Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Walk Away

All morning long, various media outlets have been focusing on a YouTube video of a bully and his victim.  The incident occurred in Australia and the two boys were suspended for their actions. 

This story has been niggling at me, mostly because people are cheering the victim who in defending himself, body slammed his attacker and broke the boy's ankle...thank goodness that is all that was broken. 

To set this up, after school, a 12 year old skinny-minny fishtail of a boy has been harassing a 15 year old boy, who in addition to being older is heavier than the bully.  The incident was videoed by cell phone as the 12 year old "picked on" the other boy, punching him in the face, head and stomach and verbally taunting him.  There were a number of other students witnessing the incident and not doing anything to stop the assault. The original victim finally took all the abuse he could and he retaliated, first wrestling the smaller boy and once he got the upper hand, he lifted the boy up over his head and slammed him to the ground.  The younger boy's ankle was broken when it hit a small retaining wall.  The older boy then backed off but was confronted by a larger friend of the injured boy, who ordered him to walk away.  The bullied boy held his ground for a moment and then proceeded to leave the area. When it appeared that the friend might go after the retreating boy, another student stepped in and stopped him.

The bullied boy, Casey, has been dubbed the unofficial PSA poster boy for anti-bullying.  Many people applaud the boy for fighting back, defending himself.  This concerns me.  Not knowing the whole story, I find it difficult to endorse his behavior.  My best advice to anyone being bullied is seek help...walk away, run is by the grace of God that the body slam resulted only in a broken or sprained ankle.  What would people be saying if the 15 year old, much larger boy tossed the bully on his head or broke his neck?  Would he still be a hero?  I hope that with all this attention, someone finds those boys and follows up on the incident...what did they learn? What do they plan to do in the future about bullying?

As a person who was bullied all through junior high until the day she graduated from high school, a small part of me understands how the victim felt, and why he reacted they way he did.  It doesn't mean it is right though.  When I was in high school, I had been the victim of physical and verbal abuse and teasing for four or five years.  I was taller, heavier and developed earlier than most of my peers...I also had a maiden name just begging to be teased...Rump.  I was called Plump Rump, Rumpie, Rump Roast and some more vulgar variations.  Most of the people who bullied me were girls.  I got pinched, shoved into walls, my hair pulled, things stolen from me, my locker and belongings vandalized.  Even in the days before social networking, there were mean rumors and lies spread.

Being painfully shy, I didn't make friends easily.  Some of my classmates took my shyness as my being stuck-up, another baseless reason to pick on me.  Being shy also meant that I didn't know what to do or have the courage to go find help.  For a long time...too long.. I took it.  Sometimes I would tell my mother I was sick so I could stay home from school and have a day without being abused. 

Eventually, I told my mother about the bullying.  She talked to the administration at school and my guidance counselor and for a short time the physical attacks stopped, but the verbal taunting became even more hurtful.  But, I remember one day in 10th grade, walking down the crowded corridor on my way to gym class and two girls walked up behind me, grabbed my arms and rammed me into a brick wall.  The impact was so great, I scraped my face and was bleeding.  My belongings fell every which way and were kicked all along the hallway. No one one saw me. I was nothing to them. I pulled myself together, with the taunts of the bullies ringing down the hall, humiliating me.  I went into the locker room late.  My PE teacher saw my face and asked me if I wanted to go to the nurse.  I said no.  I changed and joined the rest of the girls for warm-ups.  The two girls who attacked me were in the class and so was the nastiest bully of them all.  She was friends with the two assailants and it was obvious they told her of their recent actions.  This girl was the "enforcer" for some of my tormentors.  They would often use her to hurt me.  The nasty bully happened to have a last name that placed her next to me in line as we warmed up in gym. The teacher told us to pair up with the person next to us and do some stretching exercises together.  We were to sit on the floor and reach for our toes and our partner was to count for us so we could hold the stretch.  My bully opted to help me reach my toes by drilling her knees into my back and putting her full body weight on me.  Now, I was big...but I was physically fit and strong.  I reacted to the pain and pressure by whipping my body upright and jamming my arms back to dislodge her.  She fell backward hard...almost a body slam.  I stood up, angry...fists clenched and I waited.  The teacher having witnessed this, gave my assailant detention and threw her out of class, sending her to the locker room to change before going to the office.  She then called me aside and told me to go to the locker room, splash  some water in my face and do what I needed to teacher had just given me permission to fight back. 

I went into the locker room, and splashed water on my face.  The bully saw me and came over, yelling at me for getting her in trouble.  She swore at me and took a step toward me.  I told her to go away.  She kept coming.  I then beat the crap out of her.  When she had had enough...I went out to the teacher and told her what happened.  I then volunteered to go to the office.  She let me go.  We both knew I needed to face the consequences for my actions. 

I spoke with the dean of women, the school nurse and eventually the principal.  My punishment was to apologize for hitting the girl.  She accepted my apology and never spoke to me again. She never apologized to me.

After that, the bullies seemed less interested in physically harassing me, although there were times when their words hurt more than a punch ever could.  From that point on, I acted to make changes.  I ran for student council and won each of the four years.  I held office in other school groups and I worked hard to make people aware that being different was okay.  I tried to lead by example.  I tried to treat others as I wished to be treated.  I also learned to be quick with wit and tongue...I used my words to buy the time I needed to walk away from potential problems.  I think by the time I graduated, many of my peers respected me.

Nietzsche said,"That which does not kill us makes us stronger".  Being bullied made me stronger, but I think it also killed a part of me.

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