The family of a 13-year-old Virginia girl who committed suicide last weekend say she was bullied to death.
Faith Crusenberry of Berryville, Virginia hung herself last Sunday ‘as the result of bullying’, according to a blog post by a pastor who is a friend of the family.
‘My stepdaughter took her own life on Sunday afternoon, due to bullying,’ Faith’s stepfather Mike Mantz told News4. ‘I want awareness increased. I do not want my daughter to die in vain.’
According to Faith’s obituary, she was an honor student at Johnson-Williams Middle School and enjoyed singing, dancing, music, cooking, fashion and hair styling.
‘Faith was considered a great friend by many and was normally the first to speak her mind and crack a joke,’ her obituary read. ‘She would routinely attend church with her step-dad and could be found helping out in some manner during set up or in the children’s ministry. She will be sorely missed by her family and classmates.’
It isn’t certain who bullied Faith, or what specifically drove her to suicide, but she was certainly loved by many of her peers.
Many young people mourned her loss online.
Family friend David Mikolajczak said Faith’s death has really impacted the community.
‘We all care about our children, Faith and our own, and many of the children in Berryville are, “saddened” isn’t the right word,’ Mr Mikolajzak said at Faith’s memorial Friday.
Grief counselors were brought into Faith’s school for students that needed help processing her death.
Faith is survived by her mother, father, step-father, brother, four half-siblings and all four of her grandparents.
For confidential support call the Samaritans in the UK on 08457 90 90 90 or visit a local Samaritans branch, see www.samaritans.org for details. In the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255
Sarah Atwell always listened to her beloved grandmother, who taught her to love herself.
“My nanny always told us when we were sad to cheer us up, ‘Be strong, no matter what happens,’” the 18-year-old told ABCNews.com.
But for Atwell, who lives with her family in Nova Scotia, that was a tough order. She was born with neurofibromatosis, which caused a massive tumor to grow on the side of her face.
Now, the story of her psychological and physical transformation, “The Girl With Half a Face,” will air on Discovery Fit & Health on Dec. 18 at 10 p.m. (ET/PT), chronicling the weeks leading up to her successful surgery to remove the tumor.
According to the Mayo Clinic, neurofibromatosis is a genetic disorder that disturbs cell growth in the nervous system, causing tumors to form on nerve tissue. These tumors can develop anywhere, including the brain, spinal cord and nerves.
The tumors are usually benign but can sometimes become cancerous. Symptoms are often mild, but can include hearing loss, learning impairment and cardiovascular complications because of nerve compression caused by the tumors.
Atwell, like most with the disease, was diagnosed in early childhood at 8 months old. Since then, she has had headaches and blurred vision and eight different facial surgeries. But the biggest struggle has been facing the bullies at school.
“Sarah never noticed she was different — she always thought she was the same as the other kids,” said her mother, Tara Atwell, 44, who also has a milder form of the inheritable disease. “They didn’t understand it was a tumor and thought it was some kind of horrible disease they could catch.”
“I was in grade three and people were calling me names like ‘fat face’ and ‘ugly’ and were pushing me around,” said Sarah. “They said I had a disease. Most of the time, I just walked away and didn’t say much to them.”
One day, a cashier at a store refused to accept Sarah’s money because she thought she had a contagious disease.
But when she was 16, Sarah fought back, posting a YouTube video holding the sign: “Maybe one day the bullying will stop.”
“I was tired of being bullied and I put in on Facebook,” she said.
Her mother said she never realized the extent of the teasing until she saw that video.
Soon, the Discovery Channel ran across the compelling YouTube post and offered to make a TV documentary on Sarah’s ordeal. Many surgeons had refused to tackle her tumor because of its complexity, but her plight caught the attention of the medical community.
Sarah had three surgeries in 2010 and a risky one to remove most of the tumor last year.
Now that surgery is complete, Sarah said, “It’s pretty awesome. I am pretty sure most of it is gone except a little bit around the eyes. The doctor said he could not be sure if it would come back or not.”
Today, she is a senior in high school and helps out as a teacher’s aide. Sarah is excited about her future. “Hopefully,” she said, “I will be working with kids.”
Her mother echoed that optimism: “She can be anything she wants to be.”
“If I could stand up to bullying, and if another kid who was bullied sees me and thinks they can talk to someone and think, ‘I can stand up for myself,’ then I have helped,” said Sarah.
And her advice to others who may face bullying is the same as her nanny’s advice to her: “Stand strong and don’t let things get to you. Walk away and don’t let them bug you.”
Discovery Fit & Health is partnering with DoSomething.org, an organization for young people and social change. In an effort to get the word out about anti-bullying, DoSomething.org and the Wireless Foundation have created a campaign called Bully Text, a virtual text-based educational game in which users choose how to respond to bullies, whether the victim or a bystander, in typical situations at an imaginary high school. Learn more here.
Adolescent bullies and victims of bullying engaged in more casual sex — sometimes under the influence — than their peers who did not have any experience with bullying, researchers reported in a new study. Heterosexual teens primarily exhibited this trend in sexual risk taking.
“Some previous research has found that aggression and sexual risk-taking are related, so it was not entirely surprising that bullies and bully-victims reported more sexual risk-taking than their peers,” lead author, Melissa K. Holt, of Boston University School of Education toldReuters.
Previous research has associated bullying with alcohol and drug use, smoking, and psychosomatic problems, the authors said. “[R]esearch suggests that bullying can be conceptualized as a stressor leading to stress-related psychosomatic problems and maladaptive coping strategies such as substance use,” they wrote in the study. “Sexual risk taking might reflect another potential maladaptive coping strategy.”
Almost 9,000 high school students from 24 different schools across the United States filled out a survey that inquired about their experience with bullying and engaging in casual sex, as well as having sex while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
With regard to heterosexual youth, sexual risk taking was associated with bullying even after other forms of victimization were taken in to account. Conversely, the authors pointed out that stressors other than bullying may predict sexual risk taking among LGBTQ youth.
“These unique stressors associated with being a sexual minority might translate into coping mechanisms that are different than those used by straight teens,” Holt said. The likelihood that LGBTQ youth reported being bullied was twice that of their heterosexual counterparts. This group also had higher rates of reported dating violence and sexual abuse.
Girls were less likely to be involved with bullying than boys, which is also consistent with previous findings.
Approximately 80 percent of the respondents claimed to not have any experience with bullying. Of them, seven percent reported having had casual sex with someone they recently met or weren’t well acquainted with, while 12 percent conveyed having sex under the influence. These proportions were similar for bullying-victims who had never bullied others.
Among the six percent of students who committed acts of bullying, about 25 percent engaged in casual sex. Similarly, of the six percent who have bullied as well as been bullied, 20 percent engaged in casual sex while 23 percent had sex under the influence.
Altogether, the authors concluded, “bullying prevention programs and programs aimed at reducing unhealthy sexual practices should consider a broader stress and coping perspective and address the possible link between the stress of bullying involvement and maladaptive coping responses.”
Source: Holt M, Matjasko J, Espelage D. Sexual Risk Taking and Bullying Among Adolescents. Pediatrics. 2013.