Friday, April 2, 2010

Suffering: Survivors Speak

A survivor of abuse stands firm, saying:
I am a survivor of sexual abuse, so I know that truth is far more important than pay-back when it comes to genuine and lasting healing. Somebody needs to clue the press that they may be doing more harm than good to those they are pretending to serve.

A survivor of bullying comments on the Phoebe Prince tragedy.

I went to school in New York, and my single year at Gelinas Junior High School was one filled with taunts, threats and anguish.

At one point, one of my tormenters went so far as to shoot out the windows of our house with a BB gun, while my mom was home.

Our home phone was called again. And again. And again. A couple of hundred times in one day, by another classmate.

I was punched in the stomach, threatened with a soldering iron in shop class.

This was in a school that prized its academic success, passed levies, and was, for all outward intents, a model of providing a solid education.

It was in this same school that I hid in the bathroom, skipped lunch because of threats in the cafeteria, and fantasized about bringing a gun to class as protection.

Nobody should be afraid to go to school. We have a civil right to basic education in this country.

That’s what the adults keep saying, at least. To kids, it can be a different thing entirely.

While our local schools are appreciably adamant about policing their students and enforcing anti-bullying policies, the fact remains that they can’t read everyone’s mind, and they can’t be everywhere at once. And the bullying that happens is often in places where the teachers aren’t: on the way to school, on the bus, in the hallway.

Thanks to cell phones and computers, that bullying can happen even more quietly - but no less effectively - in cyberspace, away from the attention of all but the bullier, the victim, and, thanks to contact lists, as many bystanders as they choose to involve.

This is why it’s not just our schools’ job to be on the lookout for this most lacerating of kid behaviors. It’s a responsibility of any adult who is aware of it to step in. To stop it.

Bullying is not just “kids being kids” - it leaves scars for life.

Phoebe killed herself after what must have been a truly terrible day - just one day of many for her. Many of us who were the long-term targets of bullies - myself included - had thoughts about doing just what Phoebe did. The difference is that we did not. And we grew up. But always looking back over our shoulders. Always doing gut checks about our self worth.



R J said...

Was there not a similarly horrific Missouri bullying case recently, in which a mother of a culprit was involved? Megan Meier or some name like that?

I know all too well the horrors of having been bullied at school. And as anyone who has been through that sort of thing knows, physical bullying is the absolute least of it. I'm afraid that teenage girls could be much more inventively sadistic, if less violent, than teenage boys. That was in the 1970s; I don't suppose matters have changed much now, except that in the 1970s we didn't have the prospect of letting 100 Columbines bloom, and the Internet lay in an unimagined future.

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, that was another horrific case of a young person being tormented to death. And for those who survive, it is impossible not to be scarred.

Unknown said...

So tragic and unnecessary. I've seen so much in the press about blame being placed on the school, but nothing about parents needing to more proactive, or cued in to their children's problems at school. Maybe there is trend - over reliance on the school's to take care(parent) of our children.

elena maria vidal said...

You have a point. I learned long ago that if I do not protect and take of my child, no one else is going to. As for the parents of the bullies, they probably were/are bullies themselves and see such behavior as a sign of strength rather than as the expression weakness and sickness that it is.

Julygirl said...

EMV, you are correct regarding the actions of the parents in creating the bully. Bullying starts in the home by frustrated angry adults who in turn create frustrated angry children. They are cowards who specialize in terrorizing, badgering and intimidating someone whom they consider weaker. The only defense is a good offense.

Dymphna said...

High school is like a wolf pack. Somebody always gets singled out to be the omega to be picked on and when that happens they never let up. And the victim usually has no-one to turn to. I remember in my high school years parents said "Tough it out." Teachers believed that if they intefered the picked on kid would end up a wimpy cry baby and never grow up. We should know better now.

elena maria vidal said...

I think that a bullying situation is a bit like a shark attack. The other sharks smell blood and move in to share in the kill. I think that even teachers, unless they are persons of very strong character, get pulled into the shark attack.

Watching a victim being baited is also a bit like an ancient Roman sport; some people get a high from it and find it entertaining. There must have been something about that lovely young girl that they all longed to see degraded and crushed into the dust. They got a high from seeing her suffer.