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Open Drum: cyber bullying claimed our Jessica

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When we lost our Jessica to suicide the police knew just where to look: her phone and laptop. The coroner states cyber bullying contributed to her death and so we have the evidence – but where’s the justice? Fran Cleland writes.

There’s a fairy story about a valiant little tailor who bragged about killing “seven with one blow”.

Cyber bullies find it easy to do that. They target just one person but the ripple effect from the bullying easily outdoes the tailor’s efforts.

We lost our Jessica to suicide on Easter Saturday last year, and far more than seven have felt the blow.

No one saw it coming. There was just a note, a four-hour search and her poor father finding her body.

We were so at a loss. The funeral was huge with more than 500 people from all walks of her life weeping. Everyone asked why. We screamed that word in our minds.

You find out a lot of things – that, already this year, there have been more than 200 suicides – far more than car accident deaths, but nowhere near as much effort in preventing them.

You find out it’s the hidden killer; that almost every family can suddenly tell you someone in their own family has taken their life.

You find out that the police know just where to look in the case of a lovely young person’s death. They took her phone and laptop … and there it was … merciless cyber bullying, particularly horrific the night before she died.

The coroner’s report states it as contributing to her death:

Although it is not possible to identify, with any degree of certainty, the factors contributing to a person’s decision to take their own life, it is evident that messages received by Jessica online proximate to her death, in conjunction with the difficulty she was apparently experiencing in her relationship with her boyfriend, were precipitating factors.

In light of this, the circumstances of Jessica’s death highlight the important role that social media and other communication technologies can play in young people’s lives.

I am satisfied that Facebook and text messaging were problematic for Jessica because: easy access to the internet on her phone meant that she was exposed to potentially upsetting communications 24 hours a day; and she was able to return to, and re-read, the upsetting messages at a later time and therefore appears to have continued to ruminate about them.

We have the why – but the pain continues.

Her parents have lost a lovely daughter, her sister her best friend. We, her grandparents, watch them suffer and are unable to help ease their pain. Her cousins, aunts and uncles, close friends, all still grieve and think: if only…

“If” is such a huge word.

It seems there is a law in Victoria that criminalises cyber bullying, but it doesn’t get enforced because of the police paperwork and the fact the bullies would probably only get charged with a misdemeanour.

We’d settle for that. They would at least be named and shamed. It has to start somewhere, and, if it means Jess didn’t die for nothing, it’s worth it.

Cyber bullying is a silent killer of too many of our young ones.

We have the evidence … but where’s the justice?

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-11/cleland-open-drum-cyber-bullying-claimed-our-jessica/6083084