Monday, October 5, 2015

Bullying: WTF?

I tried to come up with a good title to this blog post, which I am writing in honor of World Stop Bullying Day aka #BlueShirtDay2015. There were so many things I could have said, but the only thing that stuck out was WTF?

Did you know that 3.2 million kids are the victims of bullying every year? THAT'S ALMOST EVERYBODY! So What The F?

Those of you who have read my novel Little Lacey, may recognize that it has a lot to do with bullying. Lacey is part bat because of a cursed wishing well and she lives in a village of humans who are afraid of her.

The reason I made bullying a part of Little Lacey, is because I was bullied.

When I was a kid, we moved around a lot. For a while I went to a new school every year. That made it tough to make new friends. And that made me a target. I also reacted badly to bullying, which made me a fun target. So I was bullied a lot.

So now everybody is thinking "That makes sense." But does it? How does it make sense that kids who have a hard time making new friends get bullied? If anything it shouldn't make sense! It should be totally unacceptable.

Bullying is a crime. Bullying is basically the junior version of abuse, or hate crimes. Not because it is any less serious, but because it's often what we call it when a kid is doing it. And when kids do it, we don't arrest them for it.

That doesn't mean it is not a crime.

Stealing is illegal. We don't generally arrest kids for stealing, but we do tell them it is illegal and threaten them with being arrested. So if a kid is bullying maybe they should get a lecture on abuse and hate crimes, and the consequences of being found guilty of these?

That makes sense.

Are you with me on this?

Maybe you are still not sure. So let's take a look at some definitions.

Being mean is...well, mean. It is the purposeful act of hurting another human being, with the intention of hurting them. Usually, something different about the victim is targeted (gender, race, a big nose, not good at sports, the books they like to read, the fact that they have no friends). This can involve name-calling, shaming, pranks, exclusion, and physical harm.

It is not the same as accidentally hurting someone's feelings. And yet, being mean is something we have all done at some point. A lot of the time it is the result of pain, frustration, lashing out, our own hurt, misunderstanding and misdirected anger.

Most of us have the decency to feel bad afterward, or at least realize it was something we shouldn't have done--whether or not we admit it. Some of us are brave enough to admit we were wrong and make amends.

Bullying is when that act of meanness is repeated over and over, against the same victim. Somehow the mean person, didn't feel bad enough about being mean to stop. And so they keep doing the same thing to the same person, over and over again. It is horrible. It leads to real and lasting harm.

Both being mean and bullying are wrong. No matter what reasons are behind it. No matter who they are or what they did. Nobody deserves to suffer from fear, pain and humiliation at the hands of someone else. That is not fun. That is not cool. That is not justice.

There are a few ways to stop bullying:

If you witness bullying, speak up.

Shout: "Bully."
Say: "Not cool."
Say: "Don't be evil." (That is Google's Motto, you know)
Ask: "You just hurt a human being. Are you proud of yourself?"

Speaking up can be scary and hard. So don't be ashamed if you saw bullying and didn't do anything. Instead, go find an adult and tell them about it. If they don't do anything, keep telling adults until you find someone who will. And go to the person who was bullied. Be their friend. Ask them if they are ok. Talk it out and listen to them, if they feel like talking. Offer to walk home with them after school.

If you are the victim of bullying. Tell an adult. And if they don't help you, tell another one. I was bullied most of my childhood, but if got really severe for about a year in high school. I ran home every day after school, and not because I was into physical fitness. I never told anybody. The day after they finally caught me, and beat me up, a teacher witnessed it. The principal sat me down with the leader of my bullies, and we all talked. I was terrified. I thought no way is this going to do anything. It will probably make it worse. My bully cried. She said she had never thought of me as a human being before that moment. I thought she was lying, and putting on a show to get out of trouble. I didn't trust her for a second. But after that, the bullying stopped. In fact, nobody ever bullied me again, all the way through to graduation.

There is nothing shameful about admitting you are being bullied. 1 in 4 kids are bullied multiple times a month. That means that in a room full of 40 kids, 10 of them are being bullied on a regular basis.

If you are being bullied, it doesn't mean there is something wrong with you, it means there is something wrong with your bully.

Calling people hurtful names, laughing at them for being different, and harming people: these actions are wrong. If you are doing any of these things you are a bully, or you are perpetuating bullying.

STOP.

©2015 Amanda June Hagarty

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