep

    Increasingly, we're seeing teen suicide as a response to bullying, followed by a viral sympathy campaign for the deceased.

    it has to stop. suicide is never an answer. and it should be shaped in our public mind's as shameful. i would rather have a bullied teen think "if i kill myself, i will be ridiculed mercilessly afterwards" than think "if i kill myself, the whole world will finally see my pain, and i'll be pitied and martyred"

    boo nooo boooooooo. suicide-shaming. let's start the new trend

    • meteor_echo

      Oh screw you. It’s enough that the default religion for most English-speaking countries sees suicide as a “sin”, now people also try to shame a person no matter what. You can’t win if you’re alive, because you’re being bullied, and you can’t win if you die because jerks like you want to shame the person who simply had no other way out. Congratulations on being all self-important.

    • Byron

      You can win if you’re alive by simply ignoring all the bullying and going on and being a successful happy wonderful person and showing the bullies how wrong they were about everything.

      Suicide is NEVER a “win”. What did this girl “win”? Are you sitting here telling us she came prosperous of the exchange? Her life for the bullies’ half-baked care-free insults?

    • alice

      (accidentally posted reply to byron….sorry!)

      All that being said, I understand that this is a blog, and Eve can write whatever she wants.

      My comments in this thread are directed at ALL of us, to perhaps reshape the way we process/report/comment/share stories on teen
      suicide, starting with us all ending the trend of using teen suicide as a platform to expose teen bullying…starting with us all ending the trend of sensationalizing the story and turning the deceased into our own Fight Club’s Robert Paulson…starting with us all ending the oversimplified problem/solution connection between bullying and suicide. Suicide needs to be as far removed from this problem/solution equation as possible. And it needs to be treated with more seriousness than “look at these comments from this girl’s online webpage” because that just normalizes “possible suicide criteria” across the board.

      ya dig?

    • meteor_echo

      Really? As a victim of bullying that lasted for 9 years, I can tell you that no, it doesn’t stop if you “ignore” it. It gets worse, because bullies are little shits and will try and do something that will make you STOP ignoring them. The only way for me to stop my bullies was beating one of them black and blue and breaking his nose with a chair. They stop only if you do something about it – and yes, while suicide is not the best way out, it should not be a reason to fucking shame the person who did it.

      So you’re sitting here and blaming the victim instead of the abusers. Way to go, you, the paragon of justice, you.

    • Leigha7

      They didn’t mean the bullies will stop if you ignore them. What they meant was to ignore the message the bullies are giving you (that you are worthless or untalented or whatever it is they’re saying) and go on to be successful as an adult. Then you “win” because you prove to the bullies that you actually AREN’T worthless, but are in fact pretty awesome.

      Of course, that has a big flaw in that it requires suffering through the bullying until you can get out and make something of yourself, plus what happens if circumstances prevent you from being as successful as you’d like? But that’s what they meant.

      I have literally no solutions for how to deal with bullying, either on an individual level or an institutional one. I have never been able to come up with any possible solution that would actually make things better. The go-to solutions most adults give kids are 1. ignore them (but we all know that rarely works and often makes it worse), 2. tell someone (which, again, rarely works and usually makes things worse), or 3. use judicious violence (which might work, might make it worse, and might get you into serious trouble). None of these are really good solutions, and I can’t think of any better ones. But trying to make the best of your life, knowing that the bullying is temporary (if for no other reason than the fact that you will eventually be away from those people), and working towards a good career/family/what have you…that seems like a good plan, regardless. It’s easier said than done when you’re suffering, but still.

      That said, it shouldn’t be about “winning,” or “proving them wrong.” It should have nothing to do with them, because that gives them power over you. It should be about YOU. You should want to do well for yourself, because you, as a human being, have worth.

    • alice

      I guess no one is familiar with satire?

      No, we’re not going to egg the houses of teen girls who
      end their own lives.

      But how about we STOP SENSATIONALIZING THEIR DEATHS AS A PLATFORM TO TALKS ABOUT BULLYING? How about we stop writing about teen suicide like it was a solution to teen bullying. And yes, that’s what the media is doing. If you don’t think there’s a problem with showing teen suicide as a result of stress and bullying, then you’re not seeing the bigger picture.

      Bullying is a widespread issue. 1 out of 4 kids report that they’ve been
      bullied. Nearly half of all online users have reported “cyber bullying.”

      Do 1 and 4 kids kill themselves? Do nearly half of all online users kill themselves? Of course not. Do you think only the receivers of the *worst* treatment kill themselves? Of course not.

      But when a teen kills themselves and it’s WIDELY AND DIRECTLY linked to bullying, the media blasts every headline with the tragedy of “another teen victim to bullying” – filled with talking points about bullying, examples of the type of bullying the teen was subjected to, etc.

      But here’s the deal: Teenagers don’t need to IDENTIFY with suicide victims, mmkay? They don’t need to say “hey, those examples of online bullying that the media posted…i have those too…she’s just like me” And they certainly don’t need to see a goddamn tsumani of public attention for the bullied suicide victim. They don’t need to see viral facebook campaigns in the deceased name. They don’t need to see people ooo’ing and ahhh’ing over the details of the deceased life.

      You want a platform to highlight the problems with bullying? Start with the millions of other kids that are bullied every day that DON’T kill themselves.

      And for anyone who wants to argue that I have it all wrong: show me where in any of these media articles there are resources for suicide prevention? show me where it says a teen can go to get help with bullying? show me where it suggests what a teen should do, besides fucking kill themselves?

      it doesn’t say it, in any of the articles. because the articles are about sensationalizing a suicide in order to highlight a bullying problem. this particular article ends with:

      “Officials say Laney hung herself. She was pronounced dead at 11:26 p.m. Sunday night.”

      Here’s some more reading if you want to educate yourselves more on the role of Media in Teen Suicide:

      From TeenLink:

      “According to the Suicide and Mental Health ­Association
      International’s report on Suicide Contagion, the media should not
      sensationalize the event or glamorize the victim or act. Describing the method
      used should also be kept to a minimum. Another ­important step the media can take is to ­focus on the mental health aspects of the suicide. Just saying that the victim was “stressed” or “under pressure” makes it too easy for other
      teenagers to identify with the victim. Those who commit suicide often have
      long-standing mental health issues that are often ignored in the media
      coverage, which is a huge mistake.

      Teenagers need to see that they are not “just like” the
      teen who committed suicide. Suicide is caused by many factors; it is not
      acceptable for the media to be one of them.”

      Excerpts from “Preventing Suicide: A Resource for Media Professionals”
      By the WHO and International Association for Suicide Prevention

      “The factors contributing to suicide and its prevention are complex and not fully understood, but there is evidence that the media plays a significant role. On the one hand, vulnerable individuals may be influenced to engage in imitative behaviours by reports of suicide, particularly if the coverage is extensive, prominent, sensationalist and/or explicitly describes the method of suicide. On the other hand, responsible reporting may serve to educate the public about suicide, and may encourage those at risk of suicide to seek help.
      Systematic reviews of these studies have consistently drawn the same conclusion: media reporting of suicide can lead to imitative suicidal behaviours. It is accentuated when the person described in the
      story and the reader or viewer are similar in some way, or when the person described in the story is a celebrity and is held in high regard by the reader or viewer. Particular subgroups in the population (e.g.,young people, people suffering from depression) may be especially vulnerable to engaging in imitative suicidal behaviours.

      There are many misconceptions about suicide, and the media can play a role in dispelling various myths. The factors that lead an individual to suicide are usually multiple and complex, and should not be reported in a simplistic way. Suicide is never the result of a single factor or event. Mental illness is a strong predictor of suicide. Also, impulsiveness plays an important role.

      Almost always, it will be misleading to attribute a suicide to an individual event like exam failure or relationship breakdown, particularly in circumstances where the death has not yet been fully investigated. Suicide should certainly not be depicted as a means of coping with personal problems.

      Prominent placement and undue repetition of stories about suicide are more likely to lead to imitative behaviours than more subtle presentations. Newspaper stories about suicide should ideally be located on the inside pages, towards the bottom of the page, rather than on the front page or at the top of an inside page. Similarly, broadcast stories about suicide should be presented in the second or third break of television news, and further down the order of radio reports, rather than as the lead item. Consideration should be given to the extent to which the original story should be repeated or updated, and caution should be exercised in this regard.

      Information about the options for seeking help should be included at the end of a story on suicide.

    • wmdkitty

      Ugh. No. I disagree with your fundamental premise — knowing that others are also dealing with the same issues helps to STRENGTHEN people, it gives them hope. Pointing out that this or that suicide was linked to how a person was treated is also very useful, because it shows that bullying DOES have consequences, and every bully should be brought up on the strongest charges of harassment possible (or, of course, murder, if their bullying led to a suicide.)

      If I had known, as a teen, that I WASN’T ALONE, that I wasn’t the only one dealing with mental health issues, that I wasn’t the only one targeted for being visibly different, life would have been so much easier!

    • meteor_echo

      Preach it, sister. People who are telling the ones like us to “ignore it” or to “act with dignity” don’t know what they’re talking about at all.
      And yes, suicide as a result of bullying should be highlighted. But this person is putting the blame on wrong people.

    • BlackWaterHattie

      I knew what you meant, and I still agree.

    • Leigha7

      Every mention I’ve ever seen of teens who’ve committed suicide includes names and numbers of helplines to call if you’re considering suicide. They also often list warning signs for people to be aware of so they can notice if someone they care about is at risk. I’ve seen these mentioned dozens, if not hundreds, of times (including in health class at school). There is no lack of this information.

      You do have a very valid point, though. On the one hand, knowing that other teens are being bullied just like you are can be an incredibly HELPFUL thing–it can make you feel less alone, which can make it easier to deal with. On the other, it would be better if at least some of that identification would come from adults who were bullied as teens and made it through that to become successful. If EVERY other person you hear about who’s been bullied is someone who committed suicide, that could be harmful.

      There needs to be a balance. Science does back the existence of copycat everything–copycat suicides, copycat bombings, copycat serial killers. The news doesn’t need to report every gritty detail of every incident, because it can and does inspire people to do the same. That said, it shouldn’t shy away from mentioning it at all. Also, quite frankly, I’m uncertain whether the people who would copy what they see on the news weren’t already more likely than average to do the things they copied. There has to be something that makes it seem worth copying, after all.

      What I would like to see is more discussion about bullyING rather than being bullied. Whenever things like this happen, there’s a lot of discussion of how much of a victim they were, what awful things were done to them, how difficult it was for them to cope with it. But there’s rarely any discussion of the kids who tormented them, of why they would do and say the things they did, and what parents and educators can do to keep kids from bullying their peers.

      Obviously, there are some legal issues–they probably can’t name names or talk to the bullies directly in most cases, and that’s not necessarily bad (many bullies do grow up to regret what they did, and while that’s small consolation to their victims, especially if they’re dead…that may not happen if they’re publicly outed as bullies and tormented for the rest of their lives; also, while you may think they deserve to have it turned back on them, some of the things I’ve seen people say on the rare occasions bullies are publicly named are EXTREMELY harsh, not to mention downright scary–calling someone names at school doesn’t warrant adults around the country saying you should be raped or shot or beaten half to death). But there needs to be SOME discussion from that angle. We need to spend a little less time focusing on why the bullied kids kill themselves (not that that’s not important, because it certainly is) and a little more time focusing on why kids bully other kids.

    • lea

      You do realise that the only people who will be victims to your horrific “suicide-shaming” campaign would be the deceased’s family right?

      Would you be comfortable telling this girl’s mother and father (face to face) that what their daughter did, taking her own life, was shameful?

      I truly hope that you never have to experience the anguish that drives a person to so dark a place that their only way out is suicide, and I hope that you never lose someone to that darkness either.

    • wmdkitty

      Yeah, because suicide doesn’t already have a massive stigma attached to it, let’s make people feel EVEN WORSE about it!

      How about… NO.

    • alice
    • meteor_echo

      How about unless you’ve been bullied, you keep your opinion to yourself? People like you make the victims feel much, much worse, because you tell them that they should use a single specific way out of bullying. You’re talking to the wrong people altogether – tell the bullies not no bully instead of telling the victims to behave the way YOU want them to.

    • alice

      holy shitcakes! this isn’t as two sided as you’d like to think.

      i see your perspective. please try to see mine:

      i don’t want to see any more dead kids. i don’t want to see any more kids deciding that suicide was the only answer to their problem. i never fucking said “just deal with it kids. grow a pair!”

      but the difference between our points here, is that when a teen is contemplating suicide, i want to reach in and stop them. i want to reach in and make them believe that as bad as it is now, suicide is STILL NEVER AN ANSWER TO THEIR PROBLEMS. i want that kid, who lives at home with their parents, who maybe can’t even drive a car, who has been literally STUCK in the same situation for 16 years, to realize that very soon they will have so much more control. they can move. they can go to college or get a job or join the army or the peace corps. they can go out and buy a puppy and watch greys anatomy all night. they can find something that makes them happy. basically: i want that kid to find strength in themselves, and see that suicide is the opposite of strength.

      it seems like when a teen is contemplating suicide, you’re saying that you want to reach in and say “bullies have taken everything from you, all your strength, you can’t win while you’re alive” (<– i believe that's waht you said above)

      i understand it's about the bullies, and stopping bulling. but why can't it be both? stopping bullying and fucking preventing KIDS from killing themselves? geez. i just don't want kids to kill themselves. why is this concept so disruptive?

      i want parents to tell their teen kids, over and over, that SUICIDE IS NEVER AN ANSWER. i want teen kids to see suicide as a really fucking stupid idea, a shortsighted idea, a misguided idea. and you think this is a bad message? get the fuck out.

      you tell me to keep this opinion to myself? (because you assume i've never been there? never thought my life was so bad that i "couldn't win while i was alive?" ) get the fuck out.

      you tell me i'm talking to the wrong people, and i should ONLY be talking to the bullies? you dare to say i shouldn't tell these teens to "behave the way i want them to" when all i'm telling them to do is NOT KILL THEMSELVES? get the fuck out.

      you think this girl's parents would rather have their daughter be the
      newest posterchild for an anti-bullying campaign, or ALIVE?

      Teen Suicide Prevention and AntiBullying Platforms are *NOT* in opposition to each other.

      ugh. sorry for getting so heated. this is obviously a topic very close to my heart and i'm really beyond words sick of seeing teens choose suicide as a way out

    • meteor_echo

      Okay, this is actually getting amusing. So you’re telling somebody who had been bullied before that I’m pro-suicide and that I should get the fuck out of this conversation? This is so sweet of you, I can’t even.

      How about telling those bullied kids that the best way to stop it is to fight back? How about telling bullies that they’ll have their shit beaten out of them someday? It seems to me that you don’t see my perspective at all.

      On another note, I could talk with you for hours about suicide generally not being a stupid idea (unrelated to bullying – it’s a human right to live their life and end it the way they want). But it seems that you are only good for telling people to get the fuck out because they pissed you off.

    • alice

      im sorry for using that language with you. it was uncalled for.

      we both obviously have very passionate feelings on the subject, from our own personal experiences. you have a very passionate anti-bullying stance, and don’t want to see anything even close to further victimizing the victim, which is great. and i have an equally passionate suicide prevention stance, and don’t want see anything even close to encouraging teen suicide. these positions aren’t mutually exclusive. let’s just leave it at that.

    • meteor_echo


    • BlackWaterHattie

      I agree.

  • whiteroses

    My son won’t be using social media of any description until he’s at least fourteen. And when he does, I’ll be monitoring him closely.
    No matter what you call it- this girl didn’t need to die.

    • Matt Wayne

      14 is too young and you’re stupid if you allow him to at that age. 17 is probably the time when I’d allow my kid to use social media with my supervision.

    • Leigha7

      Seriously? A parent is “stupid” if they feel things are appropriate at an earlier age than you do.

      Honestly, in this day and age, forbidding your child from using social media until they’re a junior or senior in high school will result in one of three things:

      1. They’ll do it anyway, behind your back, which means you won’t have any ability to supervise what they do or even talk to them about it if anything does happen.
      2. They will be the only one in their social group who doesn’t have a Facebook account (or whatever the equivalent is at that time), and they will be essentially completely left out of everything, which will make them feel isolated.
      3. Same as #2, plus they will be mocked for not having an account. If they say it’s because they aren’t allowed, and they don’t make one anyway (as mentioned in #1), they will be mocked for doing what their parents say even though it’s a stupid rule and no one else’s parents have it (even if they do, that’s what would be said).

      I remember how people reacted to the handful of classmates I had who weren’t allowed to watch R-rated movies in high school (they were mocked mercilessly, called babies, told they were losers if they didn’t do it anyway, etc.), and that’s not really a major aspect of everyday life. Social media IS (and was starting to be when I was in school, but that was right as MySpace was dying out and Facebook was becoming popular, and a lot has changed in that time), and forcing a kid to be excluded from something that is so essential to their peers could have pretty negative consequences for them.

  • Matt Wayne

    Uh, this is so stupid. First thing, this girl was stupid and she was weak. If she can’t handle some s–t today, how will she ever handle people at her job as an adult talking to her like crap sometimes and her maybe her boss getting all over her for not doing something right? Oh the poor babies of this lamest generation of retarded kids! When I was growing up I got picked on ALL the time, mostly in grade school. I got beat up a couple of times, I got picked on some in middle school and I got a knife put to my throat one time while in grade school. Back then there was no internet or social media, but there was plenty of interaction with other kids who messed with my brothers and me. I felt sad and lonely, sure. I even wanted to off myself a few times when I was a young teenager but did I do it because of some people making fun of me? Hell no. I got through it, pulled my pants up and moved on. Life is short. Killing yourself at 16 is STUPID. Nobody has experienced alot in life yet at that point to even know what hardship really is or what suffering really is unless they’ve been homeless all their life or live in a 3rd world nation. So cut the crap. Girls especially are prone to putting themselves out there to get attacked online when they’re attention seeking. Nobody really doesn’t care! Nobody cares what your problems are. If you got problems and are lonely go see a therapist and talk to your parents if you got any. Talk to some people you can trust, don’t use the internet! The internet is NOT for children, it’s for adults. Adults who allow their kids use of the internet and social media are stupid parents. They should beat themselves over the head for being so retarded. If you let your kid online, you need to monitor! Monitor them! Period!

    • Matt Wayne

      I need to clarify that some may find my strong stance offensive and to that I don’t care. Weak parenting and weak people are the reason why kids off themselves and same for adults who kill themselves over petty crap. If you’re a veteran who has gone through alot in war, and you kill yourself, that’s different. But if you’re a teenager, oh my, and you get picked on, then you should kill yourself right? Don’t tell me your answer, I don’t want to know. If you’re being bullied online then DON’T go online! I’ve been bullied online and I’m a grown man! It happens to men and women too! Nobody online gives a rats a@@ what you’re going through unless you’re related or friends. Other than that keep your business to yourself and don’t parade around as if you’re really important because in this big world, you are NOT!

    • meteor_echo

      Clearly, if someone is bullied at school or at home, they shouldn’t go to school or have a home. Right?

    • wmdkitty

      You, sir, are a Grade-A Douchenozzle.

    • Scarlette

      The frontal lobe of the brain is not fully developed at 16.

      I am not going to argue with you because, as you said, I really do not care what you think either.

    • Leigha7

      “The internet is NOT for children, it’s for adults. Adults who allow their kids use of the internet and social media are stupid parents.”

      What planet are you from? The internet is for EVERYONE. If the internet wasn’t for children, there wouldn’t be thousands upon thousands of websites that exist SPECIFICALLY for children. There’s a Barbie website…there are websites dedicated to teaching kids the alphabet, for pete’s sakes! The internet is something that most people under the age of 25 and practically everyone under the age of 13 has had for most, if not all, of their lives.

      Also, forbidding children from using the internet is actually pretty stupid and irresponsible. Children (especially teenagers) NEED the internet for schoolwork. I think the first time I needed to go online and look up information for a report was in 4th grade, and I needed to do that regularly from then on. If you want your kids to be able to do schoolwork, they’ll need to use the internet at some point, whether it be at home or at school.

      More importantly, at some point, you children will be adults. As adults, they will be expected to competently use the internet (without your help). If you’ve forbidden them from ever using it growing up, they’ll have to learn from scratch, as adults. As I’m sure everyone is already aware, kids who grew up using computers do so much more fluently than those who started as adults. By keeping your kids from something that has become such an integral part of our everyday lives, you could potentially be diminishing their chances at having a successful career (particularly in computer-related fields).

      I would know so much less if I hadn’t had unrestricted access to the internet for most of my life (since I was 9). The amount of random information you can learn online is downright mind-boggling. It makes me feel extremely grateful that I grew up in an era with widespread internet access (even if it was dial-up), with a family that could afford it and allowed me to utilize it.

      The internet is a tool. It can be used wisely or abused, but that has nothing to do with the age of the person using it.

  • LadyInRed

    At least bullying stopped for me as soon as I walked into my home. Kids today have no escape.

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