Phoebe Prince was the young girl who committed suicide after some vicious bullying by a particularly brutal pack of teens in South Hadley High School.
The story resonated with me because I have had a lifelong experience with bullying, beginning at age nine, and continuing until just recently. Countless experiences, some brutal, others, more subtle, extending over most of my life.
I don't think I will be bullied again, because my most recent bullying experience taught me a valuable lesson, finally--that you cannot have predators unless you have prey. I simple won't allow anyone to bully me again. For forty years, I did not realize that I do not have to be bullied if I don't want to be; I have the abilities to stop and prevent it. Phoebe, unfortunately, did not have time to learn this, or develop the necessary defenses needed to survive a sometimes brutal world.
I am glad that in the media coverage of her plight, Americans are not playing the usual "blame-the-victim" game, and her tormentors are being called out for what they are. Still, as obsessively as I have been reading the news accounts of her plight, I can't resist wondering about the why's and how's. Like her, I had an absentee parent. Do victimizers somehow sense that their victims are unprotected? To what extent does institutional apathy allow, or even cause, bullying? And the victimizers--what about them? Are they just spoiled rich kids, or perhaps victims of abuse themselves?
While these questions have a sociological importance, maybe, in the end, I can't really care about them. My sympathy goes out to the family of Phoebe Prince, and other victims of bullying. I do my small part in my day-to-day life by remaining alert to signs of personal and institutional abuse, and doing what I can to help those that I think I can help. I do believe that Phoebe Prince would still be here if some alert person had noticed, and intervened. Those of us who have been past victims of abuse have a special calling, I believe, to be aware, and be ready to intervene.