Brandy Vela, an 18-year-old high school student from Texas City, Texas, shot and killed herself this week. Her family believes it was in response to the online bullying she had been receiving from her classmates. From CNN:
Brandy’s sister, Jackie, says the teen had always been bullied for her weight, but the cyberbullying ramped up in April.
“People would make up fake Facebook accounts and they would message her and she wouldn’t respond and they would still come at her,” Jackie said.
“They would say really, really mean things like, ‘Why are you still here?’ They would call her fat and ugly. She was beautiful, absolutely beautiful; the only thing people could find to pick on her was her weight.”
Jackie says her sister changed her phone number and reported the bullying to police, but was told they couldn’t help her.
“They couldn’t do anything because [the suspects] used an app and it wasn’t traceable and they couldn’t do something until something happened, like they fight,” Jackie said.
A non-traceable app? Even if they were using a VPN is mask their actual IP address, you have to use a working cell phone number or email address to sign up for Facebook. If the police didn’t care enough to work the case when the family first reported the bullying, perhaps that will change now that the girl is dead.
Is cyberbullying even a crime? Last time I checked, you can be mean to someone else on the Internet. You can say that someone is fat and ugly, just like you can say someone is thin and attractive. I found her Facebook account and looked for examples of people being rude to her. I didn’t see any. All that means is that she probably deleted the mean comments.
Almost all of her Facebook posts are her posting a photo of herself and then her friends telling her how gorgeous she is.
None of her posts are restricted to only her Facebook friends. They are all open to the public. Then again, considering that she had 1,969 Facebook friends, I’m not sure private or public would make a difference. It seems to me that she could have stopped the cyberbullies in their tracks if she had made her account more private and restricted her friend list to her actual friends.
She was also a member of a public Snap Chat Facebook group. I imagine if there was cyberbullying, it probably started there. There are currently over 100,000 members of this Facebook group. The object of the group seems to focus on posting selfies for the enjoyment of strangers. If I were a parent, I wouldn’t want my child contributing to or spending time with a group like that.
Speaking of being a parent, where were this girl’s parents? It didn’t seem like they were monitoring her Facebook activity. Here is a post she wrote two years ago:
If you take what Brandy Vela said at face value, if the girl she’s talking about is her cousin, she is referring to her own aunt as a slut. That’s not very nice. Some would even argue that it was cyberbullying. If I was the child’s parent, I would have insisted she remove that post when it was first posted, two years ago.
I find it hard to believe that it was cyberbullying that caused Brandy Vela to kill herself. Could it have been a contributing factor? Sure. I’m just not a big believer in single-reason suicide. I think it’s more of an accumulation of things that leads a person to take their own life. I have to wonder what would cause someone to post so many puckered-lip selfies online. Why would someone want complete strangers to tell them how attractive they are? That doesn’t seem very healthy to me.
According to CNN, Brandy Vela killed herself with a handgun. Where did she get that? I think people need to be held responsible for their guns. I’m not against gun ownership, but I am against irresponsibility. If you own a gun and that gun falls into the hands of someone who uses it to harm themselves or others, you should be held responsible.
The gun had more to do with Brandy Vela’s suicide than trolls on Facebook.