Wednesday, October 10, 2012

COMMENTARY: October is Anti-Bullying Month

I debated whether to talk about bullying or not, but I figure it's cleansing and perhaps someone will run across this blog post and not feel so much alone.

You're not alone. There may be more of us than there are of them. We all face bullying in our lives in some form or another whether it's the high school team or a boss later in life.

You may actually be better able to deal with bullies if you've faced them early and understand what bullying is about.

I was the kid with the pop bottle thick glasses because I was born with cataracts. My Mom actually had a choice of sending me to the special school for kids with disabilities. She visited the school and said it was sad with all the kids in wheelchairs and the visually impaired kids with white canes.

So she begged the principal of Wilson Elementary to take me.

Was it kind? Was it cruel?  It was what it was. I'll leave the discussion on mainstreaming kids with handicaps to another post.

Of course, I got bullied. A handicapped kid's a target. One girl in particular made my life hell because we shared a common friend. Kim did everything from make snide remarks, bomb threat phone calls, to fake-calling me as boys from the class. Really? You don't sound like David, Kim.

Worse, I developed faster than the other girls. I had a figure in fourth grade, which my Mom did her best to hide. I was a head taller. Worse, I had a period. Imagine that with boys who love/hate girls. 

My situation got better for awhile in fifth grade. Dian jumped me on the playground. I was by myself and I felt something heavy hit me on the back. Not sure how I did it, but the next thing I knew, I was sitting on her with a fist full of hair, pounding her head in the dirt.

Next day, she brought friends. Luckily, I had a few of mine with me....I mostly got left alone after that.

In eighth grade, Chris was getting bullied by Jerry when I passed by. He kept touching her and she said "no" more emphatically with each touch. She was the smallest kid in our class and he was tall for a boy. The third time she said, "No," I stepped to her side and told Jerry to leave her alone. He asked me why--and I said because she said no three times--when does no mean no to you?  He hit her. I hit him back and knocked him about fifteen feet--clear across the hallway to the windows--he left both of us alone after that.

As far as physical violence, I think that story followed me through high school.

This brings up a huge question. Is answering violence with violence the right way to deal with bullying? When you're jumped, you've got to fight back. When someone's hitting another person, you've got to stop them. I hope Jerry got the idea that no meant no before he did something worse than just hitting a girl against her will.

Oh yeah, I still got verbal and sexual crap in school. But around eighth grade, I also started going to therapy and I realized their self-esteem was worse than mine. What they said and did still caused me pain, but not quite as much.

Bullies need work on their sense of identity and self worth. Someone has to show them that they're good people without exercising excess power over others.

Does it get better?  No, you're going to have bullies for your co-workers, for your boss, maybe even a neighbor. You get better. As soon as bullies realize you're strong and capable, they'll think before messing with you.

Then you go and help others.

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, October 2012

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