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I Was Cyberbullied on My Mobile: A Case Study

By: Kathryn Senior PhD - Updated: 13 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Cyberbully Cyberbullying Cyberbullies

It was when she was having her stomach pumped that Lucy finally realised that she had to tell someone. “The tube down my throat felt like the end of the world but I am glad it happened now, not least because it saved me from dying a dreadful death from an overdose of paracetamol,” says Lucy, still visibly upset.

When she was in Year 10, Lucy got a new mobile phone and proudly showed her friends when they met up on a shopping trip. “I had been lonely further down school but during that year I had got in with a crowd of really 'popular' girls and I wanted to do everything I could to impress them so they would let me go do stuff with them.”

“I didn't make any connection between getting in their group and some stupid messages that I had on my MySpace page. Someone was sending me messages that were sort of teasing but quite hurtful, saying I was ugly and stupid. I didn't like them but I wasn't that upset by them and I certainly didn't tell anyone. If my dad had found out, he would have stopped me going on the site – I had to argue for ages that I needed a computer for schoolwork,” says Lucy.

Abusive Messages

For a while the networking messages stopped but then Lucy started to get texts from an unknown number saying it was a friend of a friend, someone who knew one of the 'popular' girls in her shopping group. “We exchanged a few messages and she said she was coming shopping, but she never turned up on the next trip,” remembers Lucy.

The text messages from 'Rachel' started to become more abusive. “I dreaded getting them after a while and I began to leave my mobile switched off. That upset mum because she had paid a lot of money for the phone.” The texts ranged from telling Lucy she was very ugly, stupid and a waste of time to saying that 'Rachel' was going to get her in the dark and cut her with razor blades. “I just thought that she could do it and when she started to threaten to kill me and to hurt my younger sister, I was just terrified. I thought that taking the pills would just send me into to sleep and it would all be over,” remembers Lucy.

Discovered in Time

Very luckily, just 30 minutes after Lucy had swallowed 60 paracetamol capsules her mum came home from work early, and unexpectedly. “I had not felt well all day but in the afternoon it was as if I felt an overwhelming urge to go home – I thought I maybe had flu,” says Claire, Lucy's mum. “I knew something was wrong with Lucy as soon as I saw her – she had been crying and was hysterical and the three bottles of paracetamol were open on her bed. I stuck my fingers down her throat and made her throw up and then bundled her in the car to casualty,” explains Claire.

At the Hospital

After Lucy's stomach had been pumped, she had to remain in hospital under observation for another four days, having her liver function tested every few hours. In those days, she told her mother everything. “I talked to one of the nurses and she was so sensible and so kind. She advised me to get Lucy's headmaster and the police, which I did,” says Claire.

That set things in motion and, by the time Lucy had got out of hospital, the investigation by the police had shown the messages were not from anyone called Rachel, they were sent by a girl who Lucy regarded as one of the nicer members of the group, and who she considered a friend.

The Consequences

What probably started as a silly prank had almost ended in Lucy's death and the girl who was the source of the messages was shocked when she was arrested and taken to the local police station. The story exploded all over the local papers and the girl's family decided they had to move away from the area. “Eventually, she was charged with harassment and if they hadn't moved, we were going to get a court order to keep her away,” adds Lucy.

Cyberbullying is an Emerging Problem

Most bullying is hard to take but bullies who use texting and messaging to inflict their cruelty are often more aggressive than playground bullies and the texters are not always teenagers. One case in the USA did result in suicide after a teenager was bullied by an adult female neighbour posing as a teenage boy. She did it to get revenge for her own daughter not being invited to the victim's birthday BBQ...

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