We all crowded around to see what could possibly be in the envelope, and when I opened it a mostly nude photo of a young woman was at the top. I was shocked by the cruelty of what that guy had just done and immediately set to cutting the whole stack of photos into tiny pieces, mixing it up in the trash can with old grease and food waste. Then the whole bag went into the dumpster out back.
Well, I thought to myself, at least that particular batch of pictures won’t be doing any more harm.
Fast forward many years later and I get a request from a reader named Livi to do the true story of Amanda Todd. While working on it I was absolutely struck by how much things have changed since that day in the drive-thru.
Knock at my door at 4am…
It was the police… my photo was sent to everyone…”
At 12 years old Amanda Todd was like a lot of girls her age. She had a bubbly personality and was very into creative things like art, writing, and especially singing.
In her room was a laptop decorated with little drawings and love poems she’d written, it was as if she had such an outpouring of creativity that she just couldn’t help but to decorate the world around her. But as happy as she could seem sometimes, she also struggled with a crippling problem: low self-esteem.
The “kids” there would build her up and tell her the things she desperately needed to hear. One of them in particular spent a lot of effort telling her how beautiful she was and pressuring her to lift her shirt and flash the camera. Finally, after many months of chatting with him, she agreed.
She was 12 years old at the time and thought she’d only been talking with other kids her age in that chat room, but instead she’d fallen into a trap. Across the world in the Netherlands was a pedophile who would now stop at nothing to use that chat to get her under his control.
Some time later Amanda was browsing Facebook and noticed a message from someone she didn’t recognize. It had a screen shot from the Blogtv chat and said that if she didn’t do what he said then he’d send the topless picture of her to everyone she knew. He had the addresses of her friends, family, and even teachers at her school. Blackmail.
However, her life had already been changed forever. On Christmas break there was a knock at the door, it was the police.
AN ENDLESS NIGHTMARE
“name calling, judged…
I can never get that Photo back
It’s out there forever…”
The police were there to let her parents know that her picture was being sent to people in the area and was now circulating the internet. But as far as doing anything about the pedophile who was blackmailing her…well she was pretty much on her own. Incredibly, the police told her parents that the best thing that could be done about the blackmail was to have her delete her Facebook profile.
As you can imagine the lack of police involvement meant that the pedophile was free to do as he pleased. And in fact, everything was going to his plan. Since he was on the other side of the world he needed the people around Amanda to do his work for him, and many of them did.
Amanda hid out at home in hopes that being away from the bullying would help, but instead she began to develop depression and panic disorder because of the anxiety. She knew that the pedophile would continue to send his emails and the kids at her school would continue to rip her apart.
Distraught, she started to use drugs and alcohol to numb the pain, but it wasn’t enough and once again she had to change schools. At her next school she lived in constant fear that the pedophile would find out she had changed schools again. It was only a matter of time before he set up another Facebook profile and contacted kids at her new school. She was withdrawn and fearful, sitting alone in the library every day at lunch due to her anxiety.
But then an old friend contacted her and it was like a breath of fresh air. He wasn’t bullying her and actually had nice things to say about her. After a while he convinced her that he didn’t like his girlfriend anymore and to come over to his house. But it wasn’t long before his girlfriend found out and confronted her at school…
“His girlfriend and 15 others come including Hiself…
The girl and 2 others just said look around nobody likes you.
In front of my new school (50) people…
A guy then yelled just punch her already
So she did… She threw me to the ground a punched me several times
Kids filmed it…”
A RAY OF HOPE
“6 months has gone by… people are posting pics of bleach, clorox, and ditches.
tagging me… I was doing a lot better too… They said…
She should try a different bleach, I hope she dies this time and isn’t so stupid.
They said I hope she sees this and kills herself…”
When Amanda got back from the hospital she found that people from her school were posting things trying to get her to attempt suicide again. Her parents were alarmed and moved her to another area, another school. But this time it didn’t take long for the pedophile to catch on.
So now she not only had people from the last school tagging her in pictures and messages trying to get her to kill herself, she also had to deal with the bullying at her new school instigated by the pedophile. Once again she tried to kill herself, this time by overdosing on pills, but was taken to the hospital in time to save her life.
Her parents were very alarmed and had her put in a hospital where she could get some counseling for her depression. There she was able to get some help in how to deal with the nightmare she was actually living in. But then the kids at school found out that she had been in a hospital and started to add “Psycho” and “Crazy” to the list of things they called her.
Amanda was crushed, but still, things were a bit different for her now. While going to therapy she’d developed a bit of self confidence, something she hadn’t had very much of in her life.
THE SUICIDE OF AMANDA TODD
“Haters are haters but please don’t hate, although im sure I’ll get them.
She wrote her story down on a series of notecards and made a Youtube video set to a song called “Hear You Me” where she slowly showed each card. She told the story of how the pedophile had blackmailed her, how she had to keep changing schools, the suicide attempts, everything.
She felt a little stronger, started to go out more and even started to feel almost normal at times. The police still refused to do much of anything about the pedophile, so that would probably go on forever, but she started to feel like maybe there was a way to have a life despite that. She and her mom made plans to start up singing lessons again, something she’d abandoned not long after the pedophile had started his campaign of harassment.
But then something happened. No one knows what. Maybe it had something to do with a bully at school, or maybe the pedophile didn’t like her newfound strength and found a way to take the nightmare to the next level.
In the wake of her death people flooded to watch her video on Youtube. Millions of people saw her story and there was a public outcry about what had happened to her. The police finally decided they needed to get involved and, finally, started to track down the pedophile.
But there was a darker side to the public reaction to her suicide. People started to post horrible things celebrating her death, saying that she deserved to die and worse things that I won’t repeat here. Even today the messages continue on, and it’s easy to see how the pedophile was able to find bullies to harass her and do his work for him without much effort at all.
Life is a complex thing that’s for sure. But when faced with a situation where someone’s being bullied it’s always good to remember, like Amanda said, everyone has a story.