A 12-year-old Florida girl, relentlessly bullied for months on end, climbed a tower and hurled herself to her death, once again stirring the concerns of severe bullying. As many as 15 girls at a time gang-bullied Rebecca Ann Sedwick in a case of cyberbullying, reports The Associated Press on Sept. 13.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Rebecca was "absolutely terrorized" by her malicious peers.
“We can see from what we've been investigating so far that Rebecca wasn't attacking back,” Judd said. “She appeared to be beat down. She appeared to have a defeatist attitude. And quite frankly, the entire investigating is exceptionally disturbing.”
Disturbing online messages sent to Rebecca told the pre-teen “You should die” and “Why don't you go kill yourself.”
At some point, the seventh grader could no longer take the verbal abuse. Changing her social media screen name to “That Dead Girl,” Rebecca climbed a tower at a cement plant in Lakeland, Fla. and jumped.
Rebecca was a student at Crystal Lake Middle School up until December of last year, when her mother removed her from the school because of ruthless bullying. This month, Rebecca started attending a new school at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy, but the online bullying continued.
Earlier in the year, Rebecca had to be hospitalized after cutting her wrists in a previous suicide attempt. Rebecca’s mother, Tricia Norma, said her daughter started to internalize the abuse after that, not letting on that she was being crushed under a wave of cyberbullying.
“She put on a perfect, happy face. She never told me,” Norman said. “I never had a clue. I mean, she told me last year when she was being bullied, but not this year, and I have no idea why.”
Investigators back-tracing Rebecca’s online activity found that the 12-year-old had made online queries such as “What is overweight for a 13-year-old girl,” “How to get blades out of razors,” and “How many over-the-counter drugs do you take to die.”
Rebecca needed help, but no one knew to help her. One of Rebecca’s screensavers was a picture of her head on a railroad track.
According to CBS News 10 out of Tampa Bay, Rebecca’s mother blames her daughter’s former school, Crystal Lake Middle School, where the abuse started. Other students at the school confirmed the amount of bullying that occurs there.
“I told them that Becca is being threatened, that these girls are gonna jump her,” recalls Tricia Norman. Although school officials addressed the problem with the girls, Norman says the bullies “still jumped” her daughter, beating her up.
Detectives are now investigating the girls involved in the cyberbullying, seizing their phones and computers, and will determine if there is sufficient evidence to bring charges against any of the 15 girls.
Florida’s bullying laws leave punishment in the hands of school officials, not police. According to the AP report, legal experts said bringing charges against someone accused of driving a person to suicide are judicially difficult to assess.
Rebecca’s mother is devastated.
“I don’t know what I’m doing,” Tricia said. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do next. I just lost my world. My life is just never going to be the same; I’m missing a big part of it, a huge part of it.”