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The Fight Against Bullying

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. During this month, students, schools, and communities all over the world go blue together against bullying. National Bullying Prevention Month was founded in the U.S. in 2006 by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center to raise awareness about bullying. Initially, the first week of October was recognized, but in 2010, the event was expanded to the entire month. In 1999, Georgia was the first state to enact anti-bullying legislation. The law went into effect just a month after the Columbine Massacre. The legislation addresses cyber-bullying, hazing, character education, policies prohibiting bullying, expected codes of conduct for students, and a disciplinary policy. Since then, all states now have anti-bullying laws, and over the years, it has grown in awareness and reach. I am an advocate for anti-bullying and happy to bring awareness to something that is personal to me. You see, I was bullied as a child from the age of nine to almost thirteen and even as a young adult. It took me years to get past the effects of bullying, the depression, the rejection, the insecurities, and the way I saw myself, but thank God, I finally did, and I’m here to help and support others in any way that I can.    

The National Centre Against Bullying describes bullying as an ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical, and/or social behavior that intends to cause physical, social, and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power or perceived power over one or more persons who feel unable to stop it from happening. Bullying happens in person or online; via various digital platforms and devices, and it can be obvious (overt) or hidden (covert). Bullying behavior is repeated or has the potential to be repeated over time.  

There are many different types of bullying. Some are obvious to spot, while others are more subtle. There’s physical bullying, where the individual is being hit, kicked, tripped, punched, pushed, or their property is damaged. There’s verbal bullying, where the individual is being called names (i.e., homophobic or racial), insulted, teased, or intimidated. There’s also social bullying, which is sometimes referred to as covert bullying. It’s often harder to recognize and can be carried out behind the person’s back. It is designed to harm someone’s reputation and/or cause humiliation (i.e., lying, spreading rumors/gossip, negative facial or physical gestures, menacing or contemptuous looks, playing nasty jokes to embarrass and humiliate, mimicking unkindly, and encouraging others to exclude someone socially. Another is cyberbullying, which includes abusive or hurtful texts, emails, posts, images, or videos. Bullying doesn’t just happen to children. Adults are bullied too. It may be harder to prove, but it happens, and it’s no less painful to deal with.  

Bullying is not single episodes of social rejection or dislike, single episodes of acts of nastiness or spite, random acts of aggression or intimidation, or mutual arguments, disagreements, or fights. While these actions can cause great distress, they do not fit the definition of bullying and they’re not examples of bullying unless someone is deliberately and repeatedly doing them. 

Bullying, if not addressed, can cause major distress such as physical, psychological, and emotional damage, and sometimes it takes years to recover from it. The goal of a bully is to make a person feel so scared and intimidated that they don’t want to talk to anyone. I’m here to tell people who are being bullied; whether you’re a child or an adult, fight that feeling and find someone that you trust, a person that will listen and not judge you. Don’t be afraid to talk to them and be honest about what’s going on and how it’s making you feel. For those who see it happen, don’t just stand by and watch. Say something; do something.       

The following is a true story of a 12-year-old who attended Crystal Lake Middle School in Lakeland, FL. On September 10, 2013, Rebecca Sedwick jumped from a concrete tower and died as a result. She was a victim of bullying and had been for months. She had been threatened, intimidated, and even beaten up. The bullying happened in person and online, with her receiving messages that she should kill herself. Before she died, she had spent time in the hospital due to slitting her own wrists. She had even moved to a different school, but that didn’t stop the cyber-bullying or the act of persistent psychological abuse by one’s peers over the internet. Two girls were eventually arrested for bullying Sedwick. They were ages 14 and 12. One of them had posted a comment on social media after Sedwick’s funeral, stating that she knew she bullied Sedwick into killing herself. This girl’s comment also indicated that she didn’t care. This was a horrid case of bullying that led to the death of an innocent victim. Just reading this story about Rebecca again makes me so sad and angry that this happened to her.  

I encourage everyone to stand up against bullying. Everyone can do something to help prevent it. Look for signs in your children, friends, loved ones, and people in your community. You could be the one to help save them. For more information about bullying, visit www.stopbullying.gov. It provides information from various government agencies on bullying, cyber-bullying, prevention, and response. To talk with someone now, call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).  

 

Article Written by: Janet Downs | Janet Downs is an instructor with over 20 years of experience, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and non-profit organizations. She volunteers and is a resource for the homeless community and is working towards starting her own non-profit. She’s passionate about mental health and seeks to bring more awareness to the black community. She is active in church ministry, a writer, and loves music, hiking, and travel.

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