Teen Rape Victim Commits Suicide After Bullying

Illustration for article titled Teen Rape Victim Commits Suicide After Bullying

Yet another bullied teen has taken her own life — this time after she was outed as the victim of sexual assault, and her alleged rapist insulted her on Twitter.

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According to the Detroit News, a Michigan mom told police last month that 18-year-old Joseph Tarnopolski had "had sex" with her daughter, 14-year-old Samantha Kelly. Tarnopolski was charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct, which in Michigan appears to encompass both statutory rape and rape by force — it's not clear from news reports what was the case here. After his arrest, though, Tarnopolski started tweeting about the case. He wrote, "All girls are, are liars and backstabbers! I hate you all. Way to ruin my life. Seriously, now this will be on my record for life!" And: "You say I (expletive) your life up, but your the one who lies to everyone because your scared to get in trouble! You threw this upon me! Your idea."

The tweets would have been bad on their own, but then a local Fox News affiliate interviewed Kelly's mom and identified her by name, thus basically outing Kelly as Tarnopolski's alleged victim. After the report aired, Kelly was bullied at school — until Monday, when she committed suicide. This case is incredibly sad on many levels — for one, it's a tragic reminder of the stigma victims often face when they report sexual assault, and a rebuttal to anyone who thinks that accusers in rape cases get off scot-free. It also raises the question of whether bullying suicides have an element of contagion. Back in October, Jared DeFife of Psychology Today pointed to "an epidemic of bullying in the country, fueling a spate of suicides," and said,

Suicides often occur in clusters. There is an increased risk in those with a family history of suicide or in proximity to a recent suicide. For this reason, the media has historically been reluctant to report on cases of suicide.

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However, the media has obviously been reporting on bullying suicides very thoroughly recently — is it possible that this is giving kids the idea to end their lives? It's hard to know, but ignoring bullying doesn't seem to be the answer either — rather, lawmakers, educators, and families need to take the increased visibility of the problem as an opportunity to start stamping it out.

Some groups are doing this by championing anti-bullying legislation in Michigan, which is good start. But Samantha Kelly won't be around to see it. And in a way the saddest part of her story is this: because she's no longer around to testify, charges against her alleged rapist have been dropped. Says a spokesman for the Wayne County Prosecutor's office, "Without the victim, we're unable to go forward with the case."

Alleged Teen Rape Victim Commits Suicide; Prosecutors To Dismiss Charges [Detroit News, via Michigan Messenger]

Image via Detroit News

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DISCUSSION

This makes me want to start teaching high school again.

But then I remember how when an 17 year old raped a 14 year old student of mine, he and his friends tortured her for 10 months after it, telling her how she was bad at sex, and knocking her bookbag down, and mocking her, and spreading rumors, and I had no idea even though she was one of my 9 advisees. Because they were smart enough to never, ever do it in front of me or any teacher who would care, and she was too embarrassed/scared/hurt/etc to tell anyone for months and months.

And all year I talked at least once a week about sexual harassment and the school's atmosphere to my advisee group. And all year I talked to the administration about one of my other kids who was getting teases about giving someone a consensual blowjob once upon a time. And I had no idea, none at all, that this kid I saw every day was going through this shit. And I had no idea that there was a group of sociopathic sexual predators who all the students knew were doing this shit. And so nobody could stop it. Because let me tell you, if I did know about this shit than none of the teachers knew. Until she told, and then the humiliation and harassment (from the kid's friends—he got kicked out, thank god) grew and grew until she had to transfer.

It's mind bogglingly depressing, and makes you feel like your suffocating. And that's whey you're a fucking teacher who's witnessing it in the aftermath. These poor girls.

All those fuckers who talk about how schools are failing boys because boys need to run around and "do" and other bullshit, are all idiots. We are failing our girls, because they keep getting raped by the boys and guess what you can't do when you're getting harassed and humiliated by the dude who raped you and all his friends every day? Learn algebra or American history or the importance of memory in The Great Gatsby. And guess what else prevents learning important school-things? Fucking killing yourself because the harassment gets so bad.

Fuck those kids. Fuck that school system. And fuck fuck fuck that news channel that published the mom's name. That is some seriously evil shit.