I think it’s safe to say that most of us have been bullied at one point or another in our lives.
As a result, I’m fairly confident that the majority of you reading this are now recalling the face of that person who made you feel so small, so insignificant and so afraid that a moment is indelibly burned into your memory. If you didn’t have one then my guess is you’ll recognize a few iconic ones out of Hollywood included herein.
My endurance began back when I was 10 years old and frankly continued till I graduated. The same group of kids more or less made it their favorite pastime to make sure I knew my place, all throughout school, was to be the butt of their jokes or the target of their torture.
You see, the deck was stacked against me from the start, I was the ONLY, yes I really mean ONLY, redhead in a sea of traditional Scandinavian descendants…..very pale skin to the point that I’d get a sun burn after ½ an hour without being caked in sunscreen……known as the girl who turned grey or blue and made weird noises, due to my chronic asthma…..missed a ton a school each year, as a result of being in the hospital far too often…..was no good at sports; think run=wheeze….and whose mom talked funny, as an English accent stands out in the small Minnesota town I grew up in. But all this was workable. I was used to it, had a close circle of good friends and had as normal a childhood as any one of you.
That changed when I was 10 years old, thanks mostly to my parent’s divorce. In a town of less than 3,000 people, everyone knows everything about everyone else and the gossip wheels work really quickly. So within day of my mom and dad telling my sister and I what was happening, it was already all over town. Partly because divorce just didn’t commonly happen there back then, but more so because at the same time there were two other sets of couples’ marriages breaking up.
Insert all swinger and wife swapping jokes here please.
So as I write this I’m 47 and totally get it stuff happens and life takes turns.
But as a 10 year old I didn’t understand why my sister and I were being split up and why my parents were trashing one another in front of us and running us to court regularly. (So often I invited the judges and the court clerks to my high school graduation.) It all just seemed really painful and unfair.
So as the stories of my parents spread, nearly immediately the cruelty of kids entered my life. I was mocked literally daily, calls from girls who would claim to be my friends and yet would call the house I lived in with my grandparents and dad to berate me over the phone multiple times a day and wouldn’t stop calling till I answered. I was called every name in the book and told all about how I was going to Hell for my parent’s bad behavior. You name it I heard it. I got pushed into my locker on a regular basis and my locker trashed, including my note books, even more. All this for nearly eight years, and at the time I told no one in my family.
Years later, I recalled one incident of walking through the hallway of the school and literally being spit on over and over again by a group of the cool boys. Simply so my parents wouldn’t see what had happened, I ducked into the rest room and another of the unpopular girls who I was friendly with quietly smiled at me and helped me to clean up so I could catch the bus home. I suspected at the time she too endured this same treatment but never said so. I shared this incident on Facebook a year plus ago when that friend passed. While we hadn’t stayed close, that memory is a clear to me today as the birth of my niece and I wanted her family who I was also connected with on Facebook to know what a wonderful person she was, even way back then.
After sharing it, I was shocked at the number of people who reached out to me appalled by incident. I wanted to scream this is only one in a long line and I’m well over it now as an adult. One of the guys who reached out to me was one of the boys who in the group who regularly made my suffering a part of their past-time.
Below is the exchange.
So why share this? Well, according to the Bullying Statistics site, I’m one of the lucky ones who survived and have been able to learn and grow from this period of my life. This site shared that far too often now the effects of bullying can include bullycide. Seriously!?! It’s appalling that the taking of a life to escape this type of torture is so common that the media has now coined a term to describe death that results from bullying.
Bullying is so common that it’s even mentioned in our class text where David M. Scott describes the use this topic for a blog by a Sr. Partner at a California law firm, Jackson and Wilson on the case of Rebecca Sedwick. (Scott, 2015, p. 83-85) I am confident that Mitch Jackson was truly speaking from the heart in his blog and the video that directs viewers to the blog; but I can’t help but think he’s drumming up business, as well, so I’m not sure he’s really a white hat in the purest sense for this issue. Rebecca Sedwick’s case garnered national and international attention and sparked state governments to write laws defining how they’d better protect victims.
So, a 12 year old girl in Florida not enough to move you to act or react? Well, there are enough cases in Minnesota to have caused Governor Dayton to sign the anti-bullying bill into law to ensure protection for the victims. Victims like 11 year old Jake Ross. He spoke up for those of us who simply couldn’t be that brave. I remained silent, unlike my new hero, Jake, 30 plus years my junior but my new hero and you’ll see why by reading his story.
Why tell you all this?
I’d like to challenge each of you with kids to openly and honestly talk to them about bullying, because statistics seem to indicate over half of the kids out there are experiencing bullying and with social media it’s taken on a terrible new power that I’m hoping we can all change.
I’d implore each of you to visit the national Stop Bullying site to learn more and help ensure other kids don’t go through what I did. Show them how to help and be more than a bystander. I hope that those of you who, like me, remained silent can now feel confident sharing your story to help others. I invite you to share your thoughts on this subject here.
Scott, D. M. (2015). Blogs: Tapping millions of evangelists to tell your story. In The new rules of marketing & PR: How to use social media, online video, mobile applications, blogs, news releases, & viral marketing to reach buyers directly (5th ed., pp. 83-85). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.