It’s the oldest expression in the book, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Anyone who’s ever been bullied, harassed, or abused is aware of how untrue that statement really is.
Can you remember a time when you were bullied or teased? How many details can you remember about that event? I can remember one incident in particular with exceptional clarity. I must have been in the 5th grade. My class was reading out of our history books and there I sat, bookless. When time came for me to read, I said, “Oh! I left my stupid book at home.” That was when one of the girls said to me, “It’s not your book that’s stupid – you are.”
Of course, in hindsight, I wonder if someone else said similarly stinging words to her once before. At the time, however, I was the one being stung.
Here’s a clever video that depicts the damage words can do:
Flash forward to sophomore year of high school. After losing a substantial amount of weight and ditching my glasses for contacts, I was a brand new person. The differences for which I’d been teased and bullied were finally gone. That’s also when I learned how to be a bully. I teased people who sat with me at lunch, to the point of harassment. I blew people off. I didn’t even bother to learn the names of a few people and simply referred to them as “Greg.”
On top of everything else, I learned how a bully gets away with being a bully. Robin M. Kowalski put it most eloquently by writing, “Ironically, no matter how threatening a tease is to the recipient, the teaser can always claim that he or she was ‘only kidding’ and, by doing so, seemingly disavow himself or herself of any responsibility for harmful effects resulting from the tease.” Well, that’s convenient isn’t it? Suddenly the whole teasing affair becomes a wash… except for a matter of that damaged person who’s left to pull him/herself back together.
Based on the response from an article I shared on Facebook the other day, I’ve realized that bullying prevention is important to a lot of people. One person who plans to do something about bullying is Jennifer Hoyt Huerth.
Jennifer, a resident of Hampden, Maine, was bullied and sexually harassed while growing up. In Jennifer’s words, “I was pretty much branded a slut.” What happened when the abuse escalated? What happened when disgusting words were spray-painted on the walls? “I was asked to leave that school.” In her 10th grade year, she ran away. She ran away from the school, her home, her state. That was years ago. Today, Jennifer is back in Maine and back on track. She speaks to students about bullying and hopes to spread that message to 25 schools in the span of 25 weeks. You can help! Her Don’t Bully ME Project is in the running for $5,000 from the Pepsi Refresh Project. Votes can be cast daily until June 30th Pepsi Refresh Project - Don't Bully ME.
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