Stand Up and Unite

Recently I decided to watch Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, based on the book Thirteen Reasons Why  by Jay Asher. I have not read the book so can not compare the two, but the show I have mixed feelings about. The show is drawn out far too long, the book itself is only 288 pages long and is drawn out into 13 hours of television. If you haven’t seen the show or read the book yet, I won’t spoil it for you it is worth the watch. It’s about a girl who commits suicide based on events that all take place within roughly two years of High School. After her death she leaves tapes behind to explain why she ended her life. The tapes are heard by those who she feels impacted her decision to take her own life one afternoon. It switches between current day and the past events while her story is being told. This in my opinion shows how events in life can add up, leaving them to sometimes feeling alone, worthless, and helpless. People may not be aware that they are being cruel or mean, they might find humor in what they say or do to another but to the person who is on the other end of that they are not finding the humor in it one bit. So this got me thinking about bullies and life events, how when we connect with others even on the smallest level we leave our touch. For all of us we must think before we speak!

Schools these days have anti-bullying policies but what is the definition of bully?

Bullying is different from the typical disagreements or conflict that occur between friends or classmates. What’s the difference?

It’s bullying if:

  • The person is being hurt, harmed or humiliated with words or behavior.
  • The behavior is repeated, though it can be a single incident.
  • It is being done intentionally.
  • The person being hurt has a hard time defending themselves from the behavior.
  • The student(s) who are doing it have more power.*

* ”Power” can include such things as being older, being physically bigger or stronger, having more social status, or when a group of students “gang up” on someone.

What Bullying is not…

  • single episodes of social rejection or dislike
  • single episode acts of nastiness or spite
  • random acts of aggression or intimidation
  • mutual arguments, disagreements or fights.

So why am I writing about this?  Suicide, depression, bullying are all close to my heart. I am a friend of someone who took their own life, I have been in a situation that left me feeling pretty sad, others I know have also had some tough experiences and depression well I have seen and felt too. I believe based on my own experiences that it will take a tribe to create healing and to put a stop to bullies, to people feeling so alone when they experience certain things in life! If everyone shares their story and no longer becomes afraid to speak out about their life, just maybe there can be change.

I have always been a very private person but I was once a social butterfly, but airing my dirty laundry has never been my forte. Let me briefly tell you about three experiences, one is my personal experience, one happened to my daughter, and one to my god-daughter. These three are from separate age groups; adult, adolescent, grade school.

I once had a friend or so I thought I had a friend; she opened my eyes to a whole new world. One day she was my “friend” the next day she was lying to me, spreading rumors about me, using social media to continually harass me; you see the thing about a bully over social media is that it’s really difficult to make it stop. The hundreds of emails, the hundreds of fake Facebook profiles they create, and wow does news spread like wildfire…even if it’s nothing but gossip and lies. Waking up day after day for more than a year to emails, Facebook posts, and text messages that just make you want to crawl in a hole and never come out again. Not knowing who you can trust, who is your friend and who is your enemy. Eventually I was able to prove what she had been doing and was able to get a restraining order against her, but that did not stop her from leaving boxes on my door in the middle of the night, creating new fake Facebook identities to continue her social media bullying, or talking. I was blown away that adults act like this! Women turning on women when we are supposed to be uplifting and supporting one another. So like in the tv show, the paranoia you feel is overwhelming, not wanting to log on to Facebook or leave your house because you just might run into that person and what then? Anxiety and depression begin to take control and before you know it, you’re not even sure who you are anymore. You don’t want to be afraid to create new friendships, or join in on connecting with others, social events, or just going to the store but it happens and before you know it. How do you come back? I can’t say what the magic was for me, but I leaned on my family, read a lot of books,  focused on healing, got my privacy settings in order, and above all surrounded myself with love, positivity, encouragement and prayed a whole lot. Eventually over time there was a pause and I was able to breathe again.

Here is another instance, girl and guy date briefly for a few months but when girl wants to break up and end the relationship guy acts out. He was angry and he chose to react by spreading rumors all over school about the girl, one day she has her group of friends and the next all the friends are gone, because they were his friends first for the most part. She could hear whispers in the halls and in class, then the social media chaos began. Again it didn’t matter if you blocked all those people because they just create new profiles and somehow still have friends of friends that help unknowingly manage to get on your page to comment or are able to have others do their commenting for them. Slowly but surely there was no friends left. Like in the movie there were signs something was going on, her moods changed. She would sleep a lot, stopped going outside, and was very withdrawn and quiet, her once A/B grade average fell to D’s and F’s. It took me a week or two to get her to open up about what was going on, when she did tell me I got a restraining order because the boy had also threatened her brother and her in a text message. However, because they all went to the same High School that piece of paper had very little meaning. I met with the school counselor and campus police officer, giving them copies of the restraining order that included that her nor her brother would have contact with offender. That paper was not taken seriously by the school, they allowed the boy to go to their lunch hour when he would ditch his own the hour before. When I gave the school a list of all students that were participating in the rumors and gossip, I was told they can do nothing about it. They offered to segregate my her, to have her eat her lunch in the office. Which made her feel punished rather than supported. It was a very long year for her, who was hurt by the mean things people would say about her and to her, losing all her friends and feeling alone. Eventually things did calm down, my she left the High School and finished her last year online. To this day and it’s years later, when she see’s him on the street or passes by him in the store her heart races, adrenaline pumping, fear and panic set it.

Little kids can be just as cruel with their words. Now let me tell you about a super sweet little girl who had a school bus bully, she was only in first grade. Getting on the bus everyday should be exciting at this age, learning is fun but it wasn’t for her. Everyday she was very unwelcome by a little boy who was continually mean to her. Why did he choose her? I don’t know but he did, day after day she couldn’t understand why he didn’t like her, why he was so cruel. How did the school handle it? He eventually lost his privilege to ride the school bus, no longer able to bully on the bus. But did he stop while he was at school? I don’t know but how can the schools completely stop bullying? My youngest son will tell you he thinks there needs to be a “special” school for bullies, that they need to be separated and reformed. I don’t have all the answers, does anyone truly? No, or this would not be a continued problem.

There are many other times I could tell you about, when one of my son’s was bullied for two school years from the same kid, my son was suspended for 3 days in Kindergarten for standing up for himself after being bullied for nearly an entire school year, or the time that my son was chased for weeks on his way home from a classmate who didn’t even live in our neighborhood, or how my other son was bullied on the school bus daily for a school year, or when someone close to me was bullied in High School by a group of girls who were once her friends and one day decided she didn’t belong in their group any longer so they wrote on the bathroom stalls, calling her mean names and spreading rumors about school that were flat-out lies this went on for months before she eventually quit going to school and became a High School drop out…this one closely resembles the movie closely however she did not take her life; she is an adult now. I can’t help wonder though if some of her relationship issues she faces today are because of how she was treated back then, I know she carries that pain and truthfully is anyone really able to let go? Of course you can forgive those who wronged you, made you cry, run and hide, but even when they aren’t chanting in your ear or posting on-line about you the memories are still there. It can be very damaging!

Together if we all one by one take a stand and unite against bullying no matter what form it’s being done in, then we can make a difference. If you see it happening, don’t turn the other way SAY something, tell someone, it very well could be that the person it’s happening to isn’t in a place to speak up maybe they don’t know how or maybe they too are afraid. If you are being bullied, do your best to find the strength to tell someone and if they don’t listen tell someone else, just keep talking until someone listens. If you’ve been bullied speak up, share about it, you never know it might give someone who needs a little light of hope just what they were searching for at that time.

I bought my youngest son and I t-shirts from Target, I love that they offer this shirt! It is made for both boys and girls. It’s from their Cat & Jack™ line of clothing.

I hope to create awareness, that it can happen at any age! To let others who are being bullied to know they are not alone, to the parents of those being bullied I hope you know that you are not alone.

There are many websites that provide awareness and education. Here are just a few links to some of those pages.

Violence Prevention Works

Stop Bullying

National Centre Against Bullying

The Bully Project

National Bullying Prevention Center