I am sick about the suicide of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince. I close my eyes and say a prayer for her 12-year-old sister, who found Phoebe in a stairwell leading to the the family’s second-floor apartment in South Hadley, Massachusetts on January 14. I cannot imagine the depth of the family’s sorrow and anger, and I don’t want to try.
We don’t know much about the bullying Phoebe endured at South Hadley High School in the months before her death, and we know almost nothing about the nine teens charged with a smorgasbord of shocking crimes against her.
We all want those details. But I want more. I want to know how those nine teens reacted to their arrests. I want to know if they feel a shred of regret and remorse. If the teens made statement to detectives, I want to hear their recollection of what happened. I want to hear the tone of their voices. I want to see their body language.
If the parents of these teens made statements to detectives, I want to hear — in their own voices — what they knew about their child’s relationship with Phoebe and behavior toward her. I don’t want to read transcripts of these statements, I want to hear and see how the parents feel. You see, when a child is accused of horrific behavior we cannot grasp the explanation or find the reason why by reading words on paper.
We need to see and feel how these children and their parents feel about what has happened. Bullying is extraordinarily hurtful. Being bullied when you are a teenage girl, new to a school, with a developing body and raging hormones is devastating.
I know. It happened to me. I transferred from a Catholic school to a public school in seventh grade. I had been wearing uniforms, some threadbare with hems made of masking tape, and found myself surrounded by young girls in monogrammed sweaters. Let’s just say I was well and early endowed and seeing as how I was a gifted competitive swimmer, I spent a lot of time in a bathing suit and received a lot of attention and comments from the boys.
My depression was just beginning to kick in. I drank and smoked pot to feel comfortable in my own skin. I was so unhappy and felt so not-a-part-of that I had a breast reduction when I was 19 — which, back in those days, was extremely painful and left me disabled for weeks. In the years that followed, I had two suicide attempts.
Some girls, like me, are so fragile at that age. We have no emotional stamina. A sideways glance, a crude remark and damning accusation and we can crumble and melt like a sandcastle in high tide. Add depression, problems at home that we tell no one about, and the stress of making good grades and it is no wonder that some girls — like me — want to end it.
I don’t know if Phoebe had depression. I don’t know her family dynamics. I don’t know what he-said, she-said or they-said. I only know the pain — and danger — of being reminded every day that you do not fit in and you are not good enough.
God bless Phoebe.
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From Psych Central's website:
PsychCentral (April 6, 2010)
Last reviewed: 6 Apr 2010