Tuesday, April 8, 2014

An Army Against Bullying

Today I was watching an episode of 'Katie', and the episode was about sexual cyber-bullying. It featured Sheila Pott, a woman that lost her daughter, Audrie, due to suicide after having revealing pictures go viral. We have all heard about bullying and the newest form of it, cyber-bullying. I know I have seen the commercials and ads and read the testimonies, and it always made me very sad to think of other people having to go through that. However, today was different. I wasn't just sad, I was scared. Scared because I now have a daughter that may one day experience this torment. Ella was sitting in my lap while I watched this mother share the story of her daughter hanging herself in their bathroom after having pictures of her passed out, naked body defiled by a marker all over sent to her classmates. I realized if this behavior continues it could one day be my child that is publicly humiliated like this...and it horrified me.

I immediately knew I had to do something, so I did what I do best. I researched. Click here for some facts you may not know about cyber-bullying.

Reading all of these facts and statistics satisfied my immediate need for knowledge, but I realized I also needed to DO something. Educating and raising Ella to be a strong, compassionate person is a big chunk of it, but the rest of the world has to change in order to eradicate this problem. Actually, "problem" isn't the right word for it. It's not severe enough to describe a situation where children are taking their own lives. It's an epidemic really. So I began to write. I do strongly believe that education and knowledge about the facts are key to ending this type of bullying that everyone keeps saying is really just kids being kids and pulling pranks. But education can only go so far. Bullies need to see the emotional and mental affects they cause. For those that are bullied, education and empathy won't do much to alleviate the pain they feel. They need to have their confidence, strength, and self-worth re-built. I deeply believe all of these things can be done, and I sincerely hope it can be done before another generation goes through the emotional damage of bullying.

How to stop bullying:
---For boys that are bullying:
  1. Think about how you would feel if it was your mom or your little sister that was being violated. photographed, and made fun of by her peers? What would you do? Would you laugh right along with your buddies or would you punch the guy in the throat for even thinking about lifting her shirt up? What if it was your future wife that had naked pictures taken of her and put on the internet? Would you be okay with those pictures being available for anyone to look at or would you be enraged that someone dared to do that kind of thing to her? Because all of these things are what you are causing if you participate or even if you are just a witness.
  2. Think about the consequences. It's not a prank, it's sexual assault. Your life could be destroyed. You could end up in jail and even be labeled as a sex offender for the rest of your life. You could lose out on getting into the college you want, being offered your dream job, you may never marry because you can't find a woman willing to accept your past, and you may never have the life you are envisioning right now. Touching and violating a girl that is unconscious or intoxicated is illegal. She cannot legally offer consent. Your "prank" is actually rape. Is it really worth getting a laugh out of your friends?
---For parents of girls that are bullied:
  1. "Constant Vigilance"-Yes, that is a Harry Potter reference, but I believe it fits here perfectly. No one knows your child better than you, which means your child will do their best to hide it from you! Check their Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and blog to see what they are up to when you aren't around. You don't have to cross the invasion of privacy line to know what is going on in their lives. Pay attention to their sleeping and eating habits and their mood swings. Stress affects a person physically. Are they losing or gaining weight? Is their hair falling out? Are they withdrawing more and more into themselves? All of these could be signs that something is going on and you need to know about it.
  2. Don't be the parent that your child is scared to talk to about things! Don't make your child fear you. Offer them support and let them know you are in their corner no matter what. Your daughter could have been passed out drunk when she was assaulted. Be sure she knows she can still tell you about it without you freaking out about the drinking.
  3. Don't overreact. Your initial reaction is to be outraged (and rightly so!) and want someone to pay for this horrible torture your child has been going through, but don't do anything just yet. Talk to your child and see how they want you to respond. Factor their wants in to your decision about what to do. A lot of times you can inadvertently make things worse for your child. Form a gameplan and always put your child first. Spend time reassuring them they did nothing wrong, helping them cope with their feelings and emotions, and helping them re-build their self-confidence and self-image. Your child is more important than your anger! (This doesn't mean don't seek punishment for the offenders though!)
---For girls that are being bullied:
  1. You are beautiful. You are worthy. You are intelligent. You are strong. You are important. You matter. And you will be okay! These are the most important things for you to know. Bullying hurts you but you are stronger than it...even if you don't feel very strong. You have support and help available to you. Take advantage of it. Talk to someone, a parent, teacher, friend, counselor, or even call a hotline. Whomever you feel most comfortable with. Hold your head up high and know that no one can break you unless you let them. Please know that you aren't alone. Besides just your friends and family supporting you, you have an army of strangers standing beside you, myself included.
As I was thinking about all of this today, I wondered who would really care what I had to say about sexual cyber-bullying. I've never been cyber-bullied and by most standards, I got off pretty easy in school as far as bullying goes. (Although I do distinctly remember a period of time in 8th grade that I asked my mom to check me out for every lunch period to avoid being the target of bullying) But I was never sexually assaulted in any way...if anything it was the opposite for me. I was made fun of for being the girl that never did anything with any boys. I was a "goody goody" and I remember how much I resented that term. Even if it was true. After thinking about all of this I realized that you don't have to be a victim of bullying to be against it. In fact, if more people that usually just watch from the sidelines decided to step forward and voice their outrage about the topic, then change could really begin to happen. Bullies have to be shown that they are not just facing their victims anymore, they are facing a nation full of people that will not accept their actions. Today I join the army against bullies, and I really hope everyone that reads this joins with me.

Please share your pledge to join the army against bullying below in the comments. Feel free to share your story of bullying if you'd like! And please share this with your friends because the more we talk about bullying the bigger of a difference we are making!