The nature of bullying has changed dramatically over the past couple of decades. No longer your typical “schoolyard” stuff, bullying has now gone digital – and it has become extremely nasty.
According to nobullying.com, Cyberbullying has become “one of the most common methods in which bullies target their victims.”
The website adds: “Bullies hide behind their screens and strike whenever the urge hits them. They can create fictitious identities and can appear in their victims’ lives without any warning, where victims are unable to predict when the next attack will be.”
While many seek to play down bullying as simply something every kid “has to deal with,” the eye-opening statistics argue otherwise.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), suicide is responsible for almost 4,400 teen deaths each year. Suicide is ranked third when it comes to the most common causes of death amongst young Americans. It is also worth noting that there are over 100 suicide attempts for each successful suicide.
The same study speculated that students aged 10 to 14 are more likely to commit suicide than other age groups. Furthermore, studies undertaken at Yale suggest that victims of bullies are between 2 to 9 times more likely to commit suicide at some point during their teenage years.
Back in 2014, the CDC released a report exploring the links between bullying and suicide amongst teens.
“We know that bullying behavior and suicide-related behavior are closely related. This means youth who report any involvement with bullying behavior are more likely to report high levels of suicide-related behavior than youth who do not report any involvement with bullying behavior,” the report clearly stated.
“It is correct to say that involvement in bullying, along with other risk factors, increases the chance that a young person will engage in suicide related behaviors.”
The shocking thing is that with the mass proliferation of social media and smartphones, it is easier than ever for young people to engage in bullying without facing any serious consequences. That is where the Molak family is seeking, and succeeding, to change things.
David Molak was just 16-years-old when he took his own life, hanging himself in the backyard of his family home. He had been subjected to months of cyber-bullying, that had left him depressed and fearful, barely able to leave his own home.
“He was so distraught,” his mother Maurine told PEOPLE. “He said he could never go back to school. He just felt like everyone hated him.”
Things got so bad that the family decided to transfer David to a different school, but the damage was already done. “He felt so low and scared,” says his father, Matt, 55. “He couldn’t take it anymore.”
David attempted to take his life on two separate occasions, before he died on Jan. 3, 2016.
Since then, the Molak family have taken it upon themselves to stand up to bullying, and have even seen the introduction of a new anti-bullying law as a result of their campaigning.
The “David Law” was officially signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott back in June. The press release stated:
“Effective Sept. 1, 2017, David’s Law addresses the need for Texas laws to keep pace with evolving technology. It requires school districts to include cyberbullying in their district bullying policies and notify a child’s parents if he or she is a victim or alleged aggressor of bullying.
The law allows schools to combat and prevent cyberbullying by investigating off campus cyber-assisted bullying if it materially affects the school environment. It provides for schools to collaborate with law enforcement when serious or life-threatening cyberbullying situations arise. In recognition of bullying as a mental health issue, David’s Law encourages schools to invest in counseling and rehabilitation services for both victims and aggressors of bullying.”
“Cyberbullying is an epidemic in this country,” said Sen. Bob Menéndez after the law was signed in, as reported by News 4 San Antonio. “David’s law will focus on prevention efforts in schools while offering consequences to those who wish to exploit and harass our children on the Internet.”
The passage of David’s Law would not have been possible without the Molak family, the Vasquez family and so many other families who channeled their heartbreaking story into positive change.”
A word from David’s mother, Maurine Molak:“There are no words to describe the pain that our family has felt since the…
Seventeen-year-old Matthew Vasquez was relentlessly bullied even as he underwent treatment for leukemia. “Just to think someone would use cancer as the basis for the attacks is unfathomable,” said his father Leo, as reported by News 4 San Antonio. Vasquez decided to channel his efforts into anti-bullying campaigning and got behind the legislation put forward by the Molak family.
The new law is helpfully summarized on the David’s Legacy Foundation website:
“Under David’s Law, Texas public schools will have the authority to address cyberbullying that occurs off-campus. Schools will be required to notify a bullying victim’s parents of a bullying incident within three business days after the incident is reported and must notify the parents of an aggressor within a reasonable amount of time.”
The law also modernizes the criminal code in the area of cyberbullying in order to more easily punish those who engage in this heinous behavior.
“The definitions in the harassment provisions of Texas criminal laws will be modernized to better include the current ways cyberbullies attack victims through smart phones and social media. Cyber-harassment against a child that includes suicide baiting or the violation of an injunction against cyberbullying will be a much more serious criminal offense than before, up to Class A Misdemeanor.”
“We are incredibly grateful to Gov. Abbott for signing David’s Law,” said Maurine of the new legislation. “We also want to thank our San Antonio community for their incredible support throughout this entire process. This is just the beginning of our efforts to put an end to cyberbullying. We will continue to work with school districts, law enforcement and teenagers to promote and reward kindness, character and empathy among today’s youth.”
When Maurine started to campaign for justice on this issue, she was confronted with the enormity of the issue, and felt compelled to act on behalf of others.
“People were reaching out to me, mom to mom, telling me their similar stories of what they had been through,” she said. “Even kids reached out to me to tell me stories of what they had endured online and how they knew how David felt.”
She added: “It was at that point that I knew that I had to try to help these other people that were suffering from this and that I needed to get involved.”
Learn more about David’s Legacy Foundation by visiting their website here.