An Unanswered Cry for Help

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

On December 30, a 12-year-old student at Cedartown Middle School in Polk County, Ga., took a live video while she hanged herself in her backyard. In the video, she says she was sexually and physically abused by a relative.

The video, initially posted through the livestream app LiveMe, went viral and was uploaded to sites such as Facebook and YouTube.

On December 27, three days prior to her suicide, it is reported that there had been an investigation launched about allegations of abuse and sexual assault that she had posted on her online diary.

Tweens and teens these days use social media in all sorts of ways—many of which are difficult to understand. Some are a cry for help. Did she reach out for help in other ways? Did she tell a trusted adult, and no one listened until it was too late?

According to statistics compiled by the Sexual Violence Resource Center:

  • 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old.
  • 34% of people who sexually abuse a child are family members.
  • 3% of women were age 10 or younger at the time of their first rape/victimization, and 30% were between the ages of 11 and 17.
  • 8% of men were age 10 or younger at the time of their first rape/victimization.
  • 96% of people who sexually abuse children are male, and 76.8% of people who sexually abuse children are adults.

These statistics are shocking. There is nothing we can do to change the outcome for the Cedartown student, but we can work to prevent it from happening again. As a staff member or volunteer working with children or youth, are you ready to answer the call from someone in trouble? Are your ears open to someone who may be crying for help—even if they are going about it in nontraditional ways?

Bottom line: Watch and listen. If you see something, say something. If you hear tweens or teens buzzing about something tragic they saw on social media, go deeper. If you hear or suspect someone is in trouble, report it to a supervisor, volunteer coordinator, or the proper authorities.