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Girl, 13, Hanged Herself After Stolen Topless Photo Was Circulated Online

14/08/2014 16:54 | Updated 22 May 2015

Girl, 13, hanged herself after stolen topless photo was circulated online

A 13-year-old killed herself after a topless picture she sent her boyfriend was widely circulated online.

Hope Witsell's intimate photo was stolen by another girl and sent around a dozen schools in Ruskin, Florida.

This led to a campaign of bullying ridicule and abuse which drove Hope to take her own life.

The tragic story was told by the teenager's heartbroken mum Donna, as she addressed students at John Hopkins Middle School in St. Petersburg about the issue of cyber-bullying.

She wants to warn students of Hope's age about the perils of instant decisions using social media apps such as Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. She said her own daughter's life was made a misery because of the 'sext'.

"She was ridiculed. She was called names. She was spat on. She was shoved into lockers," said Donna.

After the photo was sent around online, Hope didn't tell her parents that it sparked remorseless cyber-bullying and actual physical brutality by fellow students aged 12 and 13 years old.

They called her a 'slut' and a 'whore' and a 'skank', said Hope's friend Kyla Stich.

One other friend, Lexi Leber, said: "We had to make like a wall, we had people surrounding her, and she had to be in the middle because people would come by and try to hit her and push her into a locker or something.

"She was afraid to walk alone, she was afraid someone would do something to her, like verbally attack her, so she would always have someone with her."

On the Internet the bullying was centered around a MySpace page called 'Shield Middle School Burn Book' which had a 'Hope Hater Page'.

Then, on Saturday, September 12th, 2009, Hope lent her father a hand with mowing the lawn, ate dinner with the rest of her family and went upstairs to watch television.

Donna recalled the harrowing moment she went to say goodnight to her daughter.

"I went upstairs to go in her room and kiss her goodnight. That was when I found her. I screamed for my husband. And started doing CPR," she said.

It was to no avail - Hope had used her favourite scarves to hang herself with from her canopy bed.

After her daughter's death, her older sister, Samantha Beattie was shocked to find that the bullying was still going on.

"I knew she had MySpace and Facebook. There were people putting comments on there: 'Did Hope really kill herself?' 'I can't believe that whore did that.' Just obscene things that I would never expect from a 12-year-old or a 13-year-old," said Samantha.

Donna wants students to know it doesn't have to happen to anyone else. "They have that power. They have that control. They have it whether they hit delete. They have the power to stop hate," she said.

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