Was It The Victim's Fault?

A young girl is asked to share 'nudes' on her Snapchat account. Somewhere deep inside, her gut tells her she probably should not. Her best friends ask her to ignore the texts from her boyfriend who claimed to 'love' her the most. Another set of friends, who claim to care only about the girl's welfare, encourage her to share those photographs. They say that it’s normal to indulge in such acts when you are a teenager and dating people (it seems to be so).

In the end, the girl refuses to share the photographs. And that is when it all begins.

The guy starts tormenting her. He abuses her, humiliates her, and body-shames her, threatens to share their private messages with her parents. This continues for weeks. At last, the girl gives up and does a thing she wouldn't have dared to even think of in her wildest dreams.

She shares her photographs with the guy, hoping, just hoping that maybe he will stop. Guilt swallows her. Images of the disappointed friends and family haunt her at night. School grades suffer but the nightmares refuse to end. She continues to breathe.

The boy keeps asking for more and more. He crosses his limits (hadn’t he already?) when he shares the girl's snaps with his friends and his friends start 'sexting' the girl. She tries to oppose him. The result? Simply that the boy shares her images on social media, sends it to their friends with disgusting captions. The stress causes migraines, stomach-aches, and missed days of school. She loses her friends. Anxiety and depression engulf her being completely.

This time, she does not continue to breathe. Believing it her only choice now, she kills herself. She is (was) barely sixteen.

Nearly half of all of today’s youth has experienced one or the other form of cyberbullying and 10-20 percent experience it regularly. Cyberbullying affects all; there is no discrimination on the basis of gender, skin colour, caste, or race. The story I tell has happened too many times, with all variations of gender and material, but what never changes is the intent to hurt, and the result.

It is essential for us to understand that we should not seek revenge on a cyberbully by turning into a cyberbully ourselves. We must be better. Instead of responding to cyberbullying, we must save the evidence and report it to a trusted adult. There is no reason for us to ever put up with cyberbullying, no reason for us to be afraid. No matter what a cyberbully says or does, we should never be ashamed of who we are or what we feel.

- Mahi Tripathi

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