Another Sexting-related Bullying Suicide

David, my director of content development for TheSource4YM.com just emailed me a sad article about an incident only 15 miles from his house in Tampa, FL.

Many of you have heard horror stories about sexting- I’ve blogged about them before. It usually goes like this: girl sends boyfriend nude photo. Girlfriend and boyfriend eventually break up. Boyfriend passes around nude photo. Girlfriend is shamed and reacts… sometimes in suicide.

That’s similar to Hope’s story, as told here by the St. Petersburg Times:

At the end of the school year at Beth Shields Middle School, the taunting got so bad that Hope Witsell’s friends surrounded her between classes. They escorted her down hallways like human shields, fending off insults such as “whore” and “slut.” A few days before, Hope had forwarded a nude photo of herself to a boy she liked — a practice widely known as “sexting.” The image found its way to other students, who forwarded it to their friends. Soon the nude photo was circulating through cell phones at Shields Middle and Lennard High School, according to multiple students at both schools. “Tons of people talk about me behind my back and I hate it because they call me a whore!” Hope wrote in her journal. “And I can’t be a whore i’m too inexperienced. So secretly TONS of people hate me … ” School authorities learned of the nude photo around the end of the school year and suspended Hope for the first week of eighth-grade, which started in August. About two weeks after she returned to school, a counselor observed cuts on Hope’s legs and had her sign a “no-harm” contract, in which Hope agreed to tell an adult if she felt inclined to hurt herself, her family says. The next day, Hope hanged herself in her bedroom. She was 13.

So sad.

Pray for Hope’s family.

And keep talking with our kids about these kinds of issues (we’ve outlined some ways to do this in this article and even provided discussion outlines for you like the one here).

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; Sex Matters; The Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers; Connect; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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