There is a public health crisis on the rise, though it has been around for ages. Social media, however, has taken it to new extremes. This threat to the health, lives, and well-being of children and teens has, unfortunately, been given a get-out-of-jail-free pass in our society. It has for far too long been considered “kids just being kids”. It is not kids just being kids, however, it is kids just being bullies. And bullying literally kills. There will be children who take their own lives because of it. As such, it must be taken seriously, just as any other threat to health and safety is. We must do whatever it takes to stop it.
I know a thing or two about bullying. I wish I did not.
As a 13-year old girl, I once had my childhood crush, who had just been told that I “liked” him, announce to a class of 22 kids “Carol, I’m not available, but I have a dog that is desperate”. I cried for days. The same kid, along with some others, once threw a bottle-rocket at me, which exploded, charring the bottom of my foot. He and the others at school would call me “mouse”, because they said I had beady eyes and was ugly. They would announce this to a class full of other kids. They once lured me to the Quantico Creek, to show me a huge snake in the water. I was terrified of snakes. One of them thought it would be funny to throw me into the creek, with all my clothes on, in close vicinity to the ominous-looking snake. They tore up a pussy-willow once (when we were waiting at the school bus stop), and threw it into my hair, causing me to have to go home and get ready all over again. They would throw ice cubes at me, and slap me with towels, at the neighborhood pool, causing bruises. They announced to the bus full of kids, a few days later, that I was ugly and no one would ever want to date me. I came home from school crying. My Mom and Dad wanted to know what was wrong. I could not bring myself to tell them what was going on. Doing so felt like admitting that I was a loser.
That 8th grade year was hell for me. I dreaded going to school every day. I even once thought about taking myself out of this world.
I am not telling this story to play the victim, or make anyone feel sorry for me. The truth is, I have sincerely forgiven these kids. Most of them are now my dear friends. I understand that they were kids, and their Frontal Lobes were still developing. Many of them have apologized, sincerely, for what they put me through. I myself can recall a time or two when I was acting like a bully, so who am I not to forgive? The truth is, I love them, and I am glad that I came to a place of forgiveness, long ago.
But it is not just them that I have to forgive, and here is where the main purpose of my message comes to fruition. There were many who witnessed these things, and said nothing. There were teachers who witnessed these things, and did nothing. There was only one friend I can think of in that timeframe who stood up for me, my neighborhood friend Tina. Otherwise, I was on my own. Because the other kids, and adults, the witnesses, they did absolutely nothing. Nothing.
Nothing leads to…. nothing.
So please, if you witness such things, take a stand. Do whatever you have to do. Go to the school principal. Tell the child’s parents. Go to law enforcement if you have to.
The kids who bullied me have been forgiven, yes, but the imprint that they left upon my psyche, it still pops up from time to time, in the form of self-loathing and a sense of inferiority. In other words, the damage can be far-reaching and long-lasting. I am 46 years old, and writing this has been hard. It’s still painful. It’s something that you never truly “get over”.
Let us all take bullying seriously. Our kid’s lives depend on it!