Cyberbullying; 2008 Initiative for
Sandi Hammons Charitable Foundation


The 2008 initiative for the Sandi Hammons Charitable Foundation is to study the causes of cyberbullying and to develop strategies to prevent it.

Sandi Hammons, advocate for child abuse legislation and awareness, says internet defamation and cyberbullying is a serious global issue with often far-reaching consequences. The mission of the Sandi Hammons Charitable Foundation is to prevent child abuse through education, legislation, awareness and philanthropy; the foundation’s latest initiative is study the causes of cyberbullying and develop strategies to prevent it. This story follows media coverage and public outrage following the suicide death of 13-year-old, Megan Meier of Missouri.

“Bullying can be very cruel with far reaching consequences – as in the case of Megan Meier.” Meier committed suicide after she read cruel Internet messages allegedly written by a 49 year old woman who was recently indicted for crimes associated with posing as a teenage boy on MySpace.com.

Sandi Hammons stated that the reason the public is so outraged over Megan’s death is because it was cruelty perpetrated by an adult and because so many people have experienced cyberbullying and Internet offenses first hand. An estimated 58% of children have experienced some form of Internet abuse. Increasingly, adults are also becoming victims of cyberbullying and other Internet offenses.

“Internet cruelty is pervasive,” says Sandi Hammons. “There are an estimated 50 million blogs in cyberspace and while they can be a great tool to form social networks for the purpose of sharing news and ideas, they have also empowered character assassins, mischief makers and cyberbullies.

The dilemma with cyberbullying among adults is that children often mimic behaviors they observe. Adults need to be more mindful of what they are teaching their children. Children emulate what they see and we need to look no further than the case of Britney Spears even after her mental illness was widely reported, bloggers continued to post cruel remarks, including death wishes and merciless criticism.

While it appears the more successful or famous you are, the more of a target you become, Internet harassment is not limited to celebrities. One business owner said she went into a deep depression after a reputed bully threatened her livelihood.

Bullies often use threats, manipulation, false gossip, lies, and false rumors, to control others. Bullies can appear to be confident, when, in truth, they feel very small and they are threatened easily. They are skilled at hiding insecurities and they often prey on individuals in a gang atmosphere because they are intimidated by those they bully and they are too afraid to offend by themselves. Female bullies often portray themselves as “victims” while perpetrating offender behaviors on others. They are usually skilled in attracting relationships with individuals who depend on them for what appears to be security and they tend to use victim language to incite others and justify threats, name-calling, violence and other offenses. Most bullies suffer from a profound lack of self esteem and they often come from a history of being bullied themselves.

The dynamics of a bully need to be understood in a larger context. It is not only the bully and the victim that are involved in a system of interaction: The bullying context includes multiple levels of the social environment. The bully may enlist the help of "henchmen" (those who assist the bully, but often do not have the initiative or leadership to initiate bullying). Also, bystanders (whether actively encouraging the bullying act or passively standing by) play a role in maintaining the pattern of bullying. Even those who habitually flee the site of a bullying act play a role in maintaining the bully/victim interaction. Those who do not intervene can be equally culpable in promoting and or condoning, either actively or passively, the bully behavior.

“Electronic bullies can remain virtually anonymous using pseudonyms in chat rooms, temporary email accounts, instant messaging programs, cell-phone text messaging, and other tactics to mask their identity. Many internet bullies use multiple aliases to perpetrate gang-style acts of Internet violence, compounding the trauma for the victim.”

The concern over cyberbullying among children is growing. Recently, Missouri governor, Matt Blunt, signed a bill to outlaw Internet harassment in Missouri. Other laws against Internet defamation and cyberbullying are also in the works; California Representative, Linda Sanchez, recently announced a proposed federal statute that would criminalize acts of Internet bullying.

But Sandi Hammons aims to do more. Her determination to make a difference in children’s lives was born out of her life story. She understands the devastation of child abuse first hand. Her personal story is one of tragedy, survival, courage, and ultimate triumph. Following her rise to success after pioneering the permanent makeup industry, Hammons became a target of defamation and harassment from a competitor.

“I know how injurious it is to be the target of a cyberbully,” says Hammons. “It is devastating – on many levels. And I cannot imagine the trauma children have endured from Internet harassment, especially when they reach an age where social acceptance is so important.