Dear Straight Talk: Lately, I've been the victim of cruel and hateful anonymous cyberbullying. I had no idea who was behind it as I have no known enemies. Then I found out on excellent authority that it is my stepsister. We are the same age and attend the same school.She is nice as can be to my face, and I thought she was my friend. I had even confided in her about the cyberbullying, and she had pretended to be sympathetic. Making matters worse, we share a room during visitations at my dad's. It will be hard to act blind to what's going on, but I don't know how to confront her or what to do if she denies involvement. Please help. -- Betrayed in Sacramento
Farren, 23: Tell your stepsister, not meanly, but matter-of-factly, that you won't tolerate this. Give her a 24-hour deadline to stop or you'll tell your parents. But only tell if it doesn't stop. They could make things worse. Regarding "meangirl" behavior, my public school seventh grade had just 11 girls. It was very cliquey and a friend and I were falsely accused of being lesbians. Instead of parents and teachers using the situation to teach anti-bullying, they just said, "Let it work itself out on the playground." It got so bad my mom pulled me out and home-schooled me. I think "mean girl" behavior is learned from hearing insecure mothers gossip behind the backs of their supposed friends. (Note to readers: Could we all please work on our stuff before having kids?)
Akasha, 16: Once a friend was talking smack behind my back, but I was talking smack about her, too. When I confronted her, I took responsibility for my part. I'm not saying you have a part, but try approaching her with, "We're sisters and I'm not perfect, so tell me what I did wrong to cause this." I attend private school and there is basically no bullying. Partly, it's small, but also the school won't tolerate it and immediately sits down with students and their parents.
Hannah, 16: Whether online or inperson, harassment is the way of jealous girls. Ignoring it is best, but if it's too much, talk to an adult. It seems this girl is jealous of something about you.
Lennon, 24: It sounds as if your stepsister feels threatened or jealous. I'm around lots of girls and they tend to be more fake about stuff like this than guys. The "valley girl" stereotype, where girls talk bad about each other behind their backs, really occurs. I think it's because most females fixate on fashion, style and relationships. Since these are 24/7, it drives them to gossip 24/7.
Anjanette, 17: Girls can be catty. No matter what, believe in yourself, not what others say.
Katelyn, 16: Seek better evidence. In the meantime, keep your real friends close in case rumors arise at school. Don't defriend her online but avoid the offending site. Ask for your own room or find an excuse not to visit your dad's for awhile.
Dear Betrayed: The panel's advice to confront your stepsister is good if you know she is truly the bully. But I worry that the evidence isn't solid enough. Trusting gossip (i.e., your "excellent authority") to unravel gossip could create a big family mess where there was none. Instead, I recommend tackling this like you would any other anonymous bullying by reporting it to all three legs of the anti-bullying platform: parents, school, and police. Confide in your stepsister that you plan to do this tomorrow. Things may "miraculously" stop. But if it continues, keep reporting to all three entities until the real bullies are rooted out. --Lauren
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