The Power of Words: Life-changing consequences of bullying

Alex Moore (Source: WBRC Video)
Alex Moore (Source: WBRC Video)
(Source: WBRC Video)
(Source: WBRC Video)

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Imagine being 15 years old and bullied everyday by those you attend school with.

"What we heard was being said is that she was a fat B. That's what they would call her. They would throw spit balls at her, knock things off her desk," Jill Moore said.

Those were the daily torments Alex Moore faced. Her mother, Jill, tries not to think about it much.

But in those moments when she's caught off guard, the thoughts of how badly her daughter was bullied leaves her mind spinning.

"They pulled her pants and panties down in front of people - pulled 'em all down. Just a constant humiliation," Jill said.

For months Alex endured the taunts and teasing - until she couldn't anymore.

It was just before 7 a.m. on May 12, 2010, that Alex decided to end the pain - by plunging off an I-65 overpass.

She was just 15 years old.

But Jill wouldn't learn about any of the bullying until after Alex's death, when classmates came to her. Alex never showed signs or talked about the daily pain she experienced.

"She was going through a lot at school. And I don't know how she dealt with it," Jill said. "I just don't understand why she wouldn't come tell us."

We sat down with a group of teens who admitted speaking up about something so personal and so painful can be hard.

"Because you don't want to seem like you're going through something. You don't want to seem weak," said Emily Englezos, a senior at a local high school.

Her classmate, Madison Townley, agrees.

"You feel more alone, like you can't trust anybody," Townley said.

Part of that, these students say, is the anonymity that cyber bullying allows.

"Bullying is not what people think it is anymore," said junior Clara Atchley. "It's a lot more secretive. It's a lot meaner than I think people make it out to be."

"I think it's worse than to your face because it starts more and spreads faster," Englezos adds.

And, they say, it can be about anything that doesn't meet what is deemed as the "correct" high school standard.

"Like, if one kid doesn't wear the correct brand or if they don't look a certain way or a girl shows up without make up and she doesn't look like she normally does," Englezos says.

"And they try to put you in a select group based on how you come to school and who you're friends with and who you date, too," said senior Deven Tucker.

"You kind of feel like no matter what you do, it's never enough," Townley adds.

So we asked them what can we do - as parents, teachers, community members - to help them navigate those stormy waters.

One suggestion: Try to put yourself in their position and consider how you would feel - how your teen-self would have felt if you were the victim.

"I feel like if you see what they're going through and see how you would take it, let it soak in and work on it together because that's what parents are for," said senior Grayson Curtis.

"Just being able to talk to them and they can put input if you ask for it...but don't be quick to jump in - just listen," says Curtis' classmate, senior Richard Fitts.

"Constantly remind them that you're here for them and just give comfort so they can be able to come to them," adds Tucker.

Jill Moore has some advice for the younger people, too.

"For you kids that are bullying, this is what you can make someone to do. For you that are being bullied, don't let it come to this," she said. "Tell somebody. Keep telling somebody till somebody does something. And I always tell the kids, 'Tell your parents.'"

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