Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Real Life Fury

A vigil was recently held to commemorate a “beautiful, witty, funny” – and bullied – 15-year-old girl named Audrie Pott who committed suicide last year. This happened in a high school near where I live, and when I read about the vigil, I felt unnerved and angered, a real sickness in my stomach, by the details of the tragedy. 

In my new novel, I have a scene that’s eerily similar to what happened to Audrie: A girl with a history of being bullied, a party without adult supervision, alcohol that had been laced, rape, photos taken of the horrendous event and then sent viral.

For my character Meg, the only real difference is that she willingly chooses to have sex with a longtime crush the night of her fateful party. With a brave, trusting heart, she acts out of love and normal teenage desire. But the bullies are there with their weapons – humiliation, threats, taunts and cameras.

In Furious, this is a turning point for Meg (spoiler alert here). It is the final slap that unleashes years of misery at the hands of bullies, a lifetime of not being seen and not being heard by adults, of having to navigate alone through an often-vicious high school landscape.

Meg’s inner Fury – the goddess of revenge who takes care of business when we humans are too blind and too self-centered to stand up for the innocent and vulnerable – literally comes out. Her tormentors get the full brunt of her uncorked rage.

Unfortunately, Audrie’s Fury didn’t have that same chance to emerge. Hers was a more familiar pattern in real life, especially for young women. The cruelty of others twists itself into a chaos of emotions –humiliation, anxiety, depression, fear, sadness and hopelessness.

I know these feelings. I was bullied in middle school, imitated mercilessly, taunted, locked into my own locker, and I lived in a constant state of dread, anxiety and shame. I remember the notes and ugly drawings of me being passed around my 7th grade classroom. I remember the headaches and the loneliness. I didn’t even recognize it as bullying back then, just considered it to be some kind of lack in myself, figured that I was somehow “asking for it.” I can’t imagine how much worse it is now with the texts and photos on the Internet.

What I hope is that our entire society is finally having enough of this. I’m not talking about  harsh sentences for the culprits of individual incidents. That’s just a bandage, a way of saying that we solved the problem, that it’s just these few isolated cases.

My Fury wants us all to stop turning a blind eye to what so many kids are living with, to stop chalking up bullying behavior to  “kids being kids” and expecting the victims to develop a tougher skin or fend for themselves.

My Fury wants all of us – adults and kids – to understand just how insidious and prevalent it is. It’s not just the high-profile cases, like that of Audrie Pott. It’s the everyday, ongoing, relentless misery lived by kids who are seen as being different.

My Fury wants your Fury to speak out and say: Enough! No more! We are going to do something about it.

Here are some resources:

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