A picture of a smiling girl, hair draped across one side of her face, with the hint of freckles, of dimples, of a young woman yet to emerge. But Rebecca Sedwick isn't going to grow up. At the age of 12, after months of bullying by up to 15 girls at her middle school, Rebecca decided to end her life by jumping off a tower at an abandoned concrete plant. For Rebecca, that all-important world of peers became a nightmarish place of verbal and physical abuse.
According to Grady Judd, the sheriff of Polk County, Florida, Rebecca's parents took steps to help their daughter. "Rebecca was a fragile child. That's why these words hurt so much. And her parents worked hard. They had her in counseling. They pulled her out of school. They actually successfully separated her from the bullies. Except for what? Your electronic devices." Sheriff Judd also said, "Rebecca's mother went above and beyond to create interventions. The one issue that Rebecca's mom said to us was, 'I just didn't want to have her not like me, so I wanted to give her access to her cell phone so she could talk to her friends.'" It was through her cell phone and electronic devices that the bullying continued, perpetuating her nightmare.
As I thought of Rebecca's nightmare, I couldn't help but think about the nightmare surrounding Guadalupe Shaw and Katelyn Roman. They are the 14-year-old and 12-year-old charged and named by the sheriff as the chief stalkers of Rebecca Sedwick. These young girls must now live with alleged responsibility in the death of another human being. Their names and mug shots are on the Internet, identified across the world as the girls who allegedly helped to kill Rebecca. Twelve and fourteen are so very young to have such a ghastly identity. How are they to come to grips with what they've allegedly done? How are they to find a way to learn and grow and mature? How does one so young come back from the brink of such an event?
Not much has come out about Katelyn Roman but the prospects for Guadalupe Shaw appear dismal for such a path back. In a separate incident, Guadalupe's step-mother, Vivian Vosburg, has been charged with child abuse and neglect. Through the notoriety around Rebecca's death, it came to the attention of the authorities that another child in the home, Chelsea Shaw, had posted a video on Facebook showing Vosburg beating two boys, while other children in the room laughed and shouted and cursed. This is the world Guadalupe appears to come from -- with violence and obscenities and abuse. Knowing this makes it easier for me to understand how she could post on Facebook, "Yes IK I bullied REBECCA nd she killed her self but IDGAF." (Yes, I know I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself but I don't give a f___.)
I hope that statement isn't true. I hope somewhere inside Guadalupe is a place horrified by what she's allegedly done. And if there is, who will help her enter that place and reconcile herself to herself? Who will teach her about love, forgiveness and compassion for self and others? Who, in other words, will do what parents are supposed to do for their children? Given the digital glimpse into Guadalupe's world, I'm not optimistic about her current situation.
I'm not optimistic but I'm still hopeful. I have seen others find a way to make sense of tremendous wrongs in their lives, both their own and others, to find forgiveness and love. The journey is unbelievably difficult but the destination is incredibly rewarding. That is the journey I wish for Guadalupe Shaw and for Katelyn Roman. Up to this point, the adults around Guadalupe have not shown her the way. Perhaps now, other adults will enter her life, not to condemn but to redeem. If they don't, her nightmare will continue.
Follow Dr. Gregory Jantz, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/gregoryjantzphd