A few days ago a 15 second video showed up online. It showed a young girl who appeared to be twelve or thirteen years old. She’s standing in a room looking at the phone camera. She appears to be afraid. The camera then shows the floor where there is a pile of long black hair. A taunting male voice says, “The consequences of getting messed up? Man, you lost all that beautiful hair. Was it worth it?” The girl stares at her hair on the floor. She very quietly says, “No.” “How many times did I warn you?” She almost inaudibly says, “Twice.” He then says, “Okay.” as if he has proved a point. The video ends.
A screenshot from the video her father took after cutting her hair as a punishment.
Yesterday this same young girl got out of the passenger seat of her grandmother’s car on the South 48th Street overpass. She climbed over the railing and jumped, landing on a car. She’s since been transported to Harborview Medical Center where her condition is unknown. There are those who believe that public shaming is an acceptable form of parenting. As this incident clearly shows, it’s not. It’s a form of abuse and it has consequences. The victim in this incident is a minor and I have no intention of mentioning her or her family’s name. I’m also not going to share any more than the screenshot of the video as there’s really no reason anyone needs to see her face. I don’t have much interest in increasing the public shaming her father has already given her. I’m writing this article because all too often, suicides and suicide attempts are ignored. The News Tribune had one small article about it. The local TV sites have almost nothing.
We pretend suicide attempts don’t happen. Or we pretend that no outside factors contributed to a person’s choice to try to end their life. We need to stop that. We need to pay attention. We need to stop acting like there’s nothing we can do. Public shaming is a form of abuse. There are those who will say that it teaches a lesson. So does punching someone in the face. That doesn’t make it okay to do to your children. My thoughts are with this young girl. I hope that she gets the help she needs. I also hope her father gets the help he so clearly needs and that her family can heal from these traumatic events brought on by public shaming. Please do your best to remain civil in the comments section. I moderate all comments and will delete comments I feel are insulting, inflammatory, or otherwise non-conducive to civil dialog. I think we do need to talk about this and I think it’s important that we do so without attacking people.
If you or anyone you know needs to talk to someone about suicide, you can contact the national suicide hotline for free 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.
Update 05/31/15: I have heard from multiple sources that the young woman passed away at Harborview Medical Center this evening. My thoughts are with the family and friends of this young girl. I am sorry for your loss.
Update 06/02/15: After over 250 comments and another hundred or so that I deleted because were offensive or inflammatory, I’ve chosen to close the comments section after requests from multiple family members of the victims.
Update 06/06/15: This story that started as a little two paragraph article in the News Tribune is now being reported by Daily Kos, Jezebel, the New York Daily News and many others. This is thanks in no small part to the vocal readers here. Thank you for not letting this story go away. There has also been some new information worth sharing.
Tacoma Public School has issued a statement regarding rumors that the victim was not allowed to run for student office. They said that while it’s true she was unable to run for student office because her parents did not sign a permission slip, rumors that there was a public announcement that she couldn’t run are untrue. The statement also said that the principal was aware of the public shaming video and had contacted Child Protective Services when he learned of it.
According to Tacoma Police spokesperson Loretta Cool while the video was taken by the father, he was not the one to upload it online. It was leaked by a ‘third party’. The video was allegedly for her to keep to remind her of what she’d done as “part of the discipline process. So she would remember and not do it again.” according to Cool.
Update 06/09/15: My coverage of this story has come under scrutiny. Here’s my response. http://tacomastories.com/2015/06/09/special-comment-regarding-my-recent-coverage-of-a-local-girls-suicide/