Hope Witsell: Sexting Photo Led to Girl's Suicide in 2009
Hope Witsell, 13, Also Committed Suicide Due to Being Bullied at School
As more stories come to light of young people committing suicide because of school bullying (Phoebe Prince, Asher Brown, Seth Walsh, Tyler Clementi and Raymond Chase just to name a few), CNN is collaborating with People Magazine to produce Bullying: No Escape in order to bring attention to these tragic stories.
- Donna Witsell Appears on TODAY Show
- Raymond Chase Commits Suicide
- Seth Walsh Commits Suicide
- Asher Brown Commits Suicide
- Tyler Clementi Commits Suicide
One such story is that of Hope Witsell who killed herself in September 2009 after being constantly bullied at Shields Middle School in Ruskin Florida.
One of her friends, Kyla Stich, spoke to CNN about how students would call Hope 'slut' and 'whore' and just be really cruel to her.
The bullying started in late Spring 2009 after her friends said she 'sexted' a topless picture to her boyfriend, but another girl managed to get a copy and sent it to students at six schools in the area.
Another friend, Lexi Leber, said, "We had to make like a wall, we had people surrounding her, and she had to be in the middle because people would come by and try to hit her and push her into a locker or something.
"She was afraid to walk alone, she was afraid someone would do something to her, like verbally attack her, so she would always have someone with her," Leber added.
The school did tell Hope's mother Donna and she and her husband met with the assistant principal who had asked Hope if it was her in the picture and she said yes.
Donna said Hope was aware of the dangers of sending pictures like that, but she never told her parents how she was being bullied and harassed.
Other students even set up a MySpace page called Hope Hater Page and they started a Shields Middle School Burn Book.
On Saturday September 12 2009, Hope Witsell took her life by hanging herself in her bedroom.
Her mother found out after her daughter's death that a counselor had asked Hope to sign a 'no harm' contract as the school feared her daughter would harm herself, but she never told her parents. She believes the school dropped the ball.
"The school did not call. We have the digital telephone; we have the cell phones that indicate when there was an incoming call and what number was calling in. We have a house phone, I have a cell phone, my husband has a cell phone. We have emergency contact numbers at the school which was my sister-in-law and her husband. There was no indication that the school called any of those numbers," Hope's mother said.
The bullying continued after Hope's death on social network sites with people asking if she even did kill herself.
Her mother has now started 'Hope's Warriors' in order to help combat bullying and help other families; she says what happened to her can happen to any parent.