I’ve heard it all. From, “What else do you expect from kids?” to, “You need to learn to take a joke.” I have even been told that being bullied builds character and I should consider myself lucky. Sure. But the “character” bullying builds is anxiety, depression, substance abuse, low self esteem, and violent tendencies. There are no benefits to being bullied and bullying is NOT a rite of passage, despite how you spin it.
For me, the bullying started after my older sister transferred schools to go live with our dad. Even though she was a grade above me, by the end of the week, everyone in our tiny school knew she had left. She was the stereotypical sibling, teasing me relentlessly, but would put anyone else in their place if they tried the same thing. So, after she left, everyone knew I would be easy to reach. I missed being able to see her in the hallways and cafeteria, but mostly, I missed not being a target.
My mom many times, in different ways, told me the other kids were simply jealous and my male teachers were immature. The first time I called my dad asking for help, he said he didn’t want to be put in the middle of it. I stopped trying to get help after that. If my parents didn’t think it was that serious, maybe it wasn’t. 4 years later, I graduated hating that I was still alive and everyone who made me feel this way. I should have kept trying. I wish I had known that was an option at all. I will never get those years back, but if I can convince just one person to keep trying, it will all have been worth it.
Sadly, anyone. From toddlers to adults, the National Center for Education Statistics explains that bullying can happen to anyone, anywhere. Whether on the school bus, in the classroom, locker room/bathroom, hallways/stairwells, outside on school grounds, or at home, children and teenagers can be subjected to violence, harassment, and bullying.
Youth Truth says on average, about 30% of females and about 22% of males will experience a form of bullying in their lifetime. Even though females are more often exposed to exclusion and name calling and males experience more violent acts, any form of bullying can happen to anyone and must be taken just as seriously.
Never think being bullied is your fault. Neither a child, teenager, or anyone for that matter, deserves to be bullied. Stomp Out Bullying is a life changing program that has dedicated all their time and resources to help save the lives of students who suffer from being bullied. Stomp Out Bullying shares that a child may resort to bullying if they feel neglected at home, are bullied themselves by siblings, friends, or an adult role model, or have a dominating, aggressive personality, with the lack of learned kindness. If you read their article, “Why Do Kids Bully?” it may help you to understand and realize that the actions of a bully say more about them, than they ever could about you.
Kids will often choose to use your physical traits, sexual orientation, and your race to make you feel worse about yourself. Bullying has many ugly forms and knows no boundaries. Bullying! No way describes the spectrum being anywhere from intimidation to physical altercations. To name a few of the examples that fall in between, bullying can include name calling, insulting physical appearance (such as height and weight), hitting, shoving, damaging or stealing belongings, exclusion, and spreading rumors. If any of these actions are taken against you, tell a trusted adult immediately.
The most important step is to find someone you trust and tell them what’s happening. Whether the bullying occurs inside or outside of school, look for a friend, a trusted family member, or anyone in the school staff. Sharing what you are going through is never a burden and neither are you.
Bullying. No Way! promises, “Your school has a responsibility to ensure you have a safe learning environment, free from violence, harassment, and bullying.” So never feel bad for reaching out to someone. It is your right as a person to feel safe in any environment you’re in.
If you can’t talk to a trusted adult right away, need more support, or simply want to talk to someone outside of the situation, Teen Health & Wellness encourages you to reach out to any of these hotlines and employ them whenever you need.
Suicide Hotline: 800-784-2433
Crisis Call Center: 800-273-8255 or Text ANSWER to 839863
Crisis Text Line: Text HELLO to 741741
And never forget to call 911 if it is a life threatening situation or medical emergency.
The last thing I want to share is, I know how cruel kids can be. I understand how hard it is to come forward and ask for help. Maybe, like mine, your efforts seem useless. But I urge you to please, try again. Try as many times as it takes because bullying is never okay and everyone deserves to feel like they belong.
Please don’t give up. Your story is far from over.