Thursday, March 15, 2012
Silent Tears, Silent Pain
The old expression is “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. I will have to disagree with this one. Only a bully would create a grammar school rhyme stating it is not harmful unless your physically attacked. I believe that every man, woman, and child has been bullied at one point in their life. Even the bullies at school are bullied... usually at home by a parent. Bullying has become an epidemic that society has turned their backs on for far too long.
Despite Columbine, the Virginia Tech massacre and the Pennsylvania Amish School shootings, bullying has not only become a larger issue but has gone high tech. Once upon a time, most kids only needed to worry about being called names and pushed when they were at school. In today’s age of technology we now have the unfortunate ability to make people’s lives miserable from our keyboards and cell phones.
Social networking such as MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter have allowed sociopathic members of society to publish harmful, embarrassing, and untrue pieces of information on others. http://www.webmd.com/parenting/tc/bullying-characteristics-of-children-who-bully. For many of the victims of this bullying, the burden of their fear, shame, and worthlessness becomes so overwhelming that they chose to end their misery through suicide. The most famous of this is Phoebe Prince who had been bullied relentlessly. Despite the amount of people who were aware of the heartless treatment this young girl was enduring, not one person came to her defense. I guess this is a two fold article in the respect that the one thing that disgusts me more than a bully, is a bystander that looks on with the “it’s none of my business” attitude.
Sadly, even people I am acquainted with openly recite the words “it’s none of my business” regarding topics as important as bullying. What I think may be even more sad is that some people have the mentality that being bullied is a part of life that helps build one’s character. These people were obviously the bullies back in their day. Some of them still are! I’ve digressed from my original topic and suppose the “it’s none of my business” should be left for another time.
For a moment, let’s look at the bully themselves. There are multiple reasons why people feel the need to pick on others. For some, it is a social status and the feeling of being cool that is titled upon them by other peers that are often too afraid to speak up and stop the bully.
The other reason, and I believe (especially looking back now to the bullies in my school) the main reason is due to their home lives. Many of these kids, are either disciplined through physical means at home, or receive little to no attention from their parents and have a need to feel important (both physically and emotionally abused). In one unfortunate situation at my husband’s school, the bully “Jim” was abused by his father who was an alcoholic and drug addict. Jim was abused so severely that he slept with a shotgun aimed at his bedroom door with the trigger booby-trapped to protect him from his dad. Jim’s father was heard frequently calling his son a maggot by neighborhood kids. Sadly, no teachers, school advisors administrators, or neighboring parents ever interceded. Upon great research, I was unable to find any documentation on Jim, leading me to believe he is either in the criminal justice system or potentially deceased. Twenty-five percent of all bullies enter the criminal justice system by their mid twenties, and many are involved in other aggressive behaviors.
Let’s take a quick peak at one of his targets. A very intelligent and shy boy who was socially awkward. His torment was brutal. Jim was not only a physically abusive bully, but he would find every weakness a person had and used it to humiliate and demoralize his prey. Unfortunately, the victims then become the weak target for all bullies to unleash their terror on, as they did with this victim. Many victims walk alone in this world as others are too fearful of befriending them, knowing they too may fall prey to the bully. His victim still has the scars to prove the abuse he suffered and his self worth is far less than it should be even to this day. He still expresses loathing towards Jim even eighteen years later.
For some kids, such as my youngest son, the bullying causes extreme emotional problems. Within his first months of kindergarten, he was shoved against playground equipment so hard that a large lump formed on his head. After the second instance of bullying, he came home with multiple bruises on his lower back.
Now I have a six year old child that is physically ill every morning prior to school. Toryn, begging to stay home out of fear and not eating, was falling apart in front of me.
After speaking with his teacher, playground supervisors, school psychologist, principal, assistant superintendent, and superintendent, I was reassured that “these incidents do not occur at our schools”. Really? So, I guess the insinuation is that this little six year old creatively discovered a way to fake his injury for fun. Maybe they thought we were responsible for this and instead of hiding abuse (like most parents do) we would bring as much attention to it as possible!
As Toryn’s anguish grew, mine did as well. Toryn was taken to a therapist who confirmed he was suffering from anxiety related to bullying. Additionally, she contacted both the principal and superintendent advising them of her findings and alerting them to the severity of the situation. At that point, I was informed I was no longer welcome to volunteer at the school. No changes were ever made and Toryn was assaulted a third and final time. I removed him from the elementary school he was attending. Toryn was one of the lucky ones in that he had parents that were unwilling to just accept this as a rite of childhood passage. Many children are not as fortunate and suffer life long effects. Among these are, illnesses related to stress, depression, anxiety, low self esteem, and alienation. In more extreme cases, post traumatic stress disorder and suicide can be the final results.
Over many years, I’ve asked myself why bullies are so cruel and how it is so easy for them to behave the way they do. Oddly enough, my answer to why only came when I was researching the dysfunction of my childhood and the actions of a “friend”. She had bullied me and even worse, my oldest son Ryan. At that time, I discovered an article that discussed the different types of bullies and their intentions of control. http://www.bullyonline.org/workbully/serial.htm In this article, bullies are described as mentally ill and often sociopathic.
Wait! What? Sociopath... like Ted Bundy or Charles Manson? How could that be? These school aged bullies are no murderers are they? The most famous case of a bully that did attempt murder is of Ken McElroy. A town bully who spent over two decades terrorizing the town of Skidmore Missouri. Along with theft, arson, assault, rape, pedophilia, burglary and hog and cattle rustling, Ken McElroy bullied witnesses to the count of twenty-one dropped convictions. He was shot dead in broad daylight in front of an entire town crowd. Police have been unable to determine who the shooter was and no charges have ever been filed.
Yes, bullies can be and often are sociopaths!
The opinion of one therapist, Cherri Sabo, LPC of Clearly Designed Lives in Westminster, Colorado, is that bullying is the “gateway to being a sociopath”.
My research was unable to answer the question as to why people do not intervene and why the zero bullying tolerance is so ineffective. Again, I turned to Ms. Cherri for an answer. I was surprised to hear her opinion on the question. Bullying is not a black and white problem. In other words, how does one measure when an activity crosses the line into bullying? Ms. Cherri also posed the issue of communication at schools. Because kids are moving from class to class, there is a lot of time that in not supervised by adults. Even if a teacher does witness bullying, how do they inform the rest of the staff on the matter?
Lastly, under the new school grading codes, if a school is failing in academics and put on probation, administrators can use improvement in the discipline area to show “improvement” within the school. Therefore, the schools are avoiding accountability on the bullying front.
My opinion into this question is that people lack courage, and do not want to make waves. In other words, they turn a blind eye.
As much as we, as a society would love to see the world as a perfect place where everything is peachy, we are only avoiding the real issues and creating pain for future generations. Putting a new paint of coat on a 1970’s pick-up truck may look pretty, but that does not help fix the transmission problems.
It is of my belief that change must start within our own homes. We must teach our children the difference between right and wrong. It is imperative to right our wrongs, and put the broom away. There is plenty of dirt under our rugs. If a family cannot accept their own families imperfections, then how do we ever improve within the larger scale... society?