Rebecca Ann Sedwick seemed like an ordinary girl who went to school and contributed to the community. Few would have suspected that she was experiencing major peer pressure by just looking at or interacting with the 12-year-old. The world, however, became aware of Rebecca Ann’s struggle when she committed suicide on Monday, September 8, 2013.
A little bit about Rebecca
Rebecca Ann Sedwick was born on October 19, 2000, in Sebring, Florida. Her mother, Tricia Norman, and father, Kim Sedwick, did not remain together after Rebecca was born, but managed to spend quality time with her before her death in 2013.
As the sibling of six sisters and three brothers, Rebecca had little privacy at home. The youngster did have the opportunity to be independent at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy, where she attended school. Rebecca stayed on top of her studies and got into little trouble during the academic day. The 12-year-old seemed to be living an ordinary life, until the fateful morning of September 8, 2013.
Rebecca left home without her school books and backpack on at around 6:45 a.m., on Monday morning. No one in her family noticed her leaving home without supplies because other things around the house garnered their attention. The youngster should have been headed to Lawton Chiles but instead went to an abandoned industrial location where she climbed atop a structure and leaped to her death.
It was not until Rebecca’s mother filed a missing person report hours after she should have been home from school that law enforcement began searching for the 12-year-old. Rebecca’s lifeless body was discovered on Tuesday, September 9, 2013 at around 2:30 a.m.
What caused Rebecca to jump?
Further investigation into the 12-year-old’s personal affairs found that Rebecca was being taunted by fifteen girls who sent hateful messages by way of electronic correspondence. These messages would encourage the youngster to do bodily harm to herself and make the ultimate decision to commit suicide.
Guadalupe Shaw,14, was said to be the ring leader of the group who rallied the others to taunt Rebecca in such a vile manner. The teen allegedly encouraged the terror because Sedwick captured the attention of her then-boyfriend.
Rebecca’s Facebook account was eventually shut down, but it seemed as though she could not escape the bullying. Guadalupe and the girls found other means by which to terrorize the 12-year-old online, and used them to their full benefit. The taunting got so bad that Rebecca’s mother complained to the staff at Crystal Lake Middle School before making the decision to transfer her daughter to Lawton Chiles. One would think that with a new school the bullying would end, but for Rebecca the nightmare only intensified and led to her death.
It was said that Sedwick endured cyberbullying for a year before she decided to commit suicide. Although many place all responsibility for her death with Guadalupe and the other girls who taunted her relentlessly, There is proof that Shaw and her gang may have only contributed to Rebecca’s decision to take her life.
A Deeper look into family life
According to several news sources that delved further into the tragedy, Rebecca Ann Sedwick lived in a disturbing environment. The youngster reportedly slept on a recliner in the living area while one of her sister’s rested on the couch at night. Both siblings allegedly used grocery bags to house their clothes, and little privacy was given during the day since their space doubled as the family room.
Although Tricia was proactive in combating her daughter’s experience with cyberbullying, she failed to steer clear of the long arm of the law. Not only did she have three known aliases, but Tricia also had a criminal record that extended back to 1995. When questioned about his client’s troubles with the law and different identities, Tricia’s attorney told the press that she was “doing her best.”
Even if problems at home made Rebecca consider the extreme of suicide, it was the constant terrorizing of her peers that pushed the 12-year-old over the deep end. This is why the girls were arrested and charged after Sedwick’s death.
Florida state law on bullying
Florida’s state has strict laws when it comes to bullying. According to statute 1006.147, bullying and harassment are prohibited in schools and other public settings. Such interdict is extended to cyberbullying where taunting affects the victim’s ability to live a comfortable life.
In Rebecca’s case, the bullying became so unbearable that she found it impossible tolive. The girls’ electronic messages included teasing, intimidation, and public along with private humiliation. All of these acts are criminal offenses, according to Florida law.
What happened to Guadalupe and the other girls?
Guadalupe and her crew were arrested and charged with third degree felony stalking in a juvenile court. Shaw and another participant named Katelyn Roman were later released after all charges against them were dropped.
Guadalupe’s lawyer accused Sheriff Grady Judd of being reckless in arresting and sharing his client’s mugshot with the public since she herself was a troubled teen who had been bullied. “I found zero evidence having to do with my client that would rise to the level of a criminal act,” said Shaw’s attorney. Guadalupe took to her Facebook account to talk about the events, where she expressed zero regret for her role as instigator to those who terrorized Rebecca online.
What Rebecca’s mom did right
Even though her daughter succumbed to the taunting, Rebecca’s mom did a number of things right. The mother of the victim noticed changes in her daughter’s demeanor and took action. Tricia made the school aware of the situation by lodging a formal complaint. She also took further action by transferring her daughter out of Crystal Lake when the bullying at school became too intense. Tricia closed her daughter’s Facebook account after discovering that the girls were still taunting Rebecca by way of electronic messages. Even though they still managed to terrorize online, Tricia did everything within her power to protect her daughter from cyberbullies.
What went wrong?
Tricia may have zeroed in on the cyber abuse but she and others missed a few signs that Rebecca gave days before killing herself. Hours before Sedwick took her final breath, she messaged a boy from North Carolina whom she met online weeks prior. The youngster blatantly told him of her plans to commit suicide but he did not take her seriously. It was not until the news broke of Rebecca’s death by suicide that he came forward and informed authorities of the youngster’s final message to him.
Sedwick also changed her Kik Messenger profile name to “That Dead Girl,” but none of her followers found such activity to be suspicious. The youngster’s friends did, however, put the puzzle pieces together after Rebecca died.
Although some criticize Shaw’s friends and family members for not recognizing and reacting to the warning signs, few people actually discern a person’s desire to commit suicide in time to stop them from making a horrible mistake. Since depression often precedes the act of suicide, many victims tend to withdraw from loved ones and only leave subtle signs of there being a major problem on the horizon. A person can easily be joyous in public and later drown himself because of the immense sorrow he feels. In many respects, depression is the culprit that leads to suicide because feelings of despair make a person believe they can no longer pursue life.
What can be done?
While it is difficult to help those who have reached the point of complete anguish, there are many ways to prevent such feelings from arising. In terms of kids being bullied in school or online, parents can be proactive and take serious measures to end the torment.
You should complain to school administrators and transfer your child if you are aware of the problem. Follow in the path of Rebecca’s mother by closing down social media accounts if they are the vehicles by which bullies terrorize your child. You should even consider the extreme of taking away all electronic devices if the issue persists. Your child may become angry with you, but remember that it is better to have them upset and alive.
Make sure to pay attention to your child’s demeanor. If their overall attitude improves, then you can take that as a sign of conditions improving. If, however, their demeanor remains the same or becomes worse, you should take further action. Complain to school administrators again and, if your concerns are not taken seriously, inform law enforcement of the situation at hand. There are laws in every state that prohibit bullying, though some are not as strict as others. Even if your child’s terrorizer is not booked and charged for offenses, it is important to convey the message of bullying being unacceptable before the unthinkable takes place.