Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Rosalie’s World

I saw a photograph of a pretty, 13-year-old girl on my newsfeed followed by a headline stating she had been hospitalized after a suicide attempt. Rosalie Avila, 13, of Yucaipa, CA had been "severely" bullied for years by classmates, in school and on social media, who told her she wasn't pretty and her teeth were ugly. In her diary, she had written: “They told me I was ugly today. They were making fun of me today about my teeth.” She hanged herself in her bedroom on November 28 and was admitted to Loma Linda Children's Hospital.

As I read this, in my mind I was composing a note to Rosalie. I would tell her she was, in fact, a very pretty girl and that she was prettier than most of the girls I had gone to school with when I was 13. I would tell her that the braces she wore would straighten her teeth and leave a beautiful, permanent smile on her face for years to come. I wanted to leave a positive, encouraging post on her Facebook page, knowing that others would also, and that this little girl would come home to literally 10,000 messages from strangers to counter the vicious venom of a handful of children. I wanted to provide a counterbalance to place the messages she was getting from these "mean girls" into perspective, which is sadly lacking at that age when we are most susceptible to peer pressure.

You're NOT ugly, Rosalie. You may not believe your parents when they tell you you're beautiful because parents have to say that, but strangers don't have to. So take it from a stranger, you are pretty. And 10,000 other strangers will agree with me.

But before I could write the first line my eyes scrolled down to the next headline. Rosalie was taken off life support on December 4. In three weeks, when other families are gathered around the Christmas tree celebrating the festive season, Rosalie’s parents, Freddie and Charlene Avila, and her five siblings will be gathered beside her grave in mourning. 

The more I learned about Rosalie, the more I felt a kinship. She “always got good grades,” and she wanted to be a writer and a lawyer “so she could make the world a better place.” Instead, the world – her world – destroyed her. It's a world filled with evil souls housed in bodies of varying ages. Despite their youth, I've no doubt Rosalie's tormentors are truly evil. They're not wayward children; or bad kids; or even mean girls. They're evil. Rosalie’s family got a small taste of what the 13-year-old had been experiencing when someone sent them a photograph of a bed on social media captioned: “Hey Mom. Next time don’t tuck me in this. Tuck me in THIS,” pointing to an image of an open grave with Rosalie’s face Photoshopped over it.

I was told it was a good thing I didn’t have the opportunity to leave my message for Rosalie because it would be “creepy” for a grown man to tell a 13-year-old she’s pretty. “You don’t even know her; people will think you’re a predator.” What a sad world we live in. Here in Rosalie’s World of 2017 that would be creepy and possibly expose me to legal jeopardy; I would have thought the messages sent to Rosalie – and now to her parents – were creepy and that the senders of those should be the ones subject to legal consequences. Rosalie’s World isn’t the world I grew up in. Sure, we had bullying, but not to this extreme or this degree of malevolence. As a society, we need to reevaluate how our world devolved into Rosalie’s World and what we must do to change it back.

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