AURORA, Colo. -- The story of a 10-year-old Aurora girl, who killed herself after being bullied is becoming familiar to people around the world thanks to international superstar Rihanna.
In an Instagram post, Rihanna introduced the girl to her more than 58 million followers.
The singer posted Ashawnty Davis’ picture alongside 13-year-old Rosalie Avila from California who killed herself in late November after being bullied.
Just heartbreaking!!!!! We're losing our babies to bullying!!! Teach your kids love and equality. Teach them about the beauty in uniqueness and how to embrace others' differences! I can't imagine what the families of these 2 young girls are feeling right now! But my heart breaks for you!! #BulliesKill
“Just heartbreaking!!!!!” the pop star wrote on Instagram. “We’re losing our babies to bullying!!! Teach your kids love and equality. Teach them about the beauty in uniqueness and how to embrace others’ differences! I can’t imagine what the families of these 2 young girls are feeling right now! But my heart breaks for you!! #BulliesKill”
The post comes after bullying was pushed back into the spotlight when a mom in Tennessee recorded her son Keaton Jones’ tearful response to being picked on.
The Jones video went viral, receiving widespread celebrity support until revelations of the mom’s previous racially charged Facebook posts, including what appeared to show her with a Confederate flag.
Rihanna reacted by removing her Instagram post about the boy.
Davis was a fifth-grader at Sunrise Elementary School in Aurora. She had a passion for basketball and wanted to grow up to be a WNBA star.
At the end of October, she was involved in a fight at school. Her mother claims her daughter was confronting a bully.
The fight was captured on cellphone video and uploaded to the app Musical.ly.
“She was devastated when she found out that it had made it to Musical.ly,” her father Anthony Davis said.
Two weeks after the fight, Ashawnty took her own life. She spent two weeks on life support at Children’s Hospital Colorado, where she died on Nov. 29.
Davis' parents said that the school district could have done more to protect their daughter.
“There was nothing done about it. When I got the call telling me that my daughter had been in a fight, they never gave me the opportunity to meet with the other parents to come to the bottom of the line,” her mother Latoshia Harris said.
The family has set up a GoFundMe account to pay for services associated with Davis' death and previous medical care.
“We’re all targeted, but we don’t have to be victims,” Denver therapist Ben Leichtling said.
Leichtling specializes in bullying. He said support from anyone, especially celebrities, is key to fostering what he calls a fighting spirit.
“What we need most is a sense that it’s not the end of the world,” Leichtling said. “We can get past this.”
Combatting bullying with positive messages online can help children find the courage to stand up for themselves, according to Leichtling.
“Being encouraged by famous people is wonderful,” he said. “History is full of people who were helped by someone who reached out to them at just the right moment.”
If you or anyone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or depression, the following resources are available:
Colorado Crisis Services Hotline (1-844-493-TALK): If you are in crisis or need help dealing with one, call 1-844-493-8255 or text TALK to 38255 to speak to a trained professional. When you call Colorado Crisis Services, you will be connected to a crisis counselor or trained professional with a master’s or doctoral degree.
Colorado Crisis Services Walk-In Locations: Walk-in crisis services are open 24/7, and offer confidential, in-person crisis support, information and referrals to anyone in need. Visit ColoradoCrisisServices.org to find locations.
Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline: 1-844-CO-4-KIDS (1-844-264-5437) as the best resource for readers to report suspected child abuse and neglect.
The number serves as a direct, immediate and efficient route to all Colorado’s 64 counties and two tribal nations, which are responsible for accepting and responding to child abuse and neglect concerns. All callers are able to speak with a call-taker 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.