“I will light the match this morning, so I won’t be alone. Watch as she lies silent, for soon night will be gone…”
A young girl, too young, has her innocence stolen. Intoxicated. Raped. Videotaped. Dumped, barely conscious, on a cold doorstep. Betrayed by boys she thought were her friends. She reports it to the Sheriff of her small town. An investigation, confession, evidence, arrests. The sheriff says they have a strong case. Then, outrage. Not at the alleged rapist and his accomplice. But at the girl. At her family. Threats are issued, harassment ensues. Her mother is fired from her job because of the negative attention of the case. Unable to take the abuse from the community any longer, they move to another town.
“I will stand arms outstretched, pretend I’m fee to roam. Oh I will make my way through one more day in hell.”
A young girl, too young, is dead. Tormented by other girls, over a boy. Relentlessly needled. Belittled. Broken. Her family tries to help her. They report it to the school. They beg the school to intervene. They eventually pull her out of the school. Things seem to get better. The girl smiles again. Seems happy again. She doesn’t mention the bullying any more. But it hasn’t stopped. It continues on-line. She leaves for school one morning. Walks to an abandoned cement plant. Climbs a tower. At the top of the three story structure, she makes the most important decision of her life. She takes her final step.
“How much difference does it make? How much difference does it make?”
A young girl, too young, is mocked. Teased. Ridiculed. Called ugly. Called a slut. Shamed for her Croation accent. The kids at school throw food at her. A girl smacks her in the face with a water bottle. Kids call late at night threatening her. A boy pushes her down the stairs. Eventually she is pushed too far. The parents beg the school to help. They decide to homeschool. They try to protect her. But the girl who loves to dance will not make it to her prom. She writes a note. She describes her torment and anguish. She ties a rope to her bed. Ties the other side around her neck. Jumps from her two story bedroom window. She is later found by her brother, hanging outside the house.
“I will hold the candle, ’til it burns up my arm. Oh I’ll keep taking punches, until their will grows tired…”
A young girl, too young, leaves a party with some boys. She’s been drinking. She gets in a car with them. They sexually assault her in the car. They take pictures. They send the pictures to their friends. They undress her. They carry her naked body by the wrists and ankles. Inside a house, they continue to assault her. Many of them. One of them urinates on her unconscious body. They take more pictures. They take video. They post them on line. On Facebook, on You Tube. They brag and joke about it on Twitter. They ridicule her. Their friends laugh, the pictures and videos get shared and passed along. Two boys are arrested. They are convicted.
“Oh I will stare the sun down, until my eyes go blind. Oh I won’t change direction and I won’t change my mind…”
Numbness. Apathy. Indifference. Sometimes this is the reaction we have when faced with the continuing stream of disturbing, horrifying, gut wrenching stories like these. We become desensitized. What used to spark shock, horror, now is met with sad resignation. Not again. All these stories, all these incidences of kids doing these things to other kids, it’s wearing us down. The heart and mind can only process so much. So we turn off. We let the white noise of every day life envelope us like a warm blanket. We go on with our lives.
“I’ll swallow poison until I grow immune. I will scream my lungs out ’til it fills this room. How much difference….”
We should go on with our lives. We have to. But we should not become indifferent. We can’t become de-sensitized. We have to stay shocked. Appalled. Baffled. We have to in order to ask questions. We have to stay engaged. It should make all the difference in the world. It should piss us off. How many of these girls are out there? How many boys suffering similarly? Too many. Why do kids, these kids who act in hatred and violence, say and do these things? What has them so emboldened? So brazen? So lacking in compassion? So cold that they can laugh at a girl’s funeral. So lacking in empathy that they can video tape a girl being raped. These aren’t rhetorical questions. These questions need to be contemplated, discussed, dissected until someone somewhere comes up with some answers that make sense.
Something has shifted. Rapes occurred before. Bullying and suicide existed. But what is happening now is something beyond what was there before, as horrific as it was. It is amplified. It is worn like a badge of honor to be the perpetrator. It is not vilified in the community. It is broadcast across the fibers that connect all of us. It is, in a sense, shouted from the rooftops.
I think of the pain these girls have been through. They and countless others just like them. A pain so deep it makes you want to take your life. Despair so intense that you walk to an old cement plant, climb three stories and then decide to jump and end it all. These girls feeling emotions and pain in the most intense way. Yet the people who inflicted this on them laugh, mock, go about their lives. And others chime in, add to the chorus in their head of unworthiness. How can one feel so much and others seem to not feel at all?
It’s easy to blame technology. It’s a convenient culprit. And of course technology plays a role. It enables certain behaviors, it can be a conduit for abuse. But at the very core of these offenses are people. Are kids. That’s where we need to dig in, explore and try to figure some things out. The motives aren’t that hard to flush out. It’s not the how, the when, the where or the why. It’s something else. It’s the “what’s missing”. What is lacking in another person, a kid, to inflict this kind of torment on another kid? Is it lack of empathy? Lack of attention? Lack of power? Lack of love? Lack of discipline? Lack of self worth? It could be any of these. It could be all of these. But I think these things need to be figured out and dealt with before it escalates to the point of a child taking their own life or a child being raped. I don’t have answers. I don’t have solutions. But I know we all have to wake up. Participate. Do something.
“How much difference…. How much difference does it make? How much difference does it make?”
-Pearl Jam, Indifference