Back when I was a kid, I was bullied unmercifully. When I told an adult, it would just get worse. It rather hearkened back to getting spanked to the level of a whoopin’ because if I was going to cry, I was going to be given a reason to cry about. So I said nothing and took it. That’s the other thing I kept hearing. I wasn’t being bullied. I was too sensitive – I needed to develop a thicker skin. I was over-reacting and being unreasonable. I quickly figured out that if I with was an adult, I’d be ok. I had realized that if things happened with an adult nearby, they would stop things quickly. So I arranged things so I’d always have an adult nearby. I stopped going to recess. I needed to study, or I didn’t feel right, or something – ANYTHING! I started working in the lunchroom to keep from being around kids alone. By the time I was finished with my job, all the other kids had moved from the cafeteria to go play. After I ate, I would volunteer at the library, that kept me from being on the playground. On Wednesday, when the library was closed, I became adept at finding places to hide. When the bus got too bad, and sitting in the front was no longer enough, I started riding my bike, The day that kids chased me on bicycles, I set my bike down and knocked on a random door. They went away. Riding my bike meant that I was often at school very early – so I became a crossing guard before school.
It’s easy to say to fight back. Even at 12, I weighed less than the maximum weight of a suitcase at an airport (75 lbs). There was no teaching at my home of how to throw a punch where I didn’t get injured. The response to me trying to respond force with force at home was a whoopin’. One day, though, I had enough. I was in the 6th grade. A classmate had followed me home, and I couldn’t outrun him. No one else lived on my walking route home, so I was alone. He had filled my ears with how he was going to follow me home, force his way into the house, rape me, and cut my throat.(I WAS 12 – AND SO WAS HE!) I believed him. I finally hit my limit. I told him to go home. He refused. I told him I was going to hurt him. He laughed, pushed me down, and kicked me. When I got up, he continued with his monologue of how he would hurt and kill me. I grabbed my instrument case – it was wood, not plastic. I raised it over my head and aimed for his skull. He brought both arms up in a defensive/protective gesture, still laughing….. that was the first time I heard the sickening sounds of bones breaking in person. He kinda cradled his arms and shuffled off for home as fast as he could. I can’t remember if he was crying – he likely was. It took me hours to go to Daddy and tell him what happened. He looked up his parents names in the phone book, got the address, and we went to his house. The kid was just arriving home from the ER as we arrived. He had both arms in casts. In my one swing, powered with adrenaline, the little pipsqueak had managed to break both bones on both of his forearms. My dad stood there as I confessed to his parents what I did – and why. My dad offered to help with the medical costs. His dad said no, but turned on his son and confronted him about his lying that he fell off his skateboard and hurt his arms. Daddy picked me up over his shoulder and got us out of there as his father whipped his belt from his pants in a single motion, ‘How dare you get bested by a girl…..’ The trip home was silent, other than to tell me not to tell my mother about this. We never mentioned this again – ever. Although he did secretly start teaching me how to defend myself – giving me levels of defense other than (his words) the nuclear option. The kid was out of school for several days. When he returned, he became my greatest defender for the rest of the year. Later, he told me that his mom had told him how foolish he had been – fore even a rabbit can do serious damage when cornered.
No one had ever addressed or mentioned the threats he had uttered.
That was over 40 years ago.
Bullying doesn’t stop at childhood. Bullying is about power, regardless of age. While I do not believe it is possible to stop all bullying – we must try. Not just one or a few of us. Not just stand there and watch the horror take place so we can be a good witness, not just pour platitudes upon the situation – but DO SOMETHING!