For Many Gay Youth, Bullying Exacts a Deadly Toll [US News Health, by Randy Dotinga & E.J. Mundell, 28/10/2010].

A series of suicides involving bullied gay teens has shocked much of America this past month.

On Sept. 9, 15-year-old Billy Lucas of Greenburg, Ind., hanged himself after enduring constant taunts from bullies at school.

Two weeks later, 13-year-old Asher Brown from suburban Houston shot himself soon after revealing he was gay.

And on Sept. 27, another 13-year-old, Seth Walsh of Techachapi, Calif., died after injuries sustained from hanging himself. He too, had endured “relentless” bullying from other kids, according to The New York Times.

One more death — the Sept. 22 suicide of 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi — catapulted these and other suicides of young gay teens into the media spotlight. Clementi’s roommate, Dharun Ravi, allegedly broadcast surreptitious video footage over the Internet of Clementi in an intimate encounter with a young man. Last week, Clementi left a message on his Facebook page: “Jumping off [George Washington] bridge sorry,” and then did just that.

Cases like these are far from rare, and “this may be the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr. David Reitman, chair of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Transgender and Questioning Special Interest Group, part of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. In a statement, he said “the tragic outcome in these cases underscores the profound consequences that bullying and harassment can have on a young person.”

Of course any child, gay or straight, can become victims of bullying, as the much-publicized suicide in January of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince of South Hadley, Mass., showed all too tragically. She had withstood months of bullying from schoolmates after moving from Ireland.

But experts say adolescence renders young people especially vulnerable to harassment, and the difficulties of grappling with sexuality can complicate that further.

Columbia University psychiatry professor Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman noted that the adolescent brain is still developing and sensitive to negative feedback from peers. Teens “are very prone to take things to an extreme,” he told ABC News. “So what may be an insult or a setback to an adult, to an adolescent is the end of the world.”

Add to that the impulsive nature of youth and suicide becomes more likely. “Something happens, they’ve got to take care of it right away,” Lieberman said. “They can’t sit with it or try to work through it or not react to it.”

Despite some headway in societal acceptance of gay people generally, the bullying of gay teens remains widespread. According to a recent survey conducted by the New York-based Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, almost nine out of every 10 gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered middle and high school students say they suffered physical or verbal bullying in 2009.

A teen’s outward aspect — seeming somewhat “feminine” if male, or “masculine” if female — can up the risk of bullying and contribute to a propensity to depression for years to come, one new study suggests.

In the study, published in the November issue of Developmental Psychology, researchers looked at data from a survey of 245 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender young adults from the Bay Area in California. About half were Latino and about half were white; they realized their sexual orientation at an average age of 11 and reported coming out — disclosing their orientation to someone else — at the average age of 15.

The participants who reported the most bullying as children were about 2.5 times more likely as the others to be clinically depressed as young adults, the study found. About 63 percent of the most bullied kids were clinically depressed, compared to 34 percent of the least bullied.

In the big picture, the bullying of the most feminine boys and the most masculine girls — that’s the way they described themselves looking back on their childhoods — appeared to “essentially account for major differences in mental health between young gay adults,” said study co-author Stephen T. Russell, a professor at the University of Arizona.

“We didn’t realize how important the harassment was going to be,” said Russell, who is also director of the Frances McClelland Institute for Family Studies and Human Development. As the children become young adults, “it completely accounts for the differences in their mental health.”

Young people involved in the often difficult process of understanding their sexuality and coming out should know that support is out there, however.

Reacting to the Clementi tragedy, syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage, who is gay, launched the “It Gets Better” campaign in September. That YouTube site features successful gay adults from all walks of life who talk about their own experiences with bullying — and how they came through it.

Speaking on the site about his own experience, Project Runway style guru Tim Gunn relates that “as a [gay] 17-year-old youth who was in quite a bit of despair, I attempted to kill myself.” Gunn found the support he needed, however, and now urges teens facing the same fears to call The Trevor Project, a 24-hour suicide hotline for gay youth.

Experts say the best sources of support remain those closest to home, however.

“The three main groups of pivotal figures [for adolescents] are family, friends and their schoolmates,” Glenda Tesone, executive director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community in New York City, told The New York Times. “If they’re feeling isolated and like they can’t tell those people, it’s going to be a very rough ride.”

More information

Contact the The Trevor Project to reach a 24-hour, toll free confidential suicide hotline for gay teens and those who are questioning their sexuality.


Cyberbullying can be tougher to confront, researcher says [LasCrucesSunNews, by Christine Rogel, 26/12/2010]

LAS CRUCES – Nathaniel Rodriguez was bullied throughout middle school for being gay. He said kids would tease him, call him “faggot” and tell him he ran like a girl.

“It was never anything to the point where they would mess with me physically, just call me names. But I got tired of that. And then high school came around and I was like OK, fresh start,” Rodriguez, 18, said.

“I didn’t really come out to my friends in high school. So they didn’t really know who I was because I was hiding that part of me. I was just more scared of what it was going to be like. Kids are crueler,” he said.

Rodriguez said as part of his cover he dated girls, and that for awhile the teasing stopped.

“Then one of my friends actually found out. And me and him were really close, like really, really close friends. We would do everything together,” Rodriguez said. “And he was straight and he thought I was also.”

After finding out, his friend logged onto Rodriguez’s MySpace account and “outed” him to his 500 to 600 friends online, publishing lies about his behavior and even posturing as Rodriguez and breaking up with the girl he was dating.

Rodriguez, who was then living in Albuquerque, ended up switching schools.

Online threats are just as harmful as face-to-face bullying and sometimes there’s no escape, said Sheri Bauman, an associate professor at the University of Arizona and a recipient of National Science Foundation grant to study cyber bullying.

“Not too long ago there was a kid persistently victimized. The school made every attempt to stop it and eventually the student was advised to change schools. Well, with cyber bullying the information was already at the kid’s new school, making it more difficult for kids to cope with these types of situations,” Bauman said.

A study published by the Journal of Adolescent Health in 2009 found that more than 13 percent of students have experienced cyber bullying. Cyber bullying is common on social networks, like Facebook or MySpace, but it also occurs frequently in text messages, e-mail and even on some online games and virtual reality sites like Second Life, Bauman said. More than half, 55 percent, of all online American youths ages 12 to 17 use online social networking sites, according to a 2007 survey of teenagers conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

As a result of being bullied online or offline, kids can feel depressed and anxious. They can withdraw and their performance in school and attendance can decrease, she said.

“Parents need to become educated about technology so they know what kids are talking about,” Bauman said.

Kids are often hesitant to tell parents or teachers about cyber bullying because they fear their technology will be taken away, she said.

“And that means they’re cut off from the world, their connected all of the time and they’d rather put up with the experience then risk being the only kids without Internet or a cell phone.”

Christine Rogel can be reached at (575) 541-5424.

Tips for parents

The Federal Trade Commission provides these tips on Internet safety for parents:

•Start early: As soon as your child is using a computer, a cell phone or any mobile device, it’s time to talk to them about online behavior, safety, and security.

•Create an honest, open environment: Be supportive and positive. Listening and taking their feelings into account helps keep conversation afloat. You may not have all the answers, and being honest about that can go a long way.

•Initiate conversations: Use everyday opportunities to talk to your kids about being online. For example, a TV program featuring a teen online or using a cell phone can tee up a discussion about what to do – or not – in similar circumstances.

•Communicate your values: Be upfront about your values and how they apply in an online context.

•Be patient: Most kids need to hear information repeated, in small doses, for it to sink in. If you keep talking with your kids, your patience and persistence will pay off. Work hard to keep the lines of communication open, even if you learn your kid has done something online you find inappropriate.

Source: Federal Trade Commission


Littlegossip website reopens after bullying complaints [BBCRadio5Live, by Stephen Chittenden, 24/12/2010]

The site has defended itself against the accusations
The site has defended itself against the accusations

A website for young people to share gossip has been shut down and then reopened for over-18s only, following protests about cyber-bullying.

Some teachers and parents had alleged was being used as a platform for children to post personal and sexual smears against their peers.

The site now says it is for adults only but BBC News has found many schools and their pupils still using it.

Users can post gossip anonymously about people at their college or university.

Other users can then vote on whether the posts are true or false.

However, school pupils have been known to use the site.

‘Racist abuse’

One example about a named boy at a well-known boarding school says: “Please stop taking drugs the whole time, it’s not cool.”

Of a girl at the same school one user has written: “Those thunder thighs chug round school. Stop cheating on your boyfriend and sort out the acne. Not attractive.”

Many posts also contain sexual or racist abuse.

One concerned father, named only as Dave, contacted the BBC to warn other parents about the site.

“It’s cyber-bullying at its worst,” he said. “Seriously, kids are going to take their lives because of this site.”

Dave said his daughter, who attends a college in Surrey, couldn’t believe what was said about her friend.

“She was fascinated by it – but then she saw so much hate on there.”

The school involved has blocked access to the site and said it was “extremely concerned about the malicious potential of this website”.

A spokeswoman added: “We are… frustrated at the difficulties involved in taking effective action against the site itself and against individual posters who remain anonymous.”

Many other schools and organisations have condemned Littlegossip.

The National Association of Head Teachers said it harmed the lives of both teachers and pupils, and has called for it to be closed down.

Emma-Jane Cross from the charity Beatbullying said the site was worrying because “it seems to have the sole purpose of identifying and victimising vulnerable young people” – something she described as “unacceptable”.

She added: “While social networking sites are not intrinsically bad, it is vital that where incidents of bullying and harassment take place online, swift and decisive action is taken to protect our children and young people.

“In this instance, we would invite government and internet service providers to work with us and take collective responsibility to ensure websites like these are taken offline as a matter of urgency.”

Tackle bullying

But Littlegossip said it had introduced measures to fight cyber-bullying.

In an e-mail to BBC News, it said: “Users need to confirm their gossip is about an adult, doesn’t provide personal information such as phone number and is not racist and more.”

“In addition to that we took the important decision to remove all the schools from the site, even if 18 year olds study in those schools.”

The website appeared to shut down for a 24-hour period until Thursday, during which it posted a Facebook announcement that school groups would be removed.

But when it came back online, the site continued to carry sexual and racist abuse, as well as telephone numbers. Several school groups also continued to appear on its pages.

Chief executive of the Independent Schools’ Council, David Lyscom, confirmed that children could still use the site.

“Although it pretends to be for 18-year-old users only, you just click a box and you can get through to the site, he said.

“Some of our schools are still on there.”

The site has been investigated by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop), which said it had “come out of nowhere.”

A spokesman confirmed Ceop had contacted Littlegossip to advise on child protection, and he advised children not to visit the site as they were likely to see harmful content or experience cyber-bullying.

Bullying, the art of killing the human spirit [The Indiana Gazette, by Anthony Frazier, 16/12/2010].

In the news of late have been several stories about bullying and suicide. While these tragedies are often under-reported, they are painful examples of the cruel elements in human interaction.

There are a plethora of websites that deal with the issue and statistics surrounding bullying. But it’s often after a senseless incident that we are shocked back into seeing bullying as the threat that it really is.

Bullying is basically a form of intimidation or domination toward someone who is perceived as weaker. (

About 87 percent of students said shootings are motivated by a desire to “get back at those who have hurt them.”(

But bullying is not limited to just kids in a school yard. It’s exhibited in all facets of our lives: at home, work, school, online, spectator sports, juvenile and adult correction facilities and while driving in the car — even though it’s usually not called bullying.

While there is no place safe from bullying, there are areas where bullying is worse. According to school bullying statistics and cyber bullying statistics from 2007, the five worst states for it were: 1. California, 2. New York, 3. Illinois, 4. Pennsylvania, 5, Washington ( ingstatistics.html).

I remember very well the experiences in my youth of being bullied. Needless to say, I was fortunate that my experiences didn’t push me to suicide or cause me to seek retaliation.

As an adult, I see all types of disrespectful behavior toward others: name-calling, stereotyping, threatening and condescending comments both sexist and homophobic. On one hand, we can be caring and loving to each other; on the other, we can just as easily humiliate.

Bullying is about behavior and values and, to a certain extent, is culturally accepted. The observers also play a role in this scenario. We can and should break this crippling cycle.

It’s not the skinny, black, gay, odd, redhead, handicapped, fat kid or adult causing bullying to happen. It’s the hole in the bullies’ heart, where compassion and love are stored, that’s missing. That is at the root of it all. Bullying is not a spectator sport; everyone is a participant.

Let’s not wait for another memorial to gather and show our support. Take action now.

Have we forgotten the words, “I’m sorry,” and “I apologize for my actions”?

A lesson in self-confidence [The Courier-News, by Janelle Walker, 8/12/2010]

CARPENTERSVILLE — Bullies, according to one fifth-grader at Lakewood Elementary School, are people who don’t feel good about themselves, so they pick on other people.

Martial arts, such as those demonstrated to the school’s physical education classes this week, can help those bullies find self-confidence and self-control so they don’t feel the need to pick on others.

And for children who are bullied, martial arts can give them the confidence to stand up for themselves, look the bully in the eye, and tell them to stop, said Rick Steinmaier, whose Kim’s Black Belt Academy conducted the demonstrations.

Steinmaier reached out to several area schools this summer, offering to come in and teach children martial arts basics. Leann Granell, one of the physical education teachers at Lakewood, took him up on that offer.

She was particularly interested in focusing on bullying, an issue that has come into the forefront following the suicides of students around the country this year. Many of those students were reported to be victims of bullying.

Research shows that students who are bullied are far more likely to be suicidal, Steinmaier said. Boys who are bullied are five times more likely to take their own lives, and girls eight times more likely, he said.

The data on bullies themselves also are troubling, Steinmaier said. Statistics show that 60 percent of boys who are identified as bullies in school end up being convicted of crimes by the time they are 24 years old, he said.

Standing up to bullies

While the best way to stop bullying behavior is to tell an adult, Steinmaier said, it also works to stand up for oneself.

“Sometimes, all it takes is to look them in the eye and say, ‘You are bothering me. Stop it,’ ” Steinmaier said. “We are afraid to look someone in the eye, because it intimidates us. Once you have said that … odds are it will stop.”

Martial arts are not about violence and beating up bullies or the weak, Steinmaier said.

“We are talking about self-defense,” he said. “What we learn at the academy is not to be taken outside the academy.”

For students who are not involved in other sports, art or music, martial arts can be the niche that helps them find self-confidence, Granell added.

During Wednesday’s classes, just 35 minutes each, Steinmaier ran the students through basics such as what he calls the “big dog drill.” As if a big dog was chasing them, students ran in place, leaned forward to run uphill, back to go downhill, ducked like under a tree branch, jumped like leaping a fence, and side-stepped — like dodging an Illinois pothole.

Kicks, punches and barrel rolls completed the quick lesson.

“It is a little taste of what martial arts are like,” Granell said. Some students really got into it; others were less interested, she added.

Stress reliever

For those who are interested, Steinmaier offered a two-month scholarship to the Elgin-based Kim’s Black Belt Academy. Students were asked to write an essay talking about bullying — what it feels like to be bullied, how to stop it, or what to do when they witness it. The teachers will review those essays, and one student from each class, up to 11, will be offered the scholarship if their parents agree. The winning students will be honored in an all-school assembly prior to their winter break.

Lorimer Artaga, 12, of Carpentersville, said he planned to complete the essay and hoped he would get to use the scholarship. He’s been bullied, Artaga said, and admitted he has bullied himself.

“I got mostly experience about how to posture” during the class, he said. It also showed him there are other ways to get one’s anger out other than lashing out at others. “You can go there to get your stress out.”

The class also showed the sixth-grader that he does have power. “I felt my capacity of my strength. It could be something I could do in the future. It was like nothing else I have ever done,” Artaga said.

Kids who get into martial arts because of the one-class session could find themselves with an activity they enjoy for the rest of their lives, Granell added.

“They were exposed to an activity that many of them don’t get a chance to see,” she said. “It exposes kids to an opportunity and something they could do one a daily basis.”