Marcus Oakes shares with us his own experience on Bullying today.
While I was in junior high school, I was arguably the best athlete in my grade and I often practiced with the older teams in sports and held my own.
Unfortunately that didn’t keep me from being a victim of bullying.
The “stereotypical” bully that we see in movies isn’t always an accurate portrayal. There isn’t a set list of attributes that make up a bully or the victim, especially because there are different types of bullying: verbal, social, and physical. It would only make sense that the bullies and victims in each category won’t necessarily fit the same description. That is why it is crucial to not fall into the mindset of the “stereotypical” bully.
Anyone can be a victim
Backing away from the typical idea of bullying victims, let’s talk about a victim that not too many people think about. I’m not talking about the bully themselves, that’s a topic of discussion all on its own; I’m talking about the “popular” kids. The definition of popular varies but let’s base it off of the “popular” kids we see in movies: cheerleaders, athletes–the “cool” kids. Often you would think that these kids are the ones doing the bullying, but that isn’t always the case.
As mentioned above, I was a victim of bullying in junior high. There was a group of guys in the grade above me that found joy in picking on the younger guys, often the “popular” guys of that grade. This included being elbowed in the face on purpose during practice, getting punched in the arm or leg in the hallways, or just being held down against my will. I remember specifically when one kid (we had been basketball, football, and baseball teammates with me all through growing up, and again in high school) twisted my arm, which had recently healed from being broken, to the point that I could feel extreme pain in the area where the break had been.
This same kid during my junior year threatened to lock me in his car while he smoked marijuana to force me to get high. One day he even got into my truck and stole my sun glasses (although he did return them later). While I already had low self-esteem due to horrific acne, I started to face depression and thoughts of suicide when I was 15 years old. All of this, no doubt, played at least a minor role on my emotional state.
My wife had a similar experience: Having recently moved from California to a new school, my wife joined the cheerleading squad because it was the closest thing to a gymnastics team the school had. She was a very well-known person at this school yet she was still picked on more than most. Many of the people that she would call “friends” were anything but. She was often called fat by other cheerleaders even though she was one of the smaller girls on the squad. This led her onto the dangerous path of eating disorders. Things eventually got bad enough that she worked hard and graduated early so she could escape the bullying.
Bullying isn’t only seen on playgrounds or in the hallways of schools; it is found online, too. In fact, seven out of ten young people are victims of cyberbullying whereas only one out of three are victims of traditional bullying. Cyberbullying typically happens through social media outlets and seems to be more of a social and psychological bullying than anything else. This often includes posting inappropriate pictures of people without their permission, spreading rumors through social media, or making rude comments on someone’s post, video, or picture.
Cyber bullying has a far deeper effect than traditional bullying:
“Depression, substance use and delinquency are significantly higher among youth who report cyber bullying,” said Ellen Rondina a professor of social work at the University of New England and researcher of bullying. “Youth who cyber bully are more likely to be engaging in rule-breaking behavior and to have problems with aggression.”
With depression, often comes suicidal thoughts. Sadly, Ryan Halligan, Megan Meier, Jessica Logan, Hope Witsell, Tyler Clementi, and Amanda Todd are among the many teens and youths that have committed suicide because of cyberbullying.
Stop the bullying
If you are a bully: stop! It’s not worth someone potentially ending their life for your ten seconds of feeling superior. Rondina said in a presentation that those identified as bullies have a 1 in 4 chance of having a criminal record by their 30s. The patterns you start in your youth will carry on into adulthood.
If you are being bullied: seek guidance and support. Social worker, Sha-Rhonda Davis, said that as a counselor, “People come to you with deep problems, and they need to be able to trust that you will listen to them and do all that you can to help them help themselves.” There are people there to help you, so go and talk to them.
If you are aware of bullying and want to help end it: find a way to support the cause. Case Western Reserve University has a new program–StandUp: A Program to Prevent Bullying to help stop the bullying. Websites such as NoBullying.com, StopBullying.gov, and TheBullyProject.com are out there to help bring more awareness to this horrible phenomenon.
It’s time to stop the bullying, and anyone can help.