I really don’t understand parents that feel bullying is ok and just a part of school life. It is probably that those parents didn’t have to deal with it themselves when they were growing up. Perhaps they were bullies themselves or they thought it was funny when they witnessed it and have fond memories of watching the torment of the victim. Perhaps they think it is toughening for those that are too sensitive. Whatever the case may be, it is not something that should be looked on with indulgence, regardless of the reason or type of bullying.
Bullying is a form of abuse. Abuse leaves scars, sometimes physical ones when it reaches the level of hitting, pushing and dangerous pranks. The torment can last way beyond the day it happens, the school year or even past school altogether for the rest of someone’s life. It can deaden a person to relationships and make it hard to trust people. Authority figures show that they won’t do anything and make it harder to trust adults. Why go to someone for help when they show that they don’t care at all? If your parents won’t believe you or think you are being too sensitive about it, why tell them? If your friends are too afraid to stick up for you, who will? That is even if you have more than a couple of friends. Some, like myself, preferred to go it alone when possible.
I have a surprisingly thick skin. Verbal abuse doesn’t particularly bother me unless it comes from someone I actually care about. The taunting and name calling had little effect on me. It rolled away, for the most part. True, I would get annoyed sometimes. The physical stuff was harder to ignore. When you just don’t have the strength to fight back to protect yourself, it is very hard to figure out what to do. I got through. It was not easy and I don’t expect someone else to put up with it the way I did. I had plenty else on my mind growing up, to the point where the bullies were not a major concern in my life. Not when I could never be sure what I was walking into when I got home. They couldn’t hold a candle to what else was wrong in my life. I can only imagine how much worse for someone without my iron will and having to deal with equally bad situations at school and at home.
Too often we forget how children and teens perceive time and events. The emotional state is heightened, especially for teens with puberty throwing potent hormones around willy-nilly. Impulse control is almost non-existent and the need to react is off the scale. When suffering is immense, there seems to be no end to it. A day is a week and a month is a year. The end of school and escape is so far in the future that it seems impossible to reach it. Some kids turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with things. Some turn to premature sex. Others become withdrawn and depressed. Still others turn to crime of various types. Some even resort to bullying themselves to throw attention off of themselves. Adapting is twice as hard when you don’t understand how or why you should try.
Kids don’t know how to use or find services like The Trevor Project or a youth group. They don’t know where to look for them, although the internet has made it much easier than in the past. They don’t know who to go to for support. Fears are magnified when we are young. It takes a lot of energy to overcome it enough to take any kind of action. Some aren’t able to. These are often the ones we lose to suicide.
Those that bully often continue the behavior well past school. We all know people that like to put down and belittle others publicly. They are not adverse to playing demeaning pranks on someone they don’t like and bask in the glow of laughter. They are the people that tell bigoted, racist, sexist jokes without a twitch. They will bash someone if they think they can get away with it. They guard fiercely their right to say what they please. They are not going to change if they can help it. They find any excuse they can to keep on doing what makes them feel good. Mental abuse is their right to dish out. If you fight back, they come back at you with double the intensity.
With all the recent suicides in the news, I find myself angry. This has been going on for decades. How many more have happened that never even hit the national or even local media for reporting? It has never been ok. Yet, now, finally, the media is saying something. It took long enough. How many lives could have been saved before this? How many more people are going to die before laws change? How many more before even the conservatives acknowledge that it is wrong? How many more before the hardcore religious admit their part in creating and maintaining this environment? How many more before politicians act and create the safety net these kids need? How many more before authorities hold people accountable?
I am just waiting for some bigot to cry that it is a matter of free speech, that it is a protected right to say what you please no matter the consequences. Watch and wait, it will happen. I hope parents start seeking restraining orders on behalf of their kids. I hope that schools will start enforcing rules equally without bias. I hope that houses of worship start preaching about being kinder to your fellow man and mean it. I hope that parents will start to teach their kids consequences for their negative actions toward other people. I hope that kids can learn in an environment where they feel safe and can make it home without mental or physical wounds each day. I hope that lives can change and be saved. I hope that despair can be held off until a time when it fades.