Social Work Helper

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13

Slut Shamed Teens: The Amanda Todd Story

Sarah Devin 2012/12/10

by Sarah Devine

I have encountered several stories recently about slut-shamed teens who have taken their own lives, including Amanda Todd, who was harassed through Facebook and other social media after exposing her breasts to a much older man. Obviously, these stories highlight the continued need to address bullying and harassment–and to take it seriously, not dismissing it as a “phase” youth go through–and to teach young people how to protect themselves online (Amanda Todd’s harrasser found much of her personal information online, including where she lived and what school she attended).

Despite the internet’s centrality to many young people’s lives, some youth remain unaware of the dangers of posting personal information and photos to social networking sites–or even sending them to friends. Images and words can “live” on the internet forever, facilitating long-term bullying and harassment that the victim is powerless to escape.

Of course, there are larger concerns also, including how a 30-year-old man who could bully a 7th-grader and distribute a topless photo of her without punishment, or how she could suffer such extreme bullying at school without the intervention of parents, teachers or staff. And, perhaps largest of all, how patriarchy continues to enable slut-shaming in our society.

None of these concerns are going to disappear anytime soon, but as someone who works with teenage girls they are always present in some form or another. Many of the girls I work with can describe slut-shaming to a T, but they wouldn’t call it that. To them, it’s how life is; a girl expresses her sexuality somehow (or simply has rumors spread about her to that effect) and her peers come down hard on her with oppressive, shameful comments. I think that the first step is to help youth recognize how inappropriate and misogynistic these actions are. So may girls are growing up without a feminist vocabulary to help them make sense of the sexist and oppressive dynamics they are inevitably being exposed to at school and in the media. Here is a video of Amanda Todd made days before her suicide.

Update

To view archive visit this link: http://storify.com/SWUnited/slut-shaming-and-the-amanda-todd-story#publicize

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