Cyber bullying has become one of the main forms of bullying among teenagers in America.
It involves using technology such as cell phones and social media to bully or harass another person.
When Cindy Blake found out that her son was being bullied online by two adults, it threw her for a loop. She said the bullying was a result of a breakup that took place between her son, Dakota Dodd and his girlfriend.
“At the time this all happened, Dakota was 15,” Blake said. “He was trying to get over his breakup with his girlfriend. They had dated for a little over a year when she ended the relationship.”
Dakota seemed to have a hard time with the breakup, she said. He was trying to piece it all together and was taking things day-by-day. She said her son wasn’t exactly sure why the breakup happened and was taking it extremely hard.
Blake said shortly after the breakup is when things began to get out of hand when two adult family members of the ex-girlfriend began to harass Dodd by hacking into his Facebook page and making fictitious posts that Blake said destroyed her son’s reputation in the community and nearly drove him to suicide.
Michelle Argo and Robert Gale have been adjudicated on criminal charges for harassing and bullying Dodd by hacking his online social media accounts and posting fictitious information. Blake and her son’s two-year nightmare finally came to an end on June 29 with both Argo and Gale being found guilty of online impersonation by posting one or more messages on a commercial social networking site with the intent to harm, intimidate or threaten someone. Both agreed to a plea bargain and received a maximum sentence of seven years probation, have been ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and three years of community supervision.
Blake said it is really hard to put into words how difficult this ordeal has been for their family, but if it helps others know how to deal with cyber bullying, then she hopes some good can come from it. Reliving each and every detail, she began to explain how everything in their world came crashing down.
“We were awakened one Sunday morning to phone calls from friends and family members,” Blake said. “They were calling because they were concerned about what they had seen on Dakota’s Facebook page.”
Trying to login to Dodd’s account was proving to be a challenge — which was the first red flag for both Blake and her son. Once they were finally able to log into his account to view his page, Blake said the look on her son’s face will forever be engrained in her memory.
“I will never forget the look on Dakota’s face when we saw the postings on his page,” she said. “It was a look of shock and sadness.”
Someone had gone into Dodd’s account and changed his password in an effort to appear as him on the social media site. Argo and Gale (later admitted they had) posted derogatory comments about Dodd’s sexual preference, and had made several negative remarks about his mother, including sexual slurs and allegations — all appearing as if they had been made by Dodd.
When family members and friends saw the postings they began to reprimand him for saying the things he was saying, not realizing that it was someone else pretending to be him.
Blake said she felt in her heart that she knew who the culprit was, and said she was immediately determined to stop at nothing to see this person brought to justice.
She called the police and they began an investigation.
In the midst of pursuing those behind this attack on her son, Blake said things continued to get worse. She said the bullying then extended to school and church as others reacted to what they had read online — all believing her son was the one making the comments on his social media sites.
“There were so many different incidents that occurred at school,” she said. “Dakota was slapped in the face, constantly harassed about his alleged sexual orientation that had been posted on Facebook, shoved in the halls and stabbed with pencils. I met with everyone I could, all the way up to the superintendent and had a tremendous amount of meetings with other school officials.”
The harassment — sparked by the online bullying — even extended to their church.
After they were baptized at their church, Blake said she thought they were permanent members of the church. But even at church, Blake said her son still had people laughing at him and harassing him because of what they read online. She said it got to the point they were forced to move their church membership.
The physical and verbal abuse took its toll on her son. Blake said two weeks after a terrible encounter at church, Dodd had an emotional breakdown.
“He asked me when all of this would come to an end,” she said. “He told me that his life was ruined and things would never be the same again.”
They talked late into the night, crying and discussing how they would get over this. When he finally fell asleep, Blake said she felt the need to go into her son’s room. Looking around, she noticed a notepad propped up on his nightstand with the following words written on them, “I’m sorry. I love you and always will, but I can’t take the crap anymore.”
“Can you imagine how I felt at that very moment,” she said. “My heart was shattered into a million pieces. At that time I had to make the decision to take my son out of school.”
She said the cyber bullying had pushed her son so far over the edge that he constantly asked his mother about death. She said he had been prescribed sleeping pills because he had terrible nightmares.
Blake said the worst is finally behind them, now that they’ve been able to see justice served.
She said cyber bullying should not be tolerated, and it’s great to see that law enforcement takes it serious. She is not trying to make anyone look bad, but she wants people in the community to know they don’t have to put up with things like this.
“I want the world to know what these two adults have done,” Blake said. “They have wrecked my son’s world, destroyed his reputation at school, tried to cause me marital problems and have invaded our privacy.”
As far their lives now, Blake said they are concentrating on their future and are planning to start a new life in South Texas.
Blake added that she will seek to be a part of an anti-bullying organization to help fight against what she calls a growing epidemic.
She encourages teens to talk to their parents if they are the victims of cyber bullying and urges parents to contact the police immediately.
“Although this has been the worst two years of my life, we are extremely grateful to the Waxahachie Police Department and the Ellis County District Attorney’s Office,” she said. “They investigated this case and were able to determine the two adults who were responsible and provide a solid case to the district attorney, who successfully brought them to justice. What happened to us was criminal. No family should ever have to go through this.”
According to bullyingstatistics.org, cyber bullying is a serious problem among teens. The website states that cyber bullying affects many adolescents and teens on a daily basis. According to the bullyingstatistics.org:
• More than half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying.
• More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyber threats online.
• More than 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet.
• Well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyber bullying occurs.
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