words words words

When I was 13, I was targeted by a physical bully. I don’t recall how long he went after me, more than a week, less than a month, probably. I vividly remember several run-ins.

The guy would grab my hair and hold on. I’d have to bend sideways until he let go. he forced me to walk around the classroom like that. That was mortifying. He’d twist my arm. He’d dig his nails into my skin and leave a mark. He rammed me into a doorframe and once pushed me onto the floor. When I tried to get up, he pushed me back down again.

I complained to the teacher and to my parents, and they said yes, he should stop, but they pointed out that I should be complimented. Boys got rough when they liked girls. In a few years, my father said, the guy would figure out how to deal with his attraction better.

That particular kid had had some trauma in his life—his father had died suddenly and violently. Maybe that was why there weren’t consequences to his actions--at least none I saw.

I think some adult must have talked to him about leaving me alone, or maybe he moved onto another target because the abuse stopped suddenly.

I remember feeling an impotent rage at that guy. I day-dreamed about smashing him. I never, not once, considered smashing myself because of what he’d done to me.

Here’s the thing: That bullying kid who caused physical pain was nothing compared to mental bullies. Most significantly, he was a single person, not a group going for a mass pile-on.

That situation was easy to cope with compared to the more subtle nasty bullying that I’ve seen. I knew that what he was doing was crappy and wrong (even if the adults around didn’t seem to).

The pain he created was immediate and didn’t linger. I knew he was a dickhead and I felt angry, and I didn’t wonder to myself if maybe he had a point. I don’t recall words he used, but even if he did talk trash, I never thought I was the problem—he so clearly was.

He acted alone. If other people had joined him maybe I'd have some scars, and I don't mean the physical sort. That sort of bullying requires conversation, at least two people talking about the object of their scorn. The chatter can eat a person's self-confidence and sense of worth with the speed of sound.

A slap on the face is no fun, but nothing can cause destruction like bullies who use words skillfully or, worse, carelessly. Words pile up and suffocate joy.

That line about sticks and stones? Garbage.

What happened to Amanda included physical attacks but the words used on her like "slut" and  "look around nobody likes you" and "I hope she dies this time." battered her soul. People crumble faster when the violence of words hit something inside.

Amanda Todd was abused by bullies for two years. Right now people are looking around, trying to point fingers at the original bully. Anonymous tracked down a man who they claim is responsible for blackmailing her and spreading pictures of her. But his actions were only the start. Like most of the truly horrific bullying cases out there, she became the target of more than a single person.

One person, one word, one action starts the whole useless pain of bullying but it is the accumulation of words, so easy to toss off unless you're the target, that does the damage.


Join other authors against bullying.
 Mandy M. Roth Yasmine Galenorn Lauren Dane  Michelle M. Pillow  Kate Douglas Shawntelle Madison  Leah Braemel  Aaron Crocco NJ Walters Jax Garren Shelli Stevens Melissa Schroeder Jaycee Clark Shawna Thomas Ella Drake E.J. Stevens Ashley Shaw Jeaniene Frost Rachel Caine Kate Rothwell Jackie Morse Kessler Jaye Wells Kate Angell Melissa Cutler PT Michelle Patrice Michelle Julie Leto Kaz Mahoney Cynthia D'Alba Jesse L. Cairns TJ Michaels Jess Haines Phoebe Conn Jessa Slade Kate Davies Lynne Silver Taryn Blackthorne Margaret Daley Alyssa Day Aaron Dries Lisa Whitefern Rhyannon Byrd Carly Phillips Leslie Kelly Janelle Denison Graylin Fox Lee McKenzie Barbara Winkes Harmony Evans Mary Eason Ann Aguirre Lucy Monroe Nikki Duncan Kerry Schafer Ruth Frances Long

Comments

  1. Kate, thank you for posting this. I thought of joining the blog campaign, but as I'm not actively writing and blogging, decided not to. Plus, I wasn't sure I wanted this bullying story at the top of my blog every day.

    You're right -- one word, one action starts the cycle. We know often one bystander -- another kid -- may be enough to stop it. We need to empower our children to stand up for others and educate them as to how important it is.

    I think sometimes we don't realize how far-reaching and long-lasting the effects of bullying are, like circles spreading out from a pebble dropped in a pond.

    Or the blast wave that you see spread out in those videos of nuclear bombs going off.

    Every so often, I get an email asking if I'm still writing, when will this book come out, etc. The truth is I don't know. Count my writing as being one of those things wiped out by that bomb blast.

    It started with words: gay, fat, who knows what else.

    It spread to physical torment: being surrounded and pushed, called names. Not injured, but humiliated because what they wanted was to see him cry.

    I want to say it ended when I read his suicide note, when he confessed what was in his head.

    The truth is it probably won't ever end, not really.

    The sad part is I know we're the lucky ones. We were lucky because all we had to do was get up every hour at night and make sure he didn't harm himself. We were lucky because we got to deal with the depression and the mood swings. We were lucky because we got to rearrange our lives to homeschool him for a few months and put him back together again.

    Amanda Todd's mother didn't get the opportunity to do those things. Other mothers didn't have those opportunities.

    So I don't write creatively anymore. It began to grind to a halt when I read my son's words, his plan to escape the torment, penciled on notebook paper and crammed in his desk where his math teacher found it.

    Bullying, which always begins with one word, stopped my words.

    That's okay. I'm one of the lucky ones because the words are all I lost.

    Thanks again for speaking out.

    Lin

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  2. (((((((Lin)))))) ((((your boy))))
    No words. . .

    except I miss you.

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  3. Great blog post. I hope it brings awareness to all bullies. It has been encouraging to see how the public is now reacting to them.

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  4. I was too tall, too skinny, to smart, too whatever. Haters are going to hate. I was never one of the cool kids so I was bullied on occasion at school but it was nothing compared to the bullying I got at home.
    I think my kids had it worse at school as some of the social filters we had as kids have eroded to the point of non-existence. In some ways it is better. There is more information out there and role models are speaking up and out against bullies. More needs to be done at home, in schools and in the media.
    My daughter is Jewish and a lesbian living in the bible-belt. How she has grown into the incredible woman she has despite all the negativity is one of life's great mysteries and one of my greatest blessings.
    I think blogging about this is a good thing. Thank you for sharing your story.

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  5. Glad you weren't in that situation for long. I'm not sure where boys learn hitting girls is code for 'I like you'. Thanks for sharing your story.

    I’m very proud to be a part of this important event, and empowered by all the stories of hope and encouragement I’m reading today. It’s wonderful that people can get together and promote the positive.

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  6. Wonderful post. Sounds like that boy needed counseling. I have always thought, that no matter how young, if a person goes through trauma, they need counseling or something to help them through it. He shouldn't have taken it out on you. xo

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  7. Is it terrible of me to feel sorry for that boy? What he did was wrong, of course, but clearly he had no other outlets for whatever was going on with him at that time.

    I'm glad you stood up for yourself. It was the right thing to do.

    <3,
    -J

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  8. When I think about him now, my strongest emotion is pity. It took a while. When I went to the ten year school reunion and saw him, I felt the old anger -- mostly at the teacher who didn't seem to give a damn. I'll never feel good about that teacher.

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