Tormentors must face sick reality

Young people everywhere need to reflect on the death of 12-year-old Rebecca Ann Sedwick of Lakeland, Fla., who committed suicide on Sept. 9 after enduring relentless online bullying for nearly a year by about 15 other girls.

That serious contemplation by young people must center not only on why Rebecca’s death never should have happened, but just as much on the guilt that her tormenters will carry for the rest of their lives – if they have a conscience.

In the years to come, those tormenters are likely never to be free from the guilt of having been active participants in causing another person’s death. For many, if not all, of those tormenters, the guilt stemming from that involvement is likely to intensify as they enter adulthood and begin raising a family of their own.

They won’t want their children to experience cruelty like Rebecca Sedwick experienced at their hands, before she “escaped” from her tormenters by climbing a tower at an abandoned concrete plant and hurling herself to her death. They’ll be watching for anything even remotely resembling the kind of psychological torture they inflicted upon Rebecca.

And in addition to online communications, they’re likely to more closely monitor their children’s personal contacts with others, to ensure they don’t become victims of the kind of young people they once were.

Unfortunately, there no longer are opportunities to help Rebecca Sedwick.

It’s one thing for a young person to cause a death by immature conduct, such as in an instant while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. It’s a much different matter when there was plenty of time for tormenters like Rebecca’s to rethink what they were doing and properly consider the possible near-term and distant ramifications of their actions while they still had time to halt them.

Immature cliques like those that tormented Rebecca often dissolve after they’ve wreaked their terrible toll and are forced to face the sickening reality of what they’ve “accomplished.”

What once was morbid fun – such as sending messages to Rebecca that “you should die” and “Why don’t you go kill yourself” – now is anything but cause for humor now that they’ve gotten their wish.

According to an article in Saturday’s Mirror, Florida has a bullying law, but it leaves punishment to schools. The article did not delve into avenues of civil recourse that might be available to Rebecca’s family, but families in some other fatal bullying cases have pursued such options.

Saturday’s article reported that the Associated Press had found about a dozen cases of suicides resulting from cyberbullying, but said some experts believe the real number is at least twice that.

Bullies need to learn about the short- and long-term psychological scars that their actions can cause. Sometimes their victims carry those scars, or remnants of them, even into adulthood, feeling insecure – harboring ongoing doubts about their self-worth, the way they look, or their ability to address other concerns and issues.

Bullies also need to be told that, if they really do have a conscience, someday circumstances might force them to be remorseful about what they inflicted upon someone else.

For Rebecca’s tormenters, that someday is now.

It’s doubtful any of them ever believed Rebecca actually would grant the wishes they expressed in their terrible, morbid taunts.