I think back to my life between the ages of 7 and 14. It is remarkable that I survived.
They did not believe me when, as a preteen, I told my parents and my uncle that I was being abused by my grandfather. The abuse had gone on for years. After that, I had to continue to stay at Grandpa’s house numerous times for years. And the abuse continued.
I had to accept it. When you are a child, you don’t have a vote on plans or where you will visit. I accepted that I was in a battle that I had to fight alone.
I felt abandoned and alone, not to mention scared out of my wits. But I carried on, and I survived.
When you muster the courage to cry for help, and your petition falls on deaf ears, it is unlikely, especially as a child, that you will speak up again. The rejection and feeling of desperation and abandonment are too painful the first time. Why try again?
So, I learned to button my lip and deal with it.
I learned how to avoid him. I learned never to be alone at his home if I could avoid it, and I did so at all costs. I learned to stay away from the bottom of the stairs and the pool cabana.
Simultaneously, between the ages of 11-12, I was brutally bullied by a group of girls.
I became close friends with five girls when we started middle school. We were at the age where we discovered boys and wore Levi cords with combs in our back pockets. Our hair was feathered; we listened to Andy Gibb, and our biggest concern was when our sibling would hang up the “Trimline” phone so that we could make a call.
We rode bikes and went to the library on Thursdays after school. We didn’t go for the books. We went for the boys.
Grade 6 was a different beast altogether.
Things took a turn. It was awful.
One moment, the five popular girls were my besties, giggling during class and sitting together at lunch. We discussed what boys were the cutest and that our Social Studies teacher used to be a nun. Then, the next day there was no seat for me at the lunch table. Later I would open my locker to see one of the dreaded notes, a piece of looseleaf paper carefully folded into a square with the end tucked in just so.
It looked like a compact, hard little square rock and felt like one too. My gut lurched as I unfolded it.
I would read that they had decided, on that given day, that they were all going to be mad at me. There was never a particular reason for their cruelty. They just felt like it.
They would be mad if I got a new pair of chinos, earned a better grade on my science test or God forbid, a cute boy liked me. The duration of the girls ostracizing me could be anywhere from a day to 2 weeks.
My stomach hurt all the time.
One morning I walked into the girls room during the third period and saw my name in black sharpie all over the stall. It still makes me ill to think of the text. It is unnecessary to bring up. You would not want me to.
I don’t know if I will every fully recover from what was violently plastered all over those yellow stall doors. It still haunts me.
By the end of the fourth period, the girls rooms smelled of fresh paint. I never told my parents or anyone other than my teacher, who called the custodian immediately.
Nothing more happened. That was that. The dreary yellow paint masked that blasphemy.
Don’t you think that the school should have taken this one step further? Don’t get me wrong. I did very much appreciate the paint. But as horrific as that writing on the wall was the fact that they ignored the actual writing on the wall was excruciating.
That excruciating pain was reminiscent. It felt all too familiar. Not long before I felt the same way when my parents did not acknowledge my abuse. Now, my school did not acknowledge it either.
Can you imagine how that felt?
I put the thermometer on the radiator the next day and for four days following. You can’t go to school with a fever.
I arrived at school every day wondering what was going to happen to me. My parents advocated for me constantly, but it fell on deaf ears because “Well, that is middle school girls for you!” or “She just needs to toughen up.” The worst was, “Just tell her to ignore them.”
The situation escalated to the point where my parents pulled me out of public school and sent me to a private school for girls. There were subsequent rumors around that, too.
Sadly, bullying occurs all the time, especially with tweens.
Boys and girls bully differently. Boys tend to bully physically whereas girls bully by exclusion.
Girls are clandestine. Girls bully in packs and frequently, it is over power and popularity. Often it is because they feel threatened.
The term used to define this type of bullying is Relationship Aggression, and my middle school life was a perfect example of it. The hate notes, whispering, unprecedented abandonment and fabricate rumors are all examples of this. The aftermath is devastating. It can cause irrevocable damage.
Victims of bullying are afraid. They feel horribly vulnerable. They feel exposed and powerless. There is an overwhelming sense of sadness and isolation.
And, these feelings were reminiscent of those of my sexual abuse.
There is an uncanny parallel between sexual abuse and bullying. The root of both is dominance and power. It is the control over one who is vulnerable and weaker. In both crimes, and they are both crimes, is an active and common thread.
A lot of my blog posts address surviving sexual abuse. But can you see how similar these two epidemics are? Bullying is very much alive and well just as is sexual abuse.
It keeps happening because no one stops it. It continues to thrive because it CAN.
Let’s cut it out.
Talk. Listen. Explore. Get involved. Read the signs. Your child’s health and happiness depend on it.
Click the link below for an excellent source on bullying. It was a source of information in this post. Check it out!