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Two So-Called Sluts, Two Deaths, Only One Uproar

The Huffington Post, April 13, 2010

In recent months, two high school girls were relentlessly harassed as "sluts" by their peers in school and committed suicide as a result -- Hope Witsell in rural Florida and now Phoebe Prince in South Hadley, Massachusetts. The Prince case has led to criminal charges and tremendous international media attention.

As one who personally experienced slut-bashing when I was in high school in the 1980s, and who has spent the last decade writing and speaking about girls nationwide who are ostracized as "sluts," I'm relieved by this wake-up call. Finally, slut-bashing is being taken seriously as a form of harassment -- by schools and by the courts.

Yet at the same time, I am curious to know: why has Prince's death elicited a far stronger reaction than Witsell's? Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has even stepped in, berating school officials for not protecting Prince. Meanwhile, to date no one has so strongly pointed a finger at school administrators at Witsell's school, nor have there been criminal charges brought in her case.

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