Being bullied—being a survivor
Many of us have been bullied as children. It happened to me when I was in first grade and several times later. The first time was when I was “beaten up” when I was on my way home. I wasn’t permanently damaged physically, but it hurt emotionally.
When I told my parents about it I was told to “fight my own battles.” They didn’t feel they should have to become involved in a problem affecting me, so as a 6-year-old I had to figure it out for myself. My solution was to avoid the bullies. I learned every possible way to get home from school without having to repeat my path and the bullies couldn’t find me. It wasn’t the best solution, but it worked. Eventually they gave up.
Kids react to being bullied in different ways. Some cope and become stronger, but some never find the best response. Anger issues and/or decreased self-image can result. And we have seen bullying result in violent acts, including school shootings.
All children should know that bullying is not cool, not a sign of strength, and not a good thing. When we victimize other people, we show our own weakness and insecurity. The good kids who don’t bully others can play a part by reporting bullying, and by helping to protect and emotionally support bullying victims.
My biggest problem was facing the bullying alone, so when others helped me I was encouraged and actually grew stronger. How much should parents, teachers and other adults intervene? My view is they should do all they can to stop it or at least to encourage and support their kids.
A physical education coach in high school was a great source of encouragement to me, because he was a friend when I needed one, and he also encouraged me that it was okay to report the abuse. And he stopped the bullying.
Bullying didn’t destroy me, and it didn’t prevent me from living a good life. But it hurt, and I can empathize with anyone who has shared that experience. I doubt if bullying can ever be eliminated, but everyone who cares can and should help reduce the damage.
WARREN DOMKE is a columnist for the Pleasanton Express.