Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Extreme Bullying and Extreme Measures
The recent suicide of B.C. teenager Amanda Todd has made bullying a major topic of conversation for many. This tragedy is an extreme example of what bullying can lead to. It is also an example of the danger of online predators, which is another angle to the situation. But let's look at the bullying aspect of things. Now, school boards, parent groups, and other advocacy organizations are standing up and saying that enough is enough. Measures must be taken to prevent bullying behaviour. Adults must set examples and there must be consequences. My question is: why has it taken so long? Why has another young person had to take her life in order for these bold statements to be made. Amanda Todd is certainly not the first teenager to commit suicide as a result of bullying. Perhaps it is because of the age in which we live. Thanks to social media, Amanada Todd was able to tell some of her story before her death, after which Facebook and the Twitter-verse was overloaded with shock and horror. Maybe if I had Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter when I was a younger person, my story could have been different. I was the victim of severe bullying in late elementary school and for the first year or so of junior high. On an almost daily basis I was the subject of assaults on my person emotionally, verbally, physically, and sexually. The administration of my school was made aware of what was happening. My parents met with the principal. So did I. I was told that I should stop wearing certain fashion accessories which the other kids were making fun of. Once I took off my studded leather bracelet, the torture was sure to stop. Well, it didn't, even after I removed the "magic bracelet." It was a less enlightened time. The seriousness of bullying just wasn't appreciated - at least, not by a lazy school administration. My parents took it seriously though. A long time afterwards, my father told me of a phone call that he answered at the house. The anonymous person at the other end went into a vile diatribe about how awful I was. My parents were afraid of what I would have done to myself, had I found out about it. They also knew that I was vulnerable, and would likely have done anything to have been accepted by the other kids, even if it meant doing some nasty stuff I would not have done otherwise. These are the sorts of things that parents of bullied children have been trying to communicate for years. Why has no one listened? Why did a beautiful young woman have to take her life in order for anyone to hear? I still suffer some of the emotional scars of my experiences. I have tried to talk about them, often to the reaction of something like, "It happened 20 years ago. Get over it already." I feel hopefuly when I see attitudes changing, when bullying is not just written off as boys being boys or girls being mean - or even worse, as a sign of affection ("He's hitting you because he really likes you" - like that hasn't led to abusive relationships in the future, when such behaviour is normalized). But for some, it is too little, too late. Any movement to help prevent bullying is important. It is just so sad it took this extreme of an incident to effect change.