Suicide of Rebecca Ann Sedwick
Rebecca Ann Sedwick (October 19, 2000 – September 9, 2013) was a 12-year-old American student at Crystal Lake Middle School in Lakeland, Florida who committed suicide by jumping off a concrete silo tower. Investigation into her death led to a conclusion of in-person and cyberbullying contributing to the decision to take her own life. Sedwick's family later filed a lawsuit in relation to her death.
Rebecca Ann Sedwick
Rebecca Ann Sedwick
October 19, 2000
Sebring, Florida, U.S.
|Died|| (aged 12)|
Lakeland, Florida, U.S.
|Cause of death||Suicide by jumping|
|Education||Crystal Lake Middle School|
Background, history and suicide
Rebecca and her family were originally from Sebring, Florida. While battling with depression and anxiety, she began to engage in self-mutilation by cutting. At one point, Rebecca was hospitalized for three days as a result of her actions. After returning to school, an incident in a hallway with another student played a role in the decision to remove Rebecca from public school and begin the process of home schooling. Her mother also deactivated her social media accounts and took away her mobile phone.
After returning to the public school system and transferring to another school to give her a fresh start, Rebecca was given her mobile phone privileges back and she opened accounts on services such as Kik, Ask.fm and Voxer. Snapshots later emerged of anonymous comments that were written to Rebecca on Ask.fm saying things like “Nobody cares about you”, “you seriously deserve to die” and “drink bleach and die.” It was later determined that, as the bullying grew worse, Rebecca was beginning to have suicidal thoughts. These thoughts were discovered to have begun about a year prior to her death. The investigation also showed new conflicts with students at school and Rebecca was withdrawn from public school in February 2013.
A search of Rebecca's mobile phone and computer uncovered internet searches like, “What is overweight for a 13 year-old girl?” and “How much Advil do you have to overdose in order to die?” Pictures of Sedwick with razor blades lying on her arms were shown on her mobile phone and her mobile phone wallpaper showed pictures of her head resting on the edge of a railroad track. Before her death, she changed her name on one of her mobile phone apps to “That Dead Girl,” and messaged a 12-year-old friend in North Carolina saying, "I'm jumping, I can't take it anymore."
Investigation and arrest
On September 17, 2013, a 14-year-old girl and a 13-year-old were indicted on charges of aggravated stalking, accused of bullying Sedwick during an argument over a boy. The charges would later be dropped due to a lack of evidence.
Aftermath and reaction
Sedwick's mother refuted claims that she was accountable for Rebecca's death and vowed to work with lawmakers in Florida to strengthen anti-bullying laws. However, some experts, like Debbie Johnston, national legislative liaison for Bully Police USA, say that the "laws are there" and that society needs to "have a culture that tells us this is what’s right to do”. The circumstances of Sedwick's death were compared to another Florida teenager that committed suicide after aggressive bullying seven years before. Others have said that, “The problem is not the kids reporting (suicidal thoughts and bullying), the problem is usually the adults who do not listen and follow up.” Others have said that parents need to have a greater idea of what their children are doing, both on and off-line, because teenagers cannot self-regulate.
Sedwick's mother established the Rebecca Sedwick Funeral Fund and Anti-Bullying Campaign, receiving donations to support anti-bullying awareness education and programs for children and teens with mental health problems. The campaign's goal was to raise $5,400 to pay for the costs of Rebecca's funeral, with any additional funds being donated to The Jaylens Challenge Foundation, a local non-profit organization dedicated to promoting awareness and prevention of bullying through education and community service.
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