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Was Justice Served in the Phoebe Prince Case?

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Phoebe Prince, the girl who was literally bullied to death, did not get justice after all. Prince committed suicide after relentless verbal and physical taunts by classmates at South Hadley High School in Massachusetts. One of the people harassing her was an ex-girlfriend of a boy Prince was dating. Evidently she didn’t like the situation and was instrumental in bringing the tragic unfolding of events to a rolling boil, tragically ending in Prince’s suicide.


In my mind, what they did was no less than involuntary manslaughter, because I have no doubt if it wasn’t for their actions Phoebe Prince would be alive today. Their words and actions were their weapons, wounding and hurting her no less than a knife wound.


If my words seem strong it’s only because I speak from personal experience. In the fifth grade, my life was literally dropping out from under me. My best friend, whom I had been hanging out with for years, decided I wasn’t popular enough for her and found a new best friend. My home life was tumultuous; I am one of eight children and at that time each one was going through their own personal growing-up angst, whatever that entailed. My mother had her hands full. My father decided to put us on a weird "healthy" diet, which meant I had to bring odd food for lunch, which only added to my unpopularity. Plus, I didn’t have the nice fancy clothes that some of the other girls had. This might seem unimportant, but for a girl growing up, good clothes are important for self-esteem and self-image. (At least they were to me.) And to make matters much worse, a girl in the class decided to start picking on me, calling me names and inciting others to do so.


I felt like crap and began hating myself. Everyday was hell. Going to school was torture; coming home wasn’t much better. I slept as much as I could, trying to escape reality. I told my mom about the situation and I don’t even remember what she said to try to make me feel better. Whatever it was, it didn’t work. I could not change schools and even if I did, I felt like a dark cloud that would bring sadness wherever I went. Back then, teachers didn’t get involved much in bullying. Maybe physical, but not verbal. It was a burden I had to shoulder myself. I have to say I fully understand the sadness that Phoebe Prince felt, though my personal experience did not reach the horrific level hers did. Some say it wasn’t the school’s fault; I say they should shoulder some of the blame because they had full awareness of what was going on.


When that awful time in my life melted away and turned into the colorful junior high school years, my self esteem slowly grew again, like a lamb with shaky legs. I still had moments of self-hatred but they were not all-consuming anymore. And I began to see that I was not ugly like they had repeatedly told me I was. I began to respect the personal strength that I had shown by somehow getting through that awful experience that seemed to never end. I have not one iota of forgiveness for any of the people who taunted me. They gave me scars that will never heal. Strangely, I have been able to forgive everyone else in my life I have had issues with, but not them.


Phoebe Prince’s tormentors got a community service and probation; a slap on the wrist. Not nearly enough punishment for the crime. I hope however, this case brings more light to an issue that needs lots of attention to ensure this never, ever happens again.


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