Kiki’s Courage

When should parental concern overrule internet fame, money-making ability and childlike dreams of grandeur?  Where’s the line between understandable public outrage and victim blaming?  Who is at fault for the life Kiki Kannibal is living and does fault matter here?

In the new issue of Rolling Stone, Sabrina Rubin Erdely outlines in detail the life of 18-year-old Kirsten Ostrenga, starting at age 13, when the child created a MySpace page, dressed up in provocative scene-queen outfits and amassed a following of tens of thousands.  It’s long, but I found it worth the read.

All over this article there are tales of harassment, death threats, home vandalism, even rape by a boyfriend Kiki met online.  I teared up reading some of the stories.  Throughout it all, Kiki’s parents looked on, helplessly. They saw the hate mail: “I know where you live and I’m gonna kill your fucking cat.”  They saw the death threats: “I’ll fucking murder you little girl.”  They allowed her boyfriend to stay in their home, despite his strange actions as his relationship with their daughter progressed because they “couldn’t figure out how to kick him out.”  They watched their daughter dwindle to 72 pounds, and through it all, they never stepped in, they never took her off the internet.

Why?

Cathy and Scott Ostrenga say they suggested leaving MySpace.

Kiki protested: “If you take me off the Internet, the bullies will win.””

But on the internet, there is never any winner. You cannot win against internet bullies. You’re never going to convince them that they should either leave you alone or like you. By sticking it out through the hatred and the threats, you may feel you’ve won by not giving up. You may show the world, or the readers of Rolling Stone Magazine, but you haven’t won. The bullies are still looking up your address; they’re still fantasizing about your humiliation or death.  You’ll never show them.  In fact, the closest you could probably come to winning this “game” is by stopping to play.  The internet sucks you in; it seems like the entire world, when, really, it’s an alternate world. It will survive without you, and you will survive without it. Only by stepping back (for more than three weeks) will someone embroiled in true internet fame and drama be able to appropriate it a correct amount of importance. It is impossible to see while you are in it. I imagine doubly so for a teenager.

So, instead of leaving, Kiki went further, joined more sites including Stickham.com.  But with every site comes it’s sister snark site, and as Kiki was dancing around in her underwear in a silly girl game of fun for her fans, her haters were congregating, twisting her image and spending endless hours ripping her apart.

What did her parents think of the videos she made?  They thought they were cute.

“”We’ve always had a philosophy of letting the kids express their creativity, as long as they’re not harming themselves,” explains Scott softly. “There’s always been supervision behind it. But we’ve been more permissive from a certain perspective.”

“Cathy advised her daughter to take a “block and delete” strategy against unwanted commenters, banishing them from her chat room when they posted vulgar statements like “I want to put my cock in your mouth.””

To their credit, the family moved. Scott took a large paycut and they lodged with the children’s grandmother.  They had to change their lives, their financial situation and their location, and still Kiki blogged.

Eventually, the Ostrengas took action against the drama site filling its pages with photoshopped images of and snark posts devoted to their daughter.  The site’s owner and administrator, who according to Rolling Stone, has an unhealthy obsession with Kiki, wrote them a scathing reply…blaming them for his actions.

“If she were my own child I would have taken that fucking computer and Sidekick away a long time ago,” wrote the administrator, presumably Stone. “If you had your daughter’s best interests at heart, you would put an end to the ‘Kiki Kannibal’ fame that is obviously so unhealthy at her age.”

He’s wrong in blaming them for his actions, but his point is one that resonates with me as I also would have “taken that fucking computer and Sidekick away a long time ago.”  Where is the line?  I can’t find it, but I know for me personally, it was crossed well before now.

The Stones articles says, “The reality is, there are few repercussions for online harassment. The Communications Decency Act protects Internet publishers from being sued for content — allowing people to post virtually anything without fear of consequences. Finding some kind of balance between free speech and privacy online will almost certainly become one of the major legal battles of the century. For now, however, content providers like Stone are nearly untouchable.”

With legal repercussion out of the equation, the “battle” remains between poster, snarker and harasser. But the “battle” could end with a blackened screen.Walk away.

“I messed up as a parent. I did so much wrong,” Cathy Ostrenga confesses through tears.

And yet, still, Kiki blogs.

It doesn’t matter whose fault it is. The fault clearly lies with the people who would harass, threaten and stalk a young girl. But the fact of the matter is, their actions have become her reality…a reality that she had the power to walk away from at any point. Now that Kiki is 18, it is up to her to make that decision or not. But when she was 13, when she was 15, when she was 17, it was up to her parents. As guardians, we must protect our children. It’s not our fault when things go wrong. That has nothing to do with the fact that things sometimes do go wrong and it is our responsibility above all else, beyond the blame game, to protect our children.  If we don’t, many times, no one will.

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About parentwin

Parent of twins, blogger, writer and journalist. I write things. Sometimes people even read them.
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6 Responses to Kiki’s Courage

  1. After reading this compelling entry–which resonates so deeply with me, especially in its conclusion–I voted for you. Good luck.

  2. Pippa mleod says:

    Isn’t”t it a terrible world when kid”s just don”t listen to there parent”s and the jealousy, of people that turn into Hatred of a young Beautiful girl

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s so funny how many parents or adults here read this side of the story and automatically side with the, ehrm, “victim”. Was it wrong for people to send death threats ? Yes of course. But this story is far from compelling and the Ostrengas are far from beautiful. Cathy has been helping her daughters try and achieve fame, she wants it as bad as them. The role of victimized parent is complete and utter bullshit. NO ONE was jealous of Kiki she brought that upon herself through falsifying her identity, making homophobic and RACIST comments and scamming people. And as if that wasn’t enough, Cathy is now trying to pull her youngest daughter into the vicious world of internet fame after everything that happened with Kiki. The Rolling Stone article was biased all the way, Cathy was the one was the one who asked to get Kiki interviewed, Rolling Stone did it but no one cared. No one gave two fucks about seeing Kiki pretending to be victimized. And since when does hating someone for being a homophobic racist bigot make someone jealous. The parents on this blog should get their facts straight before their children end up like this too.

      • parentwin says:

        Well, since I only have that article and now your words to go by, I’d ask you provide some citation for your claims. You seem to know the participants personally. This is the first I’ve heard of racism or bigotry on their part, which would make sense if the family asked for the article. Can you back up your stance with anything substantial? It’s an important matter for parents everywhere, but particularly for parents like me who participate in the blog and online world now, while our children young.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know them personally but I grew up with the Kiki Kannibal persona back in the Myspace age. I have seen her rise and fall to infamy. I honestly don’t blame you for being unaware of this, you’re a parent and grew up in a different generation. First off, a while back Kiki and her sister Dakota made a video making fun of Asians in a racist way (i.e: calling them chinks, making their eyes appear squinty, and using paper to make false buck teeth that appeared stereo typically Asian) it’s hard to find the video since it has been removed due to the backlash it caused but screen shots can be found. Another video made fun of African Americans, and they have been known to call anyone who is homosexual a “faggot” and making fun of homosexuals. Secondly, her youngest daughter has been lying about who she is. She says she’s 16 but in the police report that was made whilst interviewing her for her sisters dead boyfriend, her birthday proves that shes 19 years old. She has also been known for constantly photo shopping her face to seem like the ultimate barbie anime kawaii princess they worship in Asian cultures. She also photo shops her videos. She isn’t the only fake one though, her sister released a CD and it’s been know to steal other songs and she uses them in her music. It’s very different to SAMPLE a song and mix it in than to blatantly take a part of a song . With a sample you make a remix and credit the original composer, when you steal you don’t acknowledge the actual composer or that you took the song. Finally, Cathy in order to maintain that infamy she wants her daughters to have so bad constantly threatens anyone who exposes them for the frauds they really are by : getting articles on blogs , videos on YouTube, and pictures pertaining to her daughters removed on copyright violations when under law there are NO such copyright violations other than the fact she does’t want to be exposed. Stalking peoples blogs and sending messages on anonymous calling them “fat”. “ugly” and to stop being :jealous of her poor daughters” she also called a pregnant girl on the internet a ‘sickly fish” for exposing her daughters, pardon my french, bullshit.. They will go to no ends to keep those 5 minutes of cyber fame.
    I appreciate you taking the time to listen. No one on the internet is jealous or wants to bash them. People lie about themselves all the time. The only thing that irks us, who have grown up with the duo is to own up to the deception. If you’re going to be fake and Photoshop and be a racist own up to it, apologize, and stop trying to keep up the facade that you are perfect and wonderful. If people only disliked her for her pictures there wouldn’t be anyone digging up proof against them and Cathy wouldn’t spend time relentlesy covering up her daughters lies. Also a responsible parent would’ve put an end to it, and back in the Myspace days many of the pictures Kiki took scantily clad in her bra and panties at 13-17 seemed to have of been taken by someone else. Many suggest her parents but I wouldn’t go that far.Thank you for your time.

    SOURCES:
    -http://stuartschneiderman.blogspot.com/2011/06/kiki-kannibal.html
    -http://elivahellena.blogspot.com/2012/04/case-of-dakota-rose-aka-kotakoti.html
    – Some things may be hard to find because the ostrengas have relentlessly worked on getting most of their crap down in order to cover up their tracks ,

  4. hanna says:

    As a parent myself… In Western Culture you are not allowedvto take much reins into your children’s life. However there such term as TigerMoms in Eastern culture, to prevent children for running astray…
    Although in the Ostrenga case, I have read while browsing that the parents were literally pimping their girls out.
    I have to say even in Western standard, those Ostrenga girls are beauties, especially Kiki… If I have a daughter as pretty as her, I would be much more protective, and yes I would have taken the computer and ground them.
    Why supporting the girls to fight back the net? It is impossible, on the side note dwindling to 72pounds as well, all I can say is what a terrible mother Cathy Ostrenga is, and useless father Scott Ostrenga was.

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