College Student Suicide after Cyberbullying Over Porn

College Student Alyssa Funke Commits Suicide Following Cyberbullying Over Porn

Alyssa Funke, a straight-A student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, committed suicide last month after being bullied and harassed online over her choice to appear in pornography. Local police have said they don't plan to press charges against anyone who taunted Funke.

KMSP reports Funke's family did not want to speak on camera, but said they believe the cyberbullying played a significant role in her decision to end her life. The Washington County Sheriff's Office told the station that it does not think the taunts rise to the level of criminal harassment. The investigation is still ongoing.

Funke's parents said she had long suffered from depression, but they believe the harassment she faced online played a major role in her decision to kill herself. On a fundraiser page they started to fight cyberbullying, they wrote, "Alyssa like so many other teens was a victim of bully and sadly the bullying lead to her death. Social media has revolutionized the way people bully eachother now days. Now you can say whatever you want and not have to look the person in the face while doing it."

The Washington County (Minn.) Sheriff's Office is investigating the circumstances of Funke's death, but FOX 9 reported they don't believe the cyberbullying amounts to criminal harassment.

INVESTIGATORS: The pressure of porn Updated

24 May, 2014

Friedman is a social worker with Breaking Free, a non-profit that helps women get out of the sex industry. She sees young women like Alyssa and Miriam all the time and sees little difference between pornography and prostitution -- especially when she hears the man behind the camera.

"He did the same thing that pimps do," she said. "It reminds me of the pimps who talked to me."

Friedman believes that because children are exposed to pornography at a younger age, they've become desensitized to it and don't realize that the decision to do porn today could follow them for a lifetime.

"This is permanent, she can't erase this. Now, it goes into your family, it goes into your friends, it goes into your career," Friedman said. "In the future, this is what you're known for and this is who you're labeled as. That affects you."

The man in the video asked Alyssa if she had a normal childhood. She said yes, but Friedman didn't buy that either.

"I bet if we had to go back and pull back the layers of what happened for her, I imagine we'd find something dysfunctional in her past," Friedman said.

Indeed, Alyssa had more than her share of challenges growing up. Her biological father has a rap sheet for theft and swindling; her mother and a boyfriend were busted for dealing drugs and neglecting Alyssa's younger siblings. Alyssa had moved in with her grandmother when she was just a young teen, and she struggled with money -- transferring from St. Catherine's to UW-River Falls last year.

When asked whether she blames the students from Stillwater High, Friedman said, "Yeah, I do."

"I mean, I blame them 'cause everybody plays a role here. You can be a part -- positive or negative. Why did no on go talk to her and say, 'Girl, why did you do that? What can I do to help you?'" she explained. "Instead, we jump on the bandwagon and it's her fault 'cause she got in a video."

Since Alyssa's suicide, there's been an outpouring of grief on social media, including moving tributes. Friends remember her as a sweet, bright and intelligent young woman with so much promise.