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When weight-related bullying turns deadly

17th November 2007

When weight-related bullying turns deadly

Like many teens, Megan Meier struggled with weight and the resulting toll being overweight had on her self-esteem.

According to her mother, Tina Meier, Megan was heavy and had tried for years to lose weight. She had recently shed 20 pounds down to 175. She was 5-foot 51/2 inches tall.

So, when the 13-year-old Dardenne Prairie, MO teen met 16-year-old Josh Evans, who she described as “hot,” on MySpace, Megan was elated.

“Megan had a lifelong struggle with weight and self-esteem,” Tina says. “And now she finally had a boy who she thought really thought she was pretty.”

Megan would rush to the computer every day after school to talk to Josh, said Tina. She invited him to her upcoming 14th birthday party. Then came the troubling messages.

Not only did Josh send Megan accusatory messages, he shared her messages with others. Soon, others began posting MySpace bulletins about the teen: “Megan Meier is a slut. Megan Meier is fat.”

Josh’s last message to Megan – according to her father Ron’s best recollection – read “Everybody in O’Fallon knows how you are. You are a bad person and everybody hates you. Have a shitty rest of your life. The world would be a better place without you.”

Megan’s parents reprimanded her for using vulgar language in responding to the MySpace attacks. Twenty minutes later, Megan hung herself inside her closet.

Megan Taylor Meier died the next day, three weeks before her 14th birthday. Today marks the one-year anniversary of her death.

Six weeks after Megan died her parents discovered who Josh was. The fake MySpace account was a hoax created by a neighbor, an adult woman whose own daughter had once been Megan’s friend. The woman, her daughter and an 18-year-old part-time employee monitored the Josh Evans account.

This woman knew about Megan’s battles with depression. But she said she wanted to see what Megan was saying about her daughter.

“It was like someone handed her a loaded gun,” said Ron.

Suburban News story here.

Would Megan Maier have committed suicide had she not wrestled with weight and self-esteem? Perhaps. She had been diagnosed with depression and ADD, both of which have been linked to suicide.

While Megan’s fragile self-esteem may have been the result of a myriad of factors, even her mother correlates Megan’s poor self-image to concerns about her weight. And what seems to have pushed Megan over that fatal edge is the betrayal of Josh, a boy who she thought liked her despite her weight, and who retaliated against her using fat-related attacks.

Had Megan Meier never been made to feel as if she wasn’t thin enough or pretty enough or been subjected to weight-related bullying, would her self-esteem have been strong enough to withstand the betrayal?

Had she not been born into a culture that bases a woman’s worth exponentially to the number on her scale, would Megan Meier still be alive today?

We can only speculate.

But in a culture where the majority of five-year-olds say they’d rather lose an arm than be fat, one thing is certain.* We must all work to create a culture in which no other girl’s self-esteem hinges on what she weighs.

* “Tipping The Scales Of Justice: Fighting Weight-Based Discrimination,” by Sandra Solovay, 2000. PDF link here.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, November 17th, 2007 at 12:49 am and is filed under Body Image, Fat Bias, Feminist Topics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 25 responses to “When weight-related bullying turns deadly”

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  1. 1 On November 17th, 2007, Fillyjonk said:

    I’m glad you posted about this, because the story needs to get out, and I was so speechless when I read about it (my jaw literally dropped when I found out the tormentor was an adult) that I didn’t think I could do it justice.

  2. 2 On November 17th, 2007, Meowser said:

    This story just killed me. And yes, those “adults” are psychopaths. They should never be allowed access to the Internet ever again.

    And the really sad part is, if I had been Megan, I’d have fallen for it hook, line, and sinker. I was so hungry for love at that age, and I felt like a huge enormous whale, and I was probably a good 40 or 50 pounds lighter than she was. What is the saying? “The only thing worse than missing paradise is a short trip through it.” Finding out that the one person who I thought loved me for me thought I was ugly and worthless and should kill myself probably would have made me go ahead and do it, too.

    Murderers. They are murderers.

  3. 3 On November 17th, 2007, FashionableNerd said:

    It amazes me the amount of time these parents put into this. I mean, are they adults or teenagers, for cripe’s sake? Awful. Just monstrously awful.

    I hope those adults are brought to justice.

  4. 4 On November 17th, 2007, Sarah said:

    This story simply breaks my heart. Fostering high self esteem in young children, no matter what their weight, is a critical issue which should really be seen to. What really disgusts me though is to think that such ‘adults’ actually exist; to hurt a child so horribly on purpose is completely awful. Let’s hope justice is served.

  5. 5 On November 17th, 2007, Lindsey said:

    I red this article through another blog, and in it, it said that the family was not releasing their name nor their daughter’s. I guess that changed, huh? I hope someone shows them the same kind of disrespect that they’ve shown Megan and her family.

  6. 6 On November 17th, 2007, Lindsey said:

    Ugh, I meant “read,” not “red.”

  7. 7 On November 17th, 2007, galnoir said:

    I grew up in O’Fallon, MO, which was a horrible place to be a fat teenager even 15–20 years ago. I can only imagine how much more awful it is now, since the town has become even more of a suburban hell. I’m glad I escaped, and you couldn’t pay me enough money to live there again.

    That said … I don’t think the weight-related bullying here is the main story. It’s that ADULTS abused the MySpace network to take advantage of—abuse—a 14 y/o girl, and NO CHARGES ARE GOING TO BE FILED. (Yes, I’m screaming here.) Even if they can’t blame these people directly for Megan’s death, haven’t they violated enough of the MySpace EULA to be slammed with a hefty lawsuit, perhaps some jail time? You’d think the MySpace higher-ups would want to throw everything they have at these vile people, because stuff like this is what undermines the very credibility of MySpace. And the newspaper won’t print their names “out of respect for the teenage daughter”? FUCK that! Evil like this does not deserve anonymity.

  8. 8 On November 17th, 2007, Rachel said:

    That said … I don’t think the weight-related bullying here is the main story. It’s that ADULTS abused the MySpace network to take advantage of—abuse—a 14 y/o girl, and NO CHARGES ARE GOING TO BE FILED.

    I completely agree, Galnoir. The disgusting parental involvement in the torture of a young girl ought to be the main focus on this case. But I can’t help but think that had Megan not struggled with weight-related self esteem issues, would she have resorted to suicide?

  9. 9 On November 17th, 2007, Sylvia said:

    I read about Megan through a friend’s blog. Her parents are fighting to have a law passed ‘Megan’s Law’. They are not going after this family, no lawsuits or civil suits. Those people’s names have been divulged – you need to Google a couple of the stories on Megan and you can find their names (and address). They are despicable human beings and they *should* be brought to justice, although, sadly, I don’t think they will be. I hope that public outrage and shame drive them out of that town.

  10. 10 On November 17th, 2007, Rachel said:

    And the really sad part is, if I had been Megan, I’d have fallen for it hook, line, and sinker.

    Same here Meowser. In fact, in the fourth-grade, I did fall for something similar. My supposed best friend was the instigator; she told me a boy I liked a grade ahead of me was really into me. I wrote him letters and everything. Turned out it was a hoax. I never got fooled again.

  11. 11 On November 17th, 2007, FatChick said:

    I’m SO upset. I cannot believe there are grown adults in this world who would even think to do such a thing. How horrific. And that they won’t pay for their crime just breaks my heart. This has nothing to do with the weight of the girl involved, and everything to do with hatred. It saddens me so much to know that people exist who are so horrible.

  12. 12 On November 17th, 2007, nuckingfutz said:

    This is just sick.

    I was just like Megan. I had very similar instances happen to me, and it DID lead to me TRYING to kill myself. Didn’t work, though. Instead I went through years of torture, and family dismissing it as “kids will be kids.” It wasn’t until I was 15 years old and my family found out I’d tried to kill myself SEVEN times that they finally realized that I wasn’t blowing things out of proportion.

    I can’t believe these adults aren’t at least being charged with harassment or stalking or some such thing. It was obvious harrassment. Hell, manslaughter would fit – whether they meant to or not, they definitely contributed to this poor girl’s death.

    I hope Megan’s parents sue for civil damages. Even if they never get a penny, they should have the satisfaction of making these people face what they did to Megan.

  13. 13 On November 17th, 2007, MrsDrC said:

    This just sickens me on all levels.

    Mostly I gotta agree with Galnoir (#7). I can’t help but feel that this “parent” was too busy being their childs “friend” to stop and act like an adult and parent. Megan’s family has been desimated. Megan is gone, her parents are divorcing (read that in another story) because this “adult” wanted to know what Megan was saying about her kid?

  14. 14 On November 18th, 2007, Susan Freiman said:

    I saw you one television just now, and started crying myself. I know how it feels to blame yourself for not being there when your child was asking you for help. I, too, refused to help my son when he asked for help because I thought he had disobeyed me and needed to learn a lesson. The next day, I found him dead, hanging from the ceiling of his bedroom.

    I wish I had an answer for you, that would help you reconcile with yourself. You are not alone in your pain.

    Susan

  15. 15 On November 19th, 2007, Scam said:

    Apparently the other family, the Drews, are now going after the Meiers for financial compensation to cover their stress! :(

  16. 16 On November 19th, 2007, galnoir said:

    Update: It looks like Megan Meier’s story will be covered on NPR’s Bryant Park Project:

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/bryantpark/2007/11/open_thread_the_miserable_case.html

    My local NPR station doesn’t air BPP, so I’ll have to catch this later on the podcast. I’m really interested in hearing how they cover this.

  17. 17 On November 19th, 2007, Meowser said:

    Cover their stress? If the Meiers haven’t set their frigging house on fire yet, they’ve gotten off easy. Oh gee, it was just a joke, why can’t everyone lighten up? I mean haha it’s funny, right? We got a fat girl to kill herself, we should get a medal! Her parents should be thanking us, and instead they’re tattling! We are the victims here!

  18. 18 On November 19th, 2007, alicia said:

    i just heard this story on the news a few minutes ago and i think that it is very sad that something like that happend. Myspace is no longer a safe place for kids, neither teens. Its all too frequent that myspace is on the news about something crazy happening and a childs death or rape. What i think personally is that myspace soon needs to be shut down in order to avoid any more tradgeties. Me being a teen myself thinks that its simply NOT a safe enviroment, theres no way to monitor child rapists or other harmful people out there. Thats why i’ve stopped using it all together.

  19. 19 On November 19th, 2007, Michelle said:

    I saw this on the today show this morning and I am left at awe. When you are a teenager that is when your appearance and attractibility starts mattering the most and I too would have fell for that at that age also. I think it is monstrous that they would go out of their way to play with a teenage girl’s feelings in order to get a good laugh. They should be punished, and I hope the town they live in drives them out or to insanity the way they drove that poor girl to suicide.

  20. 20 On November 19th, 2007, Kate217 said:

    Wow! Just Wow!!!!! If that behavior doesn’t qualify as “depraved indifference,” I don’t know what would. That mother obviously never moved past 8th grade herself. As for her “stress,” she should be grateful that she’s not Megan’s mother.

    Susan, I’m so sorry for your loss.

  21. 21 On November 22nd, 2007, Jackie said:

    I really wonder about the mother who did this to that girl. I mean, she has to have some signs of psychopathy and or murderer tendencies. To abuse a girl to sucide, and apperantly show no remorse? She should have her children taken away from her, she’s a dangerous influence. She’s clearly a sadist.

    I don’t know where she feels justified in any of this. However, she knew what she was doing, and went ahead with it anyways. I think she should serve jail time, perhaps psychological help. I really just cannot imagine what could cause someone to become such a monster, and I even watch Most Evil. The only thing I can even come up with that would be close to this, is a Japanese horror film with a story like this. Where the girl comes back to life for revenge, and has that really long black hair.

    I just cannot really express how much I am disgusted at with the mother who did this. I just can’t, it makes me sick. It’s like watching someone in a horror film, get off at the torture of someone else. She tortured this girl, she told someone who already had suffered more than enough that she was a boy who cared for her, then she did what is the equivelent of slowly torturing her to death. I really wish life were like Japanese horror films. In the sense that Megan would be able to come back, and haunt the hell out of the mother for what she did. I think that would be the only really satisfying revenge I could think of on that mother.

  22. 22 On November 26th, 2007, j putnam said:

    This was an adult misrepresenting themselves to a child, I can’t see where this is any different between this and an on line pediphile. The girl was under medical treatment for depression, she was on medication, they knew this. They must have known there was the potential for suicide. I see it as an extreme example of how heavier people are sometimes given nonhuman status in our society.

  23. 23 On March 23rd, 2009, David Espitia said:

    I am a morbitly obese man,412 pds Ihave suffered alot of discrimination even in the medical field..i cant escape it, i can hear them(medical staff) laugh behind my back.i also think doctors don’t want to bother with us obese people.when i go to the doctor complaning of a headach,the Dr says it’s related to my obesity.and finding a job is as hard as trying to shoot flying ducks with arrows.

  24. 24 On August 20th, 2009, Mom files suit alleging school bullying caused anorexia in daughter » The-F-Word.org said:

    [...] Columbine and the sad case of Megan Meier has taught us anything, it’s that bullying is nothing to be taken lightly.  But, as in the [...]

  25. 25 On May 5th, 2010, Andrea 2211 said:

    This story broke my heart. I know it can be hard to grow up living in a world where even a little body fat makes someone an “Outcast”. As a teenager I’ve watched so many girls suffer the same kind of abuse as Megan, and yet nothing is being done, even now, years later. I feel so sorry for her family and friends.

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