Izabel Laxamana, 13, who died after jumping from a moving vehicle in Washington. (Photo: Flipagram)
A 13-year-old Washington girl has taken her own life by jumping out of a moving vehicle on a highway overpass — just days after her father allegedly shamed her by cutting off her long hair as punishment and posting a short video of the evidence to YouTube. The incident has reignited the controversial parenting issue of public shaming as a form of punishment.
The girl, reportedly Izabel Laxamana, of Tacoma, was a student at Giaudrone Middle School.
Blogger Jack Cameron wrote about both the public shaming video and the suicide on his site Tacoma Stories, though he didn’t name the victim. “Yesterday this same young girl got out of the passenger seat of her grandmother’s car on [an] overpass. She climbed over the railing and jumped, landing on a car,” he wrote.
“There are those who believe that public shaming is an acceptable form of parenting,” Cameron continued. “As this incident clearly shows, it’s not. It’s a form of abuse and it has consequences.”
While a spokesperson at the middle school declined to confirm the victim’s identity for Yahoo Parenting, a public information officer with the Tacoma Police Department told the Independent that Laxamana was both the girl who died and the girl whose hair was cut in the video.
A repost of the original public-shaming video, from YouTube.
That original 15-second video — posted to YouTube in late May and later removed, then reposted (see above) — has become the heart of this story. The footage shows a girl with a hack-job bob standing before a pile of freshly cut black hair. A voice, allegedly her dad’s, is then heard in the background saying, “The consequences of getting messed up? Man, you lost all that beautiful hair. Was it worth it?” The girl says, “No,” and the voice continues, “How many times have I warned you?” She says, “A lot,” and he answers, “OK.”
What followed was news of the girl’s suicide, on June 1, from the News Tribune, which did not report her name. Shortly thereafter, a tribute website and Facebook page for Laxamana have popped up, both from unknown sources, as well as a Flipagram tribute.
The controversy around parents posting humiliating punishments to social media makes headlines regularly — such as it did last week, when Florida dad Wayman Gresham posted an anti-public shaming video that quickly went viral. In it, he acts like he’s going to shave off his son’s hair as a punishment but instead gives his boy a hug. “There is no way in the world I would ever embarrass my son like that,” he then says. “It doesn’t take all of that. Good parenting starts before he even gets to the point of being out of control.”
Still, teen and adolescent clinical psychologist Barbara Greenberg says people need to exercise caution before jumping to conclusions about the complex set of circumstances that can push a young person to suicide. “In all these cases where there’s bullying — and public shaming is a form of bullying — and then a suicide, there’s usually a history of depression and mental health issues,” Greenberg tells Yahoo Parenting. “I think shaming alone won’t do that to an otherwise resilient kid.”
But in an incident like Laxamana’s, she notes, it is most likely related. “Given this father’s behavior, I would speculate there was a long history of abuse and shaming and that this was a final trigger — particularly since hair is all about womanhood and sexuality and beauty,” she says. “And 13 is probably the most vulnerable age — it’s when kids hit puberty that such depression is most likely to emerge.”
Greenberg points out that shaming and bullying incidents are rarely isolated events. “A parent doesn’t suddenly snap and behave like this,” she notes. “So if he’s doing this in public, what was he doing in private?” Finally, she adds, “Suicide is a really violent action, particularly the way that [Laxamana] did it. And depression is anger turned inward. She was probably full of rage.”