This morning, I woke up and followed a link to some incredibly poignant commentary about Hope Witsell’s suicide, a topic I tried and failed to talk about the way I wanted to on the most recent Kink On Tap episode. Thankfully, I now have Sylvia’s words to put to my feelings. In What happened to Hope Witsell, Sylvia writes:

It was not that, as this putrid “news” article disgustingly asserts, “The downward spiral of Hope’s life was unstoppable.”

If everyone I know who had a picture of their boobs on the internet before their 18th birthday killed themselves, I’d have a lot of dead friends. I wouldn’t be around to remember them, though, since I’d be dead too.

It wasn’t SEXTING.

It was you, adults, all the adults in her life.

I feel that the full blog post is simply required reading.

On Twitter, Cos pointed me at another commentary from The Curvature. He sent this commentary to Andrew Meacham, the author of the original news story. Although I tried, I simply couldn’t read through Mr. Meacham’s article because of the overwhelming anger I felt at each turn where he (and the numerous commenters on the article) twisted this story around to blame Hope herself, to stigmatize her because she was stigmatized, to shame her for being a victim, to paint her as the one to be punished for her “impetuous move.”

We as a society have become so good at victimizing victims, at absolving ourselves of any wrongdoing, of telling ourselves all the lies we need to hear to make everyone believe “there was nothing we could do,” when in fact we did nothing at best, or were the active ingredient in creating the terminal disease of sexual shaming at worst. If you can’t see that there is a parasitic insistence of a karmic theory of she-got-what-she-deserved so insidiously lodged into the minds and hearts of so many people, then you may not have Hope’s—and other youth like Hope’s—best interests in mind. For god’s sake, please look again.

In her TEDTalk, gang rape survivor and real-life hero Sunitha Krishnan, says:

I was 15 when I was gang raped by 8 men. I don’t remember the rape part of it so much as much as the anger part of it. Yes, there were 8 men who defiled me, raped me, but that didn’t go into my consciousness. I never felt like a rape victim then or now. But what lingered from then to now—I’m 40 today—is this huge outrageous anger. [For] two years I was ostracized, I was stigmatized, I was isolated because I was a victim. […] We, as a civil society, we have Ph.D.s in victimizing a victim.

(Skip to 2:45 for the quote.)

Back on Twitter, Cos urged me to write to Mr. Meacham. So I wrote him this, which I want to share here:

Dear Mr. Meacham,

I am writing to direct your attention to some very poignant commentary regarding your article in the St. Petersburg Times printed on the website covering the tragic suicide of Hope Witsell.

The commentary I hope you will read is here:

I believe the commentary I linked above is extremely important because it expressly discusses the angle with which news stories like this are covered and provides some insight into how to do so in order to help the Witsell and other families in the future.

It is my sincerest hope that you read the above commentary with an open mind.

Thank you very much.

This is about all I can take before breakfast time. I hope the rest of my day isn’t quite so depressing.

Update: Mr. Meacham replied to my email, although I won’t republish his email here as I never asked if I could do so. My understanding of his reply is that, as a reporter, he feels it is only appropriate to report on things that actually occurred (i.e., tangible events), and not to make any implications about their cause or effects. This is a very appropriate thing for a reporter to be doing.