On December 30, the family of Katelyn Nichole Davis suffered the unimaginable when she took her own life.
Katelyn was just 12 years old. As if that wasn’t enough anguish, her death was recorded and shared on social media. Facebook eventually took it down, but unfortunately, the damage was done, as it had already been downloaded and embedded by others. Tragically, it continues to circulate on the internet.
Listen, I get it. I understand car-crash mentality—when you can’t look away. I’ve definitely clicked on an intriguing link or two out of mere curiosity. But this is a video of a 12-year-old girl hanging herself to death after claiming to be a victim of sexual abuse.
I feel it imperative to repeat those facts. A 12-year-old child hanged herself at her parents’ house after suffering abuse. The last 20 minutes of this video are a recording of her body limply hanging from a tree. What justification is there to click on and actually view this video?
Yet it has been shared and viewed thousands of times—40,000 on YouTube alone.
Some say they are sharing it to “raise awareness” about the dangers of suicide. Bullshit. This is a case of people gawking at a horror scene. People are not clicking on this link because they want to learn about and help prevent another tragic death. They are watching because they want to see it. It’s incredibly graphic and will only do harm to anyone also suffering from abuse or depression.
There is simply no rationale for viewing the death of this beautiful child. Yes, she recorded it. But she was a child without the mental intelligence or maturity to comprehend the nature of her act.
There is no excuse for watching this video or sharing it unless you are intricately involved with the investigation surrounding her suicide. And doing so out of morbid curiosity cruelly twists the knife in her family’s heart over and over.
Facebook and YouTube have removed the video, and The Polk County police department has asked other websites to take this video down out of respect. But legally? They don’t have to. In fact, some can profit from the high number of viewings as their ad revenue increases. Although despicable, these are the reasons why it continues to make its way around the internet.
Here’s the truth. If you truly wish to raise awareness about the dangers of suicide, especially among young people, here are some things you can do according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:
1. Sign up to become a field advocate, which means joining forces with Congress and state legislators to prevent suicide.
2. Bring prevention to your school. This may include developing a suicide prevention task force, improving staff professional training with regards to recognizing at-risk kids, and implementing strategies to combat bullying.
3. Get trained yourself in suicide prevention strategies. This includes educating yourself about mental illnesses like bipolar disorder and depression or learning about high-risk groups such as those from the LGBTQ community.
4. Volunteer with your local AFSP chapter and see where your community needs help the most.
5. Join a run/walk, make a memory quilt square, or donate to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Sadly, Katelyn has become famous for her viral video, and there is nothing we can do to change that now. But let us not add to her family’s pain.
Ask websites to take down this video, and refuse to view or share it. Let us be human beings and recognize what this is: A child, so desperate to end her suffering that she did the unthinkable. We can help save lives in Katelyn’s memory by doing the right thing.
If you, or anybody you know, is depressed or considering suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.