By Jo-Anne Lee, in collaboration with Sabina Chatterjee.
Dear antidote members and friends,
By now, you have probably heard about Amanda Todd’s suicide. On behalf of antidote, I wish to offer our deepest sympathy to her family and friends. The premature death of a child is something that no parent or family should ever experience.
Amanda Todd was a beautiful girl who took her own life at 15 years. She was of mixed heritage: Chinese and European.
This information came silently and stealthily into my world and once revealed, shattered my complacency. How did I not know this? Was it true? I rushed to my computer and easily found her video and photos. Through my sobs, I scanned hundreds of Internet images. My stomach churning, I realized that the circumstances of her death was not simply a matter of childhood bullying gone bad as narrated in news reports. This young girl had experienced racialized and sexualized harassment and violence to such extremes that she had taken her own life. Shaken to my core, I sat silent and alone with my grief for several days. Amanda could have been my own daughter. She could have been a gurrl member of antidote.
A few days later, after reaching out to antidote and sharing my feelings with some members, we realized that we were all affected, triggered and traumatized by reading about these events. Even more so when we realized that Amanda could have been a member of our gurrls’ group, a member of our family or friend. In antidote, we have heard many similar stories of racialized, sexualized and homophobic harassment, violence, isolation, and self‐harm. We all knew someone close to us who had attempted or succeeded in committing suicide. Although specific circumstances differed, there were also many similarities.
We concluded that something was very wrong in how the media and experts have framed Amanda Todd’s suicide. Why has a blanket of silence covered Amanda’s ethnic and racial background? Why is her death being reported as bullying and not gendered, sexualized and racialized violence? We cannot fully answer these questions, but what we can and must do is speak out about how this naming affects us and harms our work, and why it must stop.
This issue concerns everyone wanting to stop violence against girls and women generally and specifically, girls and women from minoritized communities.