Felicia Garcia: Lessons We Can Learn

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Erin Nanasi is an avid underwater basket weaver, with a penchant for satire and the odd wombat reference.
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This past Wednesday, October 24th, 15-year old Felicia Garcia walked to the edge of a train platform and fell backwards into the path of an oncoming train, ending her young life. According to witness Sara Brager, a 16-year old junior at Tottenville High School in Staten Island, Felicia handed her cell phone to a friend and, the second before she fell, said “Finally, it’s here.”

Details are slowly coming out about Felicia’s life. She was living with a foster family and was a chronic runaway, having been reported missing seven times. What led this teenage girl to Tweet “I cant, im done, I give up” the Monday before her death?

According to reports, Felicia had engaged in consensual sex with 4 football players the weekend prior to her suicide. Unbeknownst to her, the sex was recorded. From The New York Daily News:

“Kids are saying she had sex with some guys from the football team at a party after the game,” said a friend of the doomed girl who asked not to be identified. “Later on they wouldn’t leave her alone about it. They just kept bullying her and bullying her.”

School officials heard of the bullying and set up a mediation session Wednesday with a counselor and one of the 17-year-old boys. The teenager denied harassing the girl, the sources said.

Leaving the office, Felicia later ran into the other 17-year-old who had been making her life miserable — and they exchanged words, the sources said.

Police did not say what was said. But it was enough to send Felicia marching off to the Huguenot station of the Staten Island Railroad, where she killed herself in front of horrified classmates.

Senior Alissa Compitello said she saw Felicia on the way to the train station and the girl told her that she had the mediation because of the bullying.

“She was smiling though, like everything was going to be okay,” said Compitello, 17.

But a quick look at Felicia’s Instagram account would have revealed the depths of her despair. On it, she placed a picture of herself with the word “Depressed” covering her eyes.

“Just because someone is smiling doesn’t make them happy,” read her caption.

Is there anything that could have been done to save Felicia Garcia? From all reports, the school was trying to get to the truth about the harassment and bullying, unlike many schools in America that just sweep events like this under the rug. According to the New York Post, Felicia’s parents died, leaving her and her brother orphans. Felicia had been living with friends, moving from foster home to foster home and had spent time living at an ex-boyfriend’s house.

In situations like this, we desperately need someone to blame. Obviously, someone at the party Felicia attended recorded the sex, obviously that someone posted it online, obviously other students saw it or heard about the events of that evening and obviously, students were harassing and bullying Felicia. And that’s what I want to deal with right now.

When a person, any person, makes the decision to take their own life, there is always another option. Always. I had one when, on my 16th birthday, I overdosed on my mother’s pain medication. I could have told a friend or a friend’s mother or father, or even my own father, what was going on, but I didn’t. I was impulsive. Teenagers are famously impulsive, even when it comes to something as incredibly serious as their own lives. We’ve heard it from young people time and time again-this will never end, it will never get better, this hurts too much.

No. No, dammit, no. It will end, it will get better and the pain will stop, all without young adults hanging themselves or shooting themselves or falling in front of speeding trains. What can we as parents do? Well, this is what my husband and I do. We talk to our son, whether he likes it or not. Every night, I spend at least 10 minutes going over the day with our teenager, listening for clues or hints that something is wrong. Grades going downhill? Okay, let’s schedule conferences and really get our son to talk to us and explain what is causing the change.

Felicia didn’t seem to have that option. Again, according to The Post, her parents had died, and perhaps Felicia felt like she had no one in whom she could confide. As I read more and more about Felicia, the other question that comes into my head is what would make a 15-year old girl have sex with 4 football players? Friends have stated Felicia told them the sex was consensual, and by all reports, it was. One friend who had lived with Felicia in foster care, Mariah Alimossy, told The Post Felicia became self-conscious after all the teasing, asking if she looked “fat or ugly.”

What the hell are we doing to our children? Amanda Todd flashed her breasts to a stranger online at the age of 12. Felicia Garcia had sex with 4 football players, all of whom were her age. Are we raising an entire generation of kids who think the only way to be happy or popular or liked is linked to sex? Not love, not honest affection, but sex?

And what about mental illness? Are we still a society that demeans people struggling with depression or anxiety? It would seem that we are, since even after Felicia posted online about her depression, no one stepped up to offer help. A friend who saw that could have gone to a parent, or showed it to a guidance counselor at school, but that’s not how it works here in the grand old U.S of A. We’re the “bootstrap” country. Do it on your own or it doesn’t count. Maybe someone did show Felicia’s posts to an adult, but odds are in this country, that adult said something like “Oh, she’ll get over it.”

Am I angry? You bet I am. Another life gone, another light extinguished because society equates love with sex and mental illness with weakness. Society is wrong on both counts.

Thanks to The New York Daily News and The New York Post for contributions to this article.

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Posted by on October 29, 2012. Filed under COMMENTARY/OPINION. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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4 Responses to Felicia Garcia: Lessons We Can Learn

  1. Joe Hagstrom Reply

    October 29, 2012 at 11:27 am

    This is a difficult story to read because Felicia could be anyone’s daughter or sister.

    Parents can’t be overseeing their children all hours of the day. Both parents have to work just to make the house payment. We need to be able to trust our schools because just as important as they are to educating, they are also babysitters for working families.

    I’ve lamented the demise of home economics classes. Courses in goal setting and self respect would be wonderful. But God forbid the working families that need help raising and protecting our kids actually get it because that would mean more money spent on these things.

    • Erin Nanasi Reply

      October 29, 2012 at 12:32 pm

      Our son’s school offers Home Ec, has a fantastic guidance office and has courses (electives, yes) aimed at helping kids fight peer pressure and deal with bullying. It’s a fantastic program and it really helps.

      It is a horrible story. I understand the feeling of wanting it all just to stop, and I wish society understood that having that feeling doesn’t make you weak.

  2. AnonymousNot Reply

    October 29, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    I’m in a thing over this terrible story, despite the gentle and skilled approach of the author. I was bullied as a child, and went so far as to sit in the garage and turn on dad’s car. I sat there for what seemed like hours and I didn’t die. Finally dad came out to get some tools and found me, sitting in his car, with the windows up. It took him a minute, and then he realized what I was trying to do. I was only 12 years old and didn’t know you had to put a hose from the exhaust into the window of the car in order to be overcome by carbon monoxide. It was a wake up call for my folks. My dad found out what had been happening to me at school. Instead of going to the school and making things worse, he taught me how to box which taught me self confidence. It wasn’t too long after a bloodied bully or two, and a few suspensions, that the bullying stopped. I then became the advocate for all those victims of the bad boys. I was lucky. This dear child was not.

    • Erin Nanasi Reply

      October 29, 2012 at 9:33 pm

      12? Oh God, I’m so sorry. I’m glad your dad stepped up and gave you the tools you needed. The fact that you became an advocate for other victims is a HUGE deal. This article took me 5 hours to write because I wanted to balance all the emotion. I still don’t think I did, but this was the best I could do without just swearing for 800 words.

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