Anti-gay bullying may have contributed to the suicide of an 11-year-old girl and her best friend, says the father of one of the girls.

Madissen Foxx Paulsen took her own life using her dad’s gun in December 2017 in Devil’s Lake, North Dakota.



Her best friend Sophia Leaf-Abrahamson, 11, then died by suicide in February 2018 just two months later.

Speaking to PinkNews, Madissen’s father Shane Paulsen explained that he feared his daughter was bullied for her close relationship with Sophia.

Madissen died by suicide in December 2017
Picture of Madissen Paulsen, who died aged 11 in December 2017. (Shane Paulsen)

“I just don’t know how far the bullying went,” he explained.

“I know they shared their affection for each other, and maybe they shared it with their classmates, and a lot of that may have pushed them into this.”

Paulsen described his daughter as a “sixth-grader in love with life,” adding: “It really came out of the blue.”

Father of girl, who took her own life, says she was “questioning” her sexuality

He went on to explain that one day his daughter was with Sophia and that she told him: ”Oh, by the way this is my girlfriend and there’s nothing you can do about it.'”

Paulsen said that his daughter’s sexuality was not an issue for him and that he had been supportive of Madissen’s relationship with Sophia.

“The way I kind of look at it is that, at 11 years old, I think they’re just trying to figure out who they are,” he said.

“I’m a really supportive man. My uncle has been married to the same man for like 30 years.”

“I know they shared their affection for each other, and maybe they shared it with their classmates, and a lot of that may have pushed them into this.”

—Shane Paulsen

“So this has been in and around my family, and everybody’s family on the planet, for a millennia,” said Paulsen.

“It was never an issue to me. So, I just rolled with it and let these two figure out who it is they’re gonna be when they grow up.”

Paulsen added that his daughter had previously opened up to him about her “liking” boys and girls.

“One day my daughter told me she likes boys, and one day she told me she liked girls, and one day she told me she liked boys and girls,” he said.

He said his daughter was “questioning” her sexuality.

Father fears his daughter, who died by suicide, was bullied for her sexuality

However, Paulsen, who has since destroyed the weapon his daughter used, said that his town was not a very welcoming place for marginalised groups.

“We live in a really small town,” he said. “They all voted for Trump … I have a lot of great friends there, so it’s not everybody in that town.

“I still hear the word ‘fag’ in bars, that’s the butt of a joke.”

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Madissen, who died by suicide in December 2017
Shane Paulsen spoke to PinkNews about his daughter Madissen’s death. (Shane Paulsen)

Paulsen said that Sophia’s mother, Angela Leaf, also had a “strong” feeling that anti-gay bullying may have contributed to the girls’ deaths.

Leaf told the Daily Mail that her daughter had confided in her about having feelings for girls.

“She blurted out, ‘I think I like girls,'” said Leaf.

“I told her it was okay.

“She asked if I was ‘grossed out’ and I told her I would be a big hypocrite [if I did] because my sister is my best friend and she’s bisexual.”

According to the Daily Mail, Leaf also believed her daughter was bullied at school.

“Sophia never mentioned anything,” Leaf told the paper.

“I told her, if somebody’s saying something to you, let me know, we’ll get to the bottom of it. I thought that communication was open between us.”

If you are in the US and are having suicidal thoughts, suffering from anxiety or depression, or just want to talk, call the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255. If you are in the UK, you can contact the Samaritans on 116 123. 




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