By: Shane James O’Neill
Suicide: Exposed but Alone
Amanda Todd. When she was in 7th grade, she moved in with her dad. In the midst of the move, she was lonely and didn’t have many friends. Amanda was a 12-year-old who loved to sing, and she found affirmation through online chat rooms. A guy, after quite some time of telling her how talented and beautiful she was, finally convinced her to send a topless photo. And, she did.
The man’s affirmations quickly turned into blackmail. The cops were called but the photo was already on the internet and circulating. She lost what few friends she had, and her family moved. After a year, that same man created a Facebook account featuring Amanda’s topless picture — sending friend to family, friends, and kids at her school.
It’s difficult to imagine how Amanda felt in those moments. At that age, when a relationship fails, it feels like the world is falling apart and you’ll never be happy again. What does a girl feel when her body is exploited and shown to thousands of people?
Amanda was physically bullied, assaulted, and further exploited. Her classmates viewed her naked image as a consumable, and they treated her just like we treat porn, to be used and then move on.
Related: Sexual Abuse and Pornography
Things didn’t get any better for her. In 2012, she released a video telling her story using note cards. At the end, she says: “I’m stuck… what’s left of me now… Nothing stops. I have nobody. I need somebody.”
Shortly after, they found Amanda dead, having hung herself.
Why We Ache
Her story haunts me. Those words haunt me, “what’s left of me know… I need somebody.”
What abject loneliness — exposed before everyone and known by not a soul.
I reckon that’s the real issue with porn, it exposes even as it imprisons. It offers intimacy, but the intimacy is only skin deep. Whether we reveal our skin or just use the skin of others, we’re all the same, hiding and unknown. Perhaps even unknown to ourselves as we wear the skin of others.
It takes but a moment to type into a search engine “how many porn stars have died” before you get hundreds and then thousands of stories of overdoses and suicides.
“I need somebody,” Amanda cries out. How absolutely vulnerable. More vulnerable than I’m often willing to be. Her cry is all of our cries.
I can’t help but feel the ache of God in her broken plea. I can’t help but ache. And if I ache then Heaven shakes with grief. I don’t love more than He loves, and my aching love is a dull reflection of his cross-shaped lament.
He’s the only one who has known me. He sees me and hurts with me, just as He sees you and hurts with you.
Seeing the Unseen
Recently, I got to do a podcast interview with Ally Peters. So much of her story is like Amanda’s story. A story filled with pain, loneliness, porn, abuse, and suicide. By miracle alone, Ally is still here. Yet, for every Ally there are thousands of Amandas — crying out in lonely nights to be known, walking through the day smiling but hidden, feeling more like a ghost in the sun, unseen and dying, than they do human.
I suppose the point of all this is to exhort us to see them. However, first, we must be seen, by Him and by His family. And then we must see those who ache. We consider porn and hooking up to be harmless and fun. We use it because it doesn’t hurt anyone. Perhaps we admit that it hurts us, but we accept that pain for the pleasure it brings. But the truth is, we are hurting others. We’re creating an unseen generation, and we’re a part of it. Our porn use kills, as it demands flesh and rejects the soul.
We are not safe. But we can be. We can give Him, the safe one, to those who need to be known. Instead of giving them our viewership or a blind eye, we can give them the one who loves them and gave Himself for them. What a thing to be able to give. The one thing Amanda begged for, no one gave.
At the end of the day, we are ambassadors of a faraway land with one singular message: You can be known. Repent for the Kingdom of the Heavens is in your midst. Ache towards Him and He will bind your wounds. Be lonely with Him and you will be known.
Our message is simple, our calling so very beautiful. All we need to do is see and give.
Matthew 12:20, God as He describes Jesus:
“Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen.
He is my Beloved, who pleases me.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
He will not fight or shout
or raise his voice in public.
He will not crush the weakest reed
or put out a flickering candle.
Finally he will cause justice to be victorious.
And his name will be the hope
of all the world.”
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Shane James O’Neill is the Editorial Director for Proven Men Ministries. He is currently working on a graduate degree in apologetics at Liberty University’s Rawling School of Divinity.