She did not feel as guilty because at the funeral she found out the girl had tried to commit suicide before

Imagine your 13 year old daughter, who has battled clinical depression and has a history of some social awkwardnesses, finds a friend online though MySpace, a 16 year old boy, who makes her feel good about herself.

Imagine six weeks later finding your teenage daughter hanging dying in her closet, three weeks before her 14th birthday, after a torrent of abuse from this same boy and others on MySpace.

“Everybody in O’Fallon knows how you are. You are a bad person and everybody hates you. Have a shitty rest of your life. The world would be a better place without you.”

Imagine that when you try and find this boy on MySpace to “let him know the deadly power of mean words”, that his account has been deleted.

Imagine comforting your neighbours’ daughter, your daughter’s sometime friend, and in the weeks after your daughter’s death, attending this girl’s birthday party when your daughter would never have the party you’d been planning.

Imagine, 6 weeks after your daughter’s death, discovering not only that the boy on MySpace never actually existed, but that he was actually an account created by this other girl’s parents, and that these parents whom you felt were trusted friends were actually the people who wrote the abusive messages that drove your daughter to killing herself.

Imagine only finding this out because they recruited another teen girl in the neighborhood to also send your daughter abusive messages, and her conscience has made her speak up.

Ron and Tina Meier’s daughter was named Megan.

“She had been encouraged to join in the joke,” the [third girl’s] mother said.

The single mother said her daughter feels the guilt of not saying something sooner and for writing that message. Her daughter didn’t speak out sooner because she’d known the other family for years and thought that what they were doing must be OK because, after all, they were trusted adults.

On the night the ambulance came for Megan, the single mother said, before it left the Meiers’ house her daughter received a call. It was the woman behind the creation of the Josh Evans account. She had called to tell the girl that something had happened to Megan and advised the girl not to mention the MySpace account.

Imagine that in the meantime, since your daughter’s death, these same neighbours have invited you to the husband’s 50th birthday party, and have asked you to store a game table in your garage ready for them to give their children at Christmas, as if they had nothing to do with your daughter’s death. Imagine too that they were well aware that your daughter suffered from depression.

How would you feel? A year later they say this:

“I know that they did not physically come up to our house and tie a belt around her neck,” Tina says. “But when adults are involved and continue to screw with a 13-year-old – with or without mental problems – it is absolutely vile.

“She wanted to get Megan to feel like she was liked by a boy and let everyone know this was a false MySpace and have everyone laugh at her.

“I don’t feel their intentions were for her to kill herself. But that’s how it ended.”

How did the Meiers feel back then? What did they do?

They took an ax and a sledgehammer to that game table, and put the pieces in a box spraypainted “Merry Christmas” on their neighbours’ drive.

What did the neighbours do, now that they knew their secret was out?

They tried to talk to the Meiers, who asked another neighbour to convince them to leave. They sent the Meiers a letter saying this:

“We are sorry for the extreme pain you are going through and can only imagine how difficult it must be. We have every compassion for you and your family.”

The neighbours also reported the destruction of the game table to the police, and this is where there is a record of the neighbour’s side of the story, although she now refuses to speak to reporters and claims that the police report is unreliable.

“I will tell you that the police report is totally wrong,” the mother said. “We have worked on getting that changed. I would just be very careful about what you write.”

The police spokesperson says that there have been no attempts to have the police report altered. In it the mother describes setting up the fake MySpace account, and then the events immediately prior to Megan’s death.

“According to (her) ‘somehow’ other ‘my space’ users were able to access the fake male profile and Megan found out she had been duped. (She) stated she knew ‘arguments’ had broken out between Megan and others on ‘my space.’ (She) felt this incident contributed to Megan’s suicide, but she did not feel ‘as guilty’ because at the funeral she found out ‘Megan had tried to commit suicide before.'”

Tina says her daughter died thinking Josh was real and that she never before attempted suicide.

“She was the happiest she had ever been in her life,” Ron says.

Putting any untruths to the side regarding what Megan did and didn’t know, and whether she had or had not previously attempted suicide, what does it say about this woman that she feels less guilty about goading a person with suicidal tendencies into killing themselves than she would apparently feel if she goaded someone with no suicidal tendencies into killing themselves? That she can believe that if Megan was weak and damaged already, her culpability is somehow less rather than more? What planet of self-deluded entitlement does she live on?

The neighbours have since accused Ron of deliberately driving over their lawn in his pickup truck and doing $1,000 damage, and he faces misdemeanour charges relating to that.

Tina says she and Ron have dissuaded angry friends and family members from vandalizing the other home for one, and only one, reason.

“The police will think we did it,” Tina says.

The neighbours are facing no charges relating to their communications with Megan, as there is no statute which covers the events here. The Meiers want a law made to criminalise adults abusing children online.

Unsurprisingly, the Meiers (who are now divorcing) just wish that the other family would move away so that they never have to interact with them again (Tina, a real estate agent, helped them buy the home a few years ago).

This news article is very careful not to name the other family, claiming concern for that family’s teenage daughter. Comments on the article are quite scathing about them not naming and shaming the family, but the journal seems to have trod a fine line between the possibility of incurring legal action and getting the story out. After all, they name the Meiers and their suburban subdivision, which means that all the locals who don’t already know the story will be easily able to work out who the other family is. The naming might be omitted, but the shaming will still occur.

And that shaming needs to occur. The whole world doesn’t need to know this family’s name, but I’m glad that all their neighbours will know it. The mother sounds as if she’s in total denial of the magnitude of her actions, and what on earth made her think that setting up such an account to stalk her daughter’s friend was an OK idea in the first place? Teenage feuds are bad enough without adults getting involved and escalating it to an even more vicious level, and then refusing to take proper responsibility for what they have done.

This story via Crimitism, where Richie points out that

you can’t justify this kind of behaviour on the basis that only people who were sufficiently damaged to begin with will react badly, and therefore you aren’t responsible. It’s not “good fun” or “character building” to have a bunch of anonymous scum abuse and threaten you, and the oft-repeated idea that people need to toughen up rings utterly hollow when you consider the targets. An overweight teenage girl with anxiety issues and ADD is going to get the “guts” to shrug this off from where, precisely?

Harassment is never a joke, no matter how much some people would prefer other people to stop complaining that harassment causes them deep emotional pain and is not just something that can be lightly shrugged off.

Categories: ethics & philosophy, relationships

Tags: ,

21 replies

  1. This story boggles the mind, it is difficult to wrap my head around. All I can say is that people with a guilty conscious often, rather than minimising the damage, behave unbelievably badly and these parents who orchestrated the torment are behaving atrociously.

    I wish them many many nights of insomnia and during those long hours in the dead of night.. may they be tormented mercilessly with guilt and shame the way they tormented that poor kid mercilessly with ridicule.

  2. I’m reeling… this story’s going to take a bit of processing.

  3. The whole “just a joke” cyberbullying is becoming a huge problem, even when it doesn’t lead to suicide:

    The 26 per cent of girls who admitted cyber-bullying – via mobile phone, email, internet chatrooms and social networking sites such as MySpace – was a significant underestimation because most girls would not admit doing it, he said.
    The survey found that more than one-third of girls had been sent sexually inappropriate material via the internet; 70 per cent had accessed pornography sites by accident and 21 per cent on purpose; 41 per cent had been asked to post naked pictures of themselves.
    He said sexual harassment – usually messages such as “you’re a slut” – was a particularly odious form of bullying.
    “The Government emphasises sexual predators. What we’ve found is that the vast majority of sexual predation is from peers.

  4. I really don’t understand how these people could be so cruel as to ‘tease’ a teenager in this way to begin with!
    I’m with you, blue milk. May they grow a conscience in this matter, and have it work perfectly.

  5. As the parent of a 13 year old daughter, this story horrified me. We are very careful with what she is allowed to do online but it’s getting more difficult to police. I can’t imagine the thought process that led to this tragedy.

  6. The thing is, as an adult who strongly values the interactions I have with people online, I am concerned with how one strikes the balance for one’s children, who don’t have the benefit of our social experience.
    People do wear masks online, even those without malicious intent present a more shiny and attractive version of themselves than one might see in person. The older we are, the more reserved we are in sharing secrets with new acquaintances, either on or off line, and this is a form of self-protection that most of us have hard-won from being hurt when we were young ourselves. The difference with cyberbullying is that it’s right there, in our homes, in our hands with cellphones, not just at school or work. That’s a lot harder for anyone to deal with, not just naive kids.
    But there’s also fabulous people I’ve met online and ended up becoming friends with offline, that I would never otherwise have met, and I don’t want my kids to miss out on that!

  7. What sort of adult gets joy out of tormenting a teenage girl in the most cowardly way possible? And to actively recruit other kids to join in? It simply beggars belief.
    Not only should there be some (what, I don’t know) criminal charges laid against these people, they should have a psych assessment carried out as well.
    I feel sick.

  8. This wasn’t “typical teenage bullying” that can be excused as “youthful indiscretion” – these were full grown adults that should be expected to take full responsibility for their actions.
    It’s sick and depraved what they did – i only wish they were rotting in a cell instead of walking the streets.

  9. God. That’s appalling. I am normally pretty eloquent, particularly in moments of outrage, but this has knocked me utterly speechless in terms of being able to formulate a response to this woman’s behaviour and thought processes. I feel ill, and desperately sad. I didn’t think it was possible to utterly blindside me anymore with the ability of humans to be callous, malicious, ignorant and ethically revolting. But this has.

  10. Welcom to the States, the richest and most fucked up society in the whole world.
    Not that the rest of societies aren’t fucked up.
    I despair for humanity.

  11. Predictably, “Josh Evans” has been outed. On a blog. I found out via a comment at TBP, which I’ve deleted.
    Much as I dislike what these people have done, and the idea that I’m giving them the protection of a standard of civility and morality that they flouted, I think once the names are out in cyberspace things could get very ugly – and I want no part in that.

  12. Good call Gummo. No reason to sink to their level.

  13. I wouldn’t blame the dead girls’ mother if she burned the perpetrator’s house down, and if I was on the jury I wouldn’t convict her for it.

  14. Some people have asked what kind of adults could seriously contemplate participating in a teenage feud. My guess is that the “adults” in question haven’t yet grown out of the sort of cliquish mindset which is common in high school age teenagers. If you aren’t in, you’re out, and if you’re out, you’re fair game.
    The problem with all sorts of bullying is nobody is willing to acknowledge the consequences. I spent twelve years of school being bullied. I went into culture shock when I was in university, because I had absolutely no experience of being in an educational environment and *not* being bullied. I wound up getting very depressed as a result, because I *knew* the only difference between my peers in high school and my peers in university was a matter of months. We hadn’t had some magical switch flipped to make us adults – the only thing that changed were the expectations surrounding our behaviour.
    The bullying I got wasn’t physical. It was social and emotional – the type of bullying girls do so very well. I had my face repeatedly rubbed in my own lack of “popularity”, my lack of “attractiveness” and my lack of friends. I had it pointed out to me that I wasn’t worth talking to, that I wasn’t worth knowing, that I was a freak, barely even human.
    The one lesson I want to pass on to my two nieces is “life doesn’t end after high school, and who you are in high school isn’t who you are forever.” I find I’m less than confident about passing on this lesson when there are people such as the woman described in this story allowed to peddle their poison unhindered. Whose child is she going to target next, I wonder?

  15. What’s even more sad is that some writer will make a Law & Order or CSI episode out of it. And we’ll watch it.

  16. This is beyond appalling. It would be tragic enough if it were simply children tormenting each other but for an adult to be involved in this and just be able to walk away. These people should be named. They are not entitled to anonymity. They are not victims here. There should be consequences for heinous disregard for a child’s mental health, if only in being shunned by the community as child killers.

  17. This is unspeakably awful. Really. I can’t find the appropriate words. I think the girl’s poor poor parents have shown admirable restraint in ONLY driving over their lawn and smashing their stupid game table, especially with them right next door. I feel sick and furious just reading this.
    If there’s no law to allow these parents to be imprisoned or punished, there needs to be one.

  18. Those vermin should give thanks to their gods that Megan’s father is a civilized man. I am a barbarian, and if someone did something like this to my child, they would wind up as hamburger for my dinner table. You wanna play hardball, fuckers? Let’s play fucking HARD BALL.

  19. This is the kind of story that just makes you shake your head and wonder what must go through peoples’ minds. We all know about the horrors of cyberbullying, but that adults would be behind it is horrendous and takes it to a whole new level.
    Just why they can’t be charged still seems strange to me; you’d think at the very least there’d be a case for harassment or slander charges to be laid. If there isn’t a law which they’ve broken, there definitely should be one. But our laws worldwide can’t seem to keep up with the latest technological advances, and so how can we hope to protect our children?
    I wasn’t sure if you’ve seen this as well, but there’s a new blog called Megan Had It Coming [blog URL removed – moderator]… it’s supposed to be written by a teenager, but the language doesn’t seem right to me. Whoever it is, they’ve got a lot of nerve to write with such viciousness and attack someone in death. This whole thing is just so sad.

  20. you can’t justify this kind of behaviour on the basis that only people who were sufficiently damaged to begin with will react badly,

    Because “yeah I’m a bigot and a bully, but I only bullied the vulnerable” is such a great moral defense. Pukes.
    It’s bad enough when kid’s do it, but an adult?
    As extreme a case as this is, it raises nasty stuff about age, gender and boundaries. I really hope that adults generally know that being irresponsible with our aggression isn’t OK, but the anonymity of the net sure permits sending it out as messed up passive agression for those who want to.


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