Friday, February 26, 2010

The Sociopaths and Phoebe Prince

Phoebe Prince continues to make headlines after her recent death as a result of the relentless abuse by her peers at South Hadley High School. This story has opened a lot of floodgates with parents and alumni of South Hadley High School expressing internalized anger as they never stepped in to stop this abuse or any other abuse which has occurred in the past on their campus. A Task Force is now formed to keep an eye on things. Also, two students have been expelled and criminal charges could be pending. As this became a cyber issue on Facebook, many still taunted Phoebe before and after her death on a Memorial Page made in honor of Phoebe. These individuals who posted slanderous remarks may also be facing criminal charges. Bystanders at school and online turned a blind eye to the problem and did nothing to stop it. Now, after the fact, all of this has pushed Massachusetts to finally get an Anti-bullying Law on the books. It took something so horrific as this for them to finally move to action.

Phoebe had moved from Ireland to Massachusetts with her family and enrolled at South Hadley High School as a Freshman for the 2009-2010 school year. She started dating a Senior boy from the football team. This enraged a group of students who felt she needed a “reality check” or a “come-uppance” for thinking she could date this young man and not suffer in the process. So, they proceeded to make her life miserable in school and through technology. This moved to Facebook where they continued spreading their ilk for the whole world to read. As any victim of this form of abuse, Phoebe snapped and took matters into her own hands. She came home, went up to her room and hung herself. Her 12 year old sister found was the one to find her after she died. Wow, what a way to welcome a new student not only to a new school but a whole new country.

Expulsion is a form of punishment. However. One has to wonder if this is punishment enough or will this even affect these bullies? Studying this case and the behavior of these bullies, I honestly believe these individuals are full blown sociopaths. I have gone over the psychological makeup of a sociopath and these bullies fit the behavior to a tea. For starters, one student bragged about “fooling investigators” after she was questioned on her involvement in Phoebes death. The fact that while Phoebe was alive, they constantly taunted her at school and at home. They threw trash at her regularly. If that was not enough, they went to Facebook and spread more venom. After she died, they came back to Facebook and delighted in her death. There was no remorse or regret on their part. Folks, this behavior is scary! What these bullies need is extensive psychotherapy, not expulsion. Someone needs to be reaching these bullies on a psychological level so they do not commit this sort of damage towards another individual. Expulsion will not affect these bullies at all and I fear nothing will be learned as a result.

Again, it is so important for bystanders to step in and speak up. If this happens in school, please tell someone. When going online and seeing these so called “pages” attacking others, report them to the website! These websites have options where behavior such as this can be reported. Phoebe may still be alive if someone had stepped in and stood up to these abusers. This was a young, pretty girl in the dawn of life. If putting oneself in the others shoes, they may see that it is not so fun being a victim of such abuse and yes, can happen to anyone.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Cafe Vamp and the Bullies

Peer Abuse at work continues to be an underappreciated issue in our nation as we continue to enable this problem in our companies and organizations. However, things “down under” seem to be taking a more serious look at this problem.

A recent court decision in Hawthorn, Australia ordered a company, CafĂ© Vamp, to pay $335,000 in fines which resulted in an employee committing suicide over the abuse she was receiving at work by her peers. Four workers pled guilty to not taking reasonable care of its employees and failing to provide a safe working environment. A fine was also issued of $220,000 and the cost would have doubled if the defendants had not pled guilty to their behavior. A report conducted by the Productivity Commission estimated that this abusive behavior costs Australia itself $10 billion a year and costs to the economy of about $14.8 billion a year. Wow, that’s a lot of money. So much emphasis is placed upon physical hazards and not nearly enough is placed upon psychological hazards. However, it appears as if the tide is turning in Australia.

Now, we need to start following their lead. As adults, we should know better yet we don’t. We continue to feed into this behavior and nothing is ever done to remedy the problem. When this behavior is allowed, the victims start to suffer from stress, anxiety and depression and it costs a company a lot of money. Not to mention the many absences that are a result of this problem. In America, we have hit an economic low and cannot afford to loose money. We also focus on the physical issues such as environmental control and safety on the job. Organizations exist where they come in, monitor these problems and if action is needed it is taken. Why are we not paying attention to these psychological problems that also exist? If action was taken immediately on a bully at work, I can bet that money would be saved and employees would be working to their potential. A person cannot focus on the job with this negativity in the company.

America, wake up and smell the reality! Take a lesson from Australia! If we were to start imposing these fines on the companies in our nation, I bet this problem would decrease dramatically. Employees, stop feeding these bullies at work. They are capable of anything and by siding with them, it will not make your life easier. Stand up to them and put them in their places. At the end of the day, people just want to go to work, do their jobs and go home. Why increase the stress? If anything, increase the peace! It sure would make a workday a lot easier for everyone. I’m just saying.

Elizabeth Bennett is the Social Justice Guru seeking social justice for all. She is also the author of “Peer Abuse Know More! Bullying From a Psychological Perspective” along with the e-book “Child Safety Online: Top Tips to Protect your Child from Internet Predators.” Please visit Peer Abuse Know More! To learn more.