We all have them. Those friends who think it’s everyone’s business to know when they are happy, angry, upset, feeling lazy, and hungry. The million-posts-a-day friends. But when those posts become scary, and by scary we mean: confessions of being sexually assaulted and molested, forced into prosititution and insinuations of commiting suicide, do you know what to do?
On November 7th, 2011, in a suburban town near Houston, Texas, 18-year-old Ashley Billasano stayed home from school and went on a tweeting frenzy. [Warning: Tweets are intense and explicit.] She wrote 144 detailed tweets about her experiences with sexual assault, molestation by a family member, and being forced into prostitution at the young age of 14. She also tweeted about telling the authorities and CPS (Child Protective Services). She later was told there “wasn’t enough evidence for prosecution” and that’s when she made a devastating decision. After already having failed at suicide once, and after the tweeting rampage, Billasano (or “Billy” as her friends knew her) took her own life just moments after sending a final tweet which read “Take two. Hope I get this right.”
We have to view this tragic loss as a wake-up call. In today’s age, it is undeniable that social networking online is the main source of communication between us all. Especially among the youth! Youth spend more time on twitter and facebook than they do working on homework. (The majority anyway, if it doesn’t include you, KUDOS!!) So in a world where posting statuses and tweets about what we’re doing and where we’re going is considered NORMAL, how do we know when we need to step in for someone else?
Go with your gut.
If one of your facebook “friends” or someone you are “following” on Twitter is posting some really over the top posts where they seem EXTREMELY upset, more than usual, and it makes the alarm in your head go off a little, TRUST it!
Remember, when someone goes through a traumatic experience such as sexual assault, they tend to go through a rollarcoaster of emotions and may act in a way we might not understand.
So if you come across something like this, and your gut is telling you to ACT, here are some suggestions on what you can do:
- Talk to them. Sometimes they just need someone to listen. Not judge them. Believe them. And if they’re reaching out on a social networking site, it’s probably because they have no where else to go & want someone to just step in and say “Hey, I care.” However, if the situation is dangerous, you should refer them to professional resources or report.
- Report to a person with authority. If the situation is too intense, and you don’t feel you are the appropriate person to take care of this issue, do not hesitate to contact a teacher, parent, principal. SOMEONE. You never know, you might be the only one trying to do something and by telling someone who can help, you are doing your part.
- Report to law enforcement. Sometimes you might think immediate action is needed. Use your better judgement! If it seems like an emergency, it probably is.
Never assume that someone is exaggerating their self-pity. A series of whiny posts may actually be a cry for help. Ashley posted 144 tweets and no one responded. We all need to feel like someone cares for us at times. Take action! Do something and you might just save a life.
If you or someone you know is struggling with the effects after a sexual assault and you live in the Santa Cruz/Pajaro Valley Area, call Women’s Crisis Support-Defensa de Mujeres toll-free crisis line at:
For someone outside of the area struggling with sexual assault, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at:
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, and you live in the Santa Cruz/Monterey area, contact the Suicide Prevention Hotline for your area at:
Santa Cruz: 831-458-5300
Or Toll Free at: 877-ONE-LIFE (877-663-5433)
For someone dealing with suicide outside of the area, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: