Lucky

Today's blog post comes to us from Senior Client Support Specialist Andrea Lovan.

Andrea LovanIn a previous blog entry, I mentioned how lucky I felt in grade school. I was one of the bigger kids until sixth grade, and bullying wasn’t much of an issue for me back then. Still, I’d be lying if I pretended that my bully-free existence continued through middle and high school. After elementary school, when other kids caught up to me in weight and height, I realized that, for most of my childhood, I was protected by the gift of genetics. I was bigger, therefore I was safer. That didn’t last once puberty hit the rest of the class. For a few of the boys, I became a new target, and it was about that time that many of the girls realized there were more ways to bully than by getting physical.

By seventh grade I had been hit and pushed; called names and cussed out; the butt of the joke and the focus of the rumor. The physical bullying lasted about one year, enough time for attackers to realize I would always fight back. The verbal and social bullying continued into high school. There were no systems in place to protect me. At one point, I screwed up my courage and told a teacher about a boy who, on school grounds, repeatedly pulled my hair hard enough to bruise my scalp and once used his slingshot to shoot me in the head, breaking the skin. The teacher simply explained that I needed to tell her the moment something happened, whether or not the boy was present so that she could see for herself. The thought of “telling on him” with him there, with other students around was unimaginable. No report was made, and no further action was taken.

Still, I count myself lucky. I had a support system. Many of my classmates were experiencing bullying as well and several of us decided to forge friendships with one another. That close-knit group of friends kept me sane throughout high school. As loners we were vulnerable, but together—standing up for each other—we deterred bullying. It’s true what they say: “There is safety in numbers.”

The recent suicides related to bullying have brought back a lot of memories for me. I remember more than one close friend in high school telling me they were done living because they felt worthless. Who could blame them for feeling that way? They heard it from other kids in the hallway every day before class. I remember visiting a relative in the hospital after she swallowed a bottleful of pills. One reason she tried to end it all was because each day at lunchtime, a former boyfriend led the cafeteria in repeated choruses of the nickname “whore.” And, I admit, remembering a teenage me, in the darkest of moments, thinking I couldn’t go on. But, like I said, I’m one of the lucky ones. I had enough support from teachers, friends, and family to feel that I was not facing torment alone. I made it out alive.

Others are not so lucky. Every bullying-related death or suicide is a harsh reminder of what can happen when we let children believe they are without support and that bullying is a rite of passage, an accepted part of childhood. My heart hurts for those who saw suicide as a better option than going to school. It hurts for the families and communities that have lost children to the bullying epidemic. And, though many might find it difficult to believe, my heart hurts for children who commit acts of bullying and then live their lives knowing that their actions contributed to the pain and, possibly, the death of a fellow student.

Now that bullying has been brought into the light and celebrities are crawling out of the woodwork to advocate for change, now that our society is becoming aware of the consequences of ignoring bullying, now that we are opening our eyes to the detrimental effects of allowing children to suffer in silence—NOW it is time to act.

Now is the time to stand up for those who can’t do it for themselves and to protect children who live each day in fear.

Now is the time to ask yourself: What am I doing to prevent bullying?