I was bullied once.
I was about 10 years old. Unfortunately, many kids can't protect themselves like I once did. Even worse, so much bullying today has turned to torment. Yesteryear's boyhood brawls have transformed into today's torture.
It's a new day in which social networks have created cyber-bullying. Why harass a kid in a school hall with a handful of kids when one can use Facebook and YouTube to bully him or her repeatedly in full view of the whole world? In so doing, the public damage and consequences are instantly and exponentially escalated.
ABC News reported a few months ago that the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center estimates that roughly 30 percent of U.S. youth are either bullies or subjects of bullying. Moreover, ABC News added, researchers at the Yale School of Medicine linked bullying and being bullied to suicide in 13 countries.
In the past few years, we have seen a string of tragedies in which bullies received no penalties (or very lenient ones) for bullying that included criminal harassment, physical injuries, stalking, rape and even death.
Case in point recently was Phoebe Prince, a beautiful 15-year-old new student from Ireland who the New York Daily News described as being "driven to suicide by cyber-bullies" on Jan. 14, 2010, when she hanged herself. Her body was discovered by her 12-year-old sister.
In March 2010, six Massachusetts teens -- four females and two males -- were indicted on felony charges of unrelentingly and mercilessly tormenting Phoebe. One of the males, being 18, was charged with statutory rape. The teens allegedly didn't approve of her dating an older football player. So they assaulted and threatened Phoebe not only at school but also off campus and on the social networks of Twitter, Craigslist and Facebook.
Sadly, according to the Boston Globe, in court Phoebe's mother read Phoebe's last phone text about her bullies before hanging herself, "It would be easier, if he or any one of them handed me a noose.''
And yet, through a series of plea deals, last week on May 5, the bullies were let off with minimal terms of probation and community services.
While tougher penalties, new cyber-crime laws and anti-bullying legislation might provide some aid, I believe those solutions are merely external Band-Aids for internal wounds that require us all to encourage a better humanity in ourselves and one another.
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