Felicia Garcia, a 15-year-old Staten Island teenager, ended her life on Wednesday when she jumped in front of a subway train. Witnesses describe the scene:
Kayla Gonzalez, 14, and Nicole Messina, 13, both Huguenot residents and students at Paulo Intermediate School, said they saw Miss Garcia on the platform, her hair disheveled and in front of her face, looking upset.
"She kept asking everyone, 'When does the train come," Miss Gonzalez recounted. Then, as it approached, she turned around and dropped her bag and her phone, "Finally it's here," they recalled.
According to fellow students at Tottenville High School, Garcia was the target of bullying and slut-shaming because, according to the NY Post she had sex with four football players at the same time at a party the previous weekend. Repulsively, the football players were allegedly doing quite a bit of that bullying. I'd really like to know exactly what went on there, I can guess, but I know the entire story will be beyond heartbreaking.
Friends say Garcia was teased, called a slut, and physically harassed in the halls. "They were torturing her," said classmate Stephanie Imparato. "How can you go through life being verbally assaulted like that? These guys are cruel and malicious."
On Monday, two days before she killed herself, Garcia tweeted, "I can't, I'm done, I give up."
Apparently law enforcement is investigating to see what role, if any, bullying played in the death. Which, there is no doubt in my opinion, it did. Ugh, this is awful, being a teenager is so hard, and when you add in the fact that Garcia was a foster child (both of her parents are dead), I'm sure things were that much harder. Who was there to see the signs? When you're a teen, it doen't feel like there's time after this week or life outside of high school feels, and everything is so pressing and immediate.
I recently watched that documentary on school bullying called, er, Bully. I really liked how it focused on educating the kids who aren't the bullies and aren't the kids getting picked on, but on the kids who are witness. Empowering them to speak up and say, "Knock it off, that's not cool," whenever they see bullying, become an ally. Who knows? Maybe that would result in just changing the bully's target to the kid who spoke up, and there is that nervousness about ever having any attention on you in high school, so maybe that wouldn't work. But what if most kids did it, and it wasn't just a few. That and focusing on teaching everyone the warning signs. We focus so much on the bullies — and these football players sound so awful and must be taken to task — but they are also just products of our rape culture, and until we change, this is just another story, just another girl.
Of course, this all begins by sitting down with our boys and young men and okay, all men, and teaching them how not to bully, not to harass, not pressure, not to rape.
I'll follow this closely to see how the school addresses it, especially with the football players, who some students say were there with Garcia on the platform yesterday, hurling "sexually explicit jeers," up until she jumped.