Last week, a young boy was found hanging in his backyard by his sister. He was only 14 years old and had just started high school. He left behind a family, friends and people that cared.
He also left behind a bunch of kids that spent a great deal of time doing everything they could to make him miserable. They bullied him, taunted him, brought him to tears and eventually, drove him to take his own life. What kind of kids do this?
I don't like to talk about bullying. I don't like talking about it because I was bullied. But it's time. It's time that all of us started to talk about bullying.
I was bullied for so many years and in such horrible ways that sometimes I wonder how I survived. My earliest memory of being bullied was when I was in first grade. It wasn't until I was in third grade that my mom went to school to "talk to my class". Suffice it to say that it was a complete and utter disaster and had the exact opposite effect of what I am sure she was trying to accomplish.
It got worse. I didn't tell her it got worse because even then I knew that she was just doing what moms do... She was trying to protect her child. I can't begin to tell you the number of times I went home and hid in our big backyard tree and cried. But by the time I got out of elementary school, I was pretty sure I had learned how to cope. I couldn't wait to start junior high. I knew some of the bullies wouldn't be going to my new school.
That sure proved to be irrelevant.... Before my first week at the new school came to an end, I had a knife put to my throat. I still didn't tell my mom or dad. I just decided to make pretend I was sick. It worked. For two days - and then I either had to tell or I'd have to go back. I told and I never set foot in that school again.
I was immediately put into private school. We were moving, so the timing had a lot to do with it, but my days of public school education came to an abrupt end. It made no difference. I spent the next year and a half staring at a blank wall during lunch. I had not a single, solitary friend. Every day was torture. My mom was sick so I told no one about being bullied. And then my mom died and I started another new school.
By now I was in 7th grade. For the next two years I was bullied every single day. I was bullied in class, in the halls, and always, always at the lockers. I was followed home. I was beat up constantly. I remember girls sitting on my back and holding my ponytail and slamming my head into the sidewalk until I bleed, all while others cheered on. It was horrible.
Starting high school meant starting another new school. Although the bullying was never as bad as it was during elementary and middle school, the scars and the damage had already been done.
I still cry when I remember the pain. Not just the physical pain, but the psychological pain. I cry for the little girl who hid in the tree and put a pillow over her head so no one could hear her. I cry for the lonely and scared pre-teen who was bullied both verbally and physically, and I cry for the sad and angry teenager she became. Most of all, I cry for all the kids who are bullied so badly that they feel the only escape is to take their own life.
It's been 30 years and the viciousness continues. It sickens me. Bullying should be considered a hate crime. Maybe that is what it will take to get it to stop. Something has got to give.
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