I haven’t thought about the kid who bullied me in over twenty years.

Trigger Warning: Bullying and Abuse.

When I was in elementary school, I was bullied by the kid who lived across the street. It started the day we moved in, and it continued until the day we moved out.

His bullying was relentless: I’d be sitting in my front yard playing with my Star Wars figures, and he’d come over and start threatening to take them, break them, hurt me, whatever he had on his broken little mind, until I either started crying or ran into my house. I remember riding my Big Wheel on my sidewalk, and this kid rode up behind me on his dirt bike, crashed it into my back, knocked my legs under my big wheel, and pushed me up the sidewalk until my screams brought parents out of houses. I had skin torn off my spine, and I still have two scars on my knees, and one on the top of my left foot. He shot me with his BB gun one day, narrowly missing my eye. The one time I punched him in the nose, he ran to his dad, who came out of his house and yelled at me. I remember being terrified that he was going to hit me, or worse.

This kid was abusive and cruel. If he’d been an adult, the things he did to me would have qualified as assault, but whenever my parents confronted his parents, nothing happened. I remember being angry with them for not doing more to protect me, but realize in retrospect that they probably did everything they could; this kid’s father was a gun nut, ran with bikers, had friends in the local police department, and basically got away with anything. Eventually, I just stopped telling my parents about my bully, because he’d just bully me worse when I did.

I don’t know what happened to that kid as he grew up. His older siblings were in and out of jail a lot, has father beat his mother, and I would be very surprised if anyone in that family went on to live a happy and fulfilling life. If I’m being honest, I hope that kid is in jail somewhere where he can’t hurt anybody else.

I haven’t thought about that kid in years — these aren’t the kinds of memories that I want to revisit — but I saw some people talking about stopping bullying on Twitter today, including this from Anne:

 

My son was repeatedly bullied by a kid in 4th grade. The principal made excuses for the kid such as “He comes from a single parent home.”

— Anne Witchon (@AnneWheaton) October 17, 2013

 

I couldn’t get any teachers, counselors or even the principal to stop this kid from bullying Ryan. The kid did it for years&it was horrible

— Anne Witchon (@AnneWheaton) October 17, 2013

 

The school finally did suspended the kid who kept bullying Ryan in 7th grade after having to pay for medical bills for Ryan.

— Anne Witchon (@AnneWheaton) October 17, 2013

 

Ryan was shoved over a railing & hit his head,causing a concussion & whiplash. Because it happened on school grounds, they had to pay for it

— Anne Witchon (@AnneWheaton) October 17, 2013

 

No one should have to endure bullying. It shouldn’t take physical injury for a school to step in & stop years of emotional injury.

— Anne Witchon (@AnneWheaton) October 17, 2013

 

Be a good parent, whether you’re single or not. Teach your child to love & respect themselves enough to treat others the same way.

— Anne Witchon (@AnneWheaton) October 17, 2013

 

I was a single parent for years. That is the worst excuse for allowing bullying, ever. I told the principal that & he had no comment.

— Anne Witchon (@AnneWheaton) October 17, 2013

 

My mom rant is done. #StopBullying

— Anne Witchon (@AnneWheaton) October 17, 2013

Anne and I are both sitting here, in our hotel in Texas, crying at these memories. Years later, bullying still hurts.

I also hadn’t thought about all the torment that Ryan had to endure, until I read Anne’s Twitter. I remembered how helpless we felt, how we tried and tried and tried to get someone at the school to do something — to do anything — to help our son, and how the school just made excuses until our son was seriously injured. The school didn’t care at all that he was emotionally abused, and never bothered to address the physical abuse until it cost them money.

The thing is, the bullying that Ryan and I both endured was entirely random. Though our experiences were roughly 20 years apart, they fit a pattern: We did nothing to deserve it. Some kid who was unhappy decided to make us a target, we were helpless to stop it, and the people we turned to who should have helped stop it either couldn’t, or wouldn’t. Just sitting here right now, remembering it, I want to go back in time and make that goddamn school, starting with the coward who was the principal at Ryan’s elementary school, do something about it, so I could save my son from suffering torment that he didn’t deserve, that no child deserves.

Ryan and I both grew up to be successful and happy adults. I don’t know what happened to my bully, but Ryan’s bully is stuck in the community he grew up in, working a dead end job. He looks miserable, and I’m not proud to admit that I’m glad. I hope he suffers for a long time. I’m ashamed to admit that whenever I see him, I want to hurt him the way he hurt my son, but it seems that life is doing that for me.

Who knows what that kid could have done with his life if he’d gotten the help he needed to choose a different path? Who knows how many other kids he hurt, because nobody did anything to stop him?

All people deserve to be happy, and all children deserve to grow up in an environment where they feel safe and free. Schools need to have clear policies in place to stop bullying. Communities need to make it very clear that bullying won’t be tolerated, and bullies — and their parents — need to be held accountable for their actions.

I often feel like Twitter hashtag things are great for making a lot of noise, but not very useful for actually accomplishing meaningful goals. I sincerely hope that this one will be different. Don’t just talk about how we need to #StopBullying, actually do something about it. Talk to parents and kids, live your life by example, and let’s break the cycle, together.

94 thoughts on “I haven’t thought about the kid who bullied me in over twenty years.”

  1. I watch my neighbors bully their children incessantly and I’m deeply disturbed. Its hard to imagine that they’ll grow up to be anything much better than the desperately ignorant and emotionally disturbed people their parents are. It seems like there is something criminal in the act of abusing your own children this way.

  2. I am sorry Wil, but there is something your parents could have done. Moved.

    To all the parents: Your home equity, your sweet rent, your stuff, your inconvenience is NOTHING compared to bullying.

    If you can’t do anything else, just move.

    1. Unfortunately, there are A-holes everywhere you go. Moving would have stopped that particular bully, but what are you going to do the next time? Keep moving every time a bully messes with you/a loved one?

    2. To what end, though? Bullies are everywhere. In every community. Every school. You move, and then there’s the next bully. Every step you take back (which, yes, that’s what moving would be), they take a step forward. When does it end?

      We can’t run from bullies. We need to, HAVE to, stand up to them.

      1. I *FULLY* agree. We teach our kids to let fear control them if they run. I was bullied for years. I chose the path of the martial artist so I could choose whether to be a pacifist or not, instead of being condemned to it.

        Running from a bully does more damage to a soul than being beaten down.

        Telling your parents, telling the school, telling the police, has *NEVER* worked in the history of bullying. They will find you at the mall, at the 7-11, on your walk to someplace else.

        What is the kid going to do when he grows up and has a bully for a boss? or a neighbor that lives next door that is a bully? Running away from a problem is not a really good coping skill.

        Since taking up martial arts training, I have fought any fights, not even as a bouncer in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle. My mental fortitude and inner strength is enough, my fists and feet are just back-ups in case things get out of hand. They never have to this day.

    3. That’s easy to say, “move”, but really, really difficult to do. There is quite a few other things to do in conjunction with schools and even law enforcement but it all begins with awareness. We should never allow another child to grow up thinking, as Mr. Wheaton and many others have thought, that saying/doing anything will make things worse and feeling anger toward their parents. My son was bullied and my significant other at the time went to the kids parent’s and the bullying stopped, but I am not naive enough to think that works every time.

      In the end, what I’m saying is, moving is not the only answer, and sometimes it can’t be the answer, but you should never, ever give up and always fight for your child.

      /rant.

    4. Why should the victim move? If the victim’s gone, the bully will only go after someone else. Moving does very little. Seems like you’re putting the responsibility on the victim. It’s not his/her fault at all, nor should they be the only ones to take action.

    5. My mother, who was a single parent providing for two kids on one job at a fairly low yearly take did move our family out of a school district because of the bullying I endured. In sixth grade I did not have one bully, but seven. It was at the point where the school was so ineffectual at stopping it that I was only going to school three days a week, as the terror of actually showing up was making me physically ill. I would vomit every morning before leaving. It was hard on limited funds, but she moved us out of that school district to one with a better track record of taking care of their students, and I will be forever grateful for that.

    6. @William Stuart, I couldn’t disagree more. I understand the sentiment (material objects don’t outweigh personal safety and health) but being driven away by a bullying kid is no excuse. The bully is the problem and if he/she is the only one in the area, they are the ones that really should be moving out if anything. It’s like saying the one guy on your street is a criminal but everyone else should move out to save themselves from harm. I’d rather call the police.

  3. Sometimes karma works out. My own personal bully, a kid who made my life a living hell through the first seven of eight grades of CATHOLIC school went onto a different (and Catholic) high school, where he was suspended for not only doing drugs on campus, but dealing them. He went on to become a lawyer and law professor … and throughout his abysmal career, he was arrested for DWI at least twice & received sanctions from the ABA. I only found out all of the later year details after I read his obituary & Googled him.

    I don’t take joy in surviving that jerk’s constant bullying throughout the years where I should’ve been just a happy little kid, but there is part of me that feels the karmic tumblers fell into place, just for a moment. It breaks my heart when I read about these kids who are bullied to the point of them doing something desperate to escape the pain. Adults need to stand against bullying from all those who perpetrate it. Doing nothing is just as egregious as doing the bullying.

  4. To add insult to injury, if a kid fights back to defend themselves they get in just as much trouble as the bully who started the whole thing. I remember being suspended a couple times for fighting back. The teachers/Principal said I “should have run away and told an adult”. A lot of good that does, not to mention marking you as a coward for all the other bullies to target.

  5. I suffered my share of abuse at the hand of a neighbor kid that I’m not really ready to share openly. But I am proud of the fact that my brothers and I, as we got into the middle school grades had the ability to stand up for kids who were bullied, to stand between them and their attackers. My younger brother, who is 6’5″ and 280 Lb.’s has been the kid protector for his entire school life. In the 8th grade he was a bit smaller than he is now, but routinely stopped bullying just by being close at hand. In another instance in that year, he was almost expelled(yes, expelled and not suspended) for fighting, however security camera’s showed that he was both standing up for a smaller 7th grade kid and defending himself.

    It’s important to note that we’ve by no mean gone looking for a fight, but unfortunately some situations as a kid and teenager called for it to keep others from being tormented. It’s an ugly thing when one kid abuses another in any way, but hopefully my brothers and I have done something useful in stemming the tide of bullying.

  6. We have all been bullied at some point in our lives. Even the bullies are that way because someone most likely torments them.

    I am not trying to defend bullying, far from it. But, if who we are is the sum of our past experiences, then being bullied is partially responsible for us being who we are.

    Bullying is and always will be a part of growing up. It is about establishing a pecking order. It is about the big picking on the small.

    Sure, there are things we can do to reduce it. Education, peer pressure, better parenting, etc…

    At the end of the day though, it is our responsibility as parents to provide our children with the tools needed not to become a target.

    Bullying needs to be addressed not only from the top down, but from the bottom up as well.

    I know this is a disjointed rant and I apologize for my lack of fluidity. Not every problem is completely the other persons fault. As much as we want to protect our kids, we have to be able to teach them how to protect themselves.

    1. I agree with you in that there is a certain amount of sympathy that a mature person can have for a kid who is damaged and feels he must become a bully. For example, that first family Wil mentioned… I’m sure the lack of a safe, loving home life, and witnessing one parent repeatedly abuse the other, did a number on all those kids. I can feel sympathy for the kid for what he’s been through, but at the same time, allowing the behavior or tolerating it on any level is not acceptable.

      As Will pointed out through his own and through Ryan’s experience, there is usually no rhyme or reason to who a bully targets. You can stand up for yourself, defend yourself (and consequently, these days that will get a kid suspended for “fighting” … because, yes, schools don’t care about stopping bullying or the actual safety of children, only their legal liability. I know of incidents where both kids were suspended when the victim actually DID what the school required and merely tried to get away from the bully pummeling them). The bullying doesn’t stop, just for defending yourself. You can try to avoid the bully or situations that give the bully opportunity. If you are the bully’s chosen target, they will find a way. You can tell a teacher or parent, and probably make the bullying worse.

      How does one prevent oneself from “becoming a target” when a kid doesn’t do anything special to become one and no amount of standing up for yourself makes it stop?

      I think the answer, as Wil’s post mentioned, is society-driven. As a society, we must not tolerate it. Cut out the nonsense that a child coming to the defense of kid being bullied is disciplined or suspended, allow us to teach our kids to be good samaritans again, allow victims of bullying to defend themselves without fear of punishment, show a bully that not one person is willing to let them get away with it. Show a bully that not one person sees him as stronger or better or cooler or funnier for tormenting another human being. And then maybe get the bullies the emotional help they need to become better people.

  7. I think about my bully from time to time. She didn’t exactly pick me at random. We had the same first name.

    She used to tell me awful things about how my father (estranged from the family at the time) was going to bring an army and kidnap me and steal me away. I was too young to know just how ridiculous that was. I was terrified. I had nightmares about the scenarios she described. One day when my dad came to visit me, I freaked out and slammed the door in his face. Years later, I was able to apologize, but it still haunts me.

    She regularly threatened to beat me up, but never actually did.

    I don’t know what kind of life she had in her home that made her think that was fun. I remember her and her friends laughing as they walked away from me one day on the playground. I was in tears.

    Side note: I really don’t think it’s reasonable to expect that everybody can just pick up and move.

  8. I was bullied through out first and second grade, by a girl bigger than I. I didn’t know who to tell and didn’t believe people would listen, so I just suffered. I hadn’t thought about her in years, until reading this post.

    Boy can I relate. The torture, the pain, not knowing what they would do next? When my children dealt with bullies, they brought it to my attention, and we involved the school. Luckily our schools were very good in putting an immediate stop to such behavior. They have a zero tolerance policy now. Thank you for this heartfelt reminder and your wise words. :)

  9. Mr. Wheaton, thank you so much for sharing this. You’ve made me think about my own experiences with being bullied, and I’m sitting here at work with tears in my eyes.

    I remember the day I realized that it had been longer since I’d graduated high school than the time I actually spent in high school. It was strange to be so far removed from all that pain and sorrow, and I felt proud of myself for moving beyond it and becoming a successful adult. I don’t often think of the things that were done to me, but every once in awhile a moment comes rushing into the forefront of my mind and I find myself feeling melancholy.

    Like the time one of my bullies shoved a bloody tampon in my face and threw candy at me during class, and then got all of his friends to torment me after my teacher went to the principal about his behavior.

    Or the time I had finally had enough and swore at one of my bullies. He immediately told the teacher and I was the one who got into trouble, despite the fact that all of the teachers and playground monitors saw how poorly I was treated on a consistent basis.

    Or the time I received a barrage of text messages telling me to just kill myself when they knew I was feeling depressed, vulnerable and had expressed suicide ideation in the past. I cried in the arms of a friend of mine, who could only take my phone and send responses back to her, shaming her for treating me the way she was. The woman who sent me these text messages is a mother now. I only hope she has matured, and learned compassion, and that her two daughters never know what it is like to feel like you have no other option besides suicide.

    These memories hurt, but I have so many more positive, beautiful memories that I try not to dwell on them anymore. The bullies didn’t destroy me. They didn’t win. I’m a happy person who is blessed with the love and adoration of many people.

  10. I’ve always hated the word “bullying.” No shade on this post, which is amazing, I just flinch at “bullying” itself as a word. It’s just such cheeky-wink, 1950s, oh-those-wicked-scamps kind of word – that minimises and dismisses the array of targeted abuses, harassments, assaults, and microagressions that have been normalised (in part BY the erasive language) in our schools, and which so many people bear scars from enduring.

  11. I’d actually written in my blog about standing up to bullies on my brother’s behalf when we were kids a couple of weeks back. School was a social nightmare for both of us. The administration didn’t seem to care, and my mom, who was single at the time, had no idea of how to handle what was going on.

    What strikes me about schools’ ongoing poor responses to bullying is how similar the legal system is when dealing with harassment and domestic abuse. I can think of two local stories where local offenders ended up killing their wives or children because the restraining orders weren’t enforced.

    I was actually harassed and stalked for a while by a middle aged woman who worked at a kiosk not far from the one I did in the Mall of America. She’d call us at home, called my other job pretending to be a cop and threatened me with bodily harm, all the while claiming I was the one harassing her.

    I hadn’t contacted her once throughout this whole thing. The most I did when she did call, was ask she leave me alone. In fact, I was afraid for my safety, as were my loved ones. The anxiety got so bad that I got physically ill at the thought of going to work, and I started losing weight because of it.

    When I tried getting a restraining order out on her, the cop who went to serve her with papers couldn’t because she said she wasn’t the person listed. Why he didn’t ask her for ID is beyond me.

    The whole screwed up situation culminated in HER getting a restraining order out on ME. When the court date rolled around, I was the only one who showed up. While I was there, I put what was happening on official record with the judge and court reporter. The judge also gave me some free legal advice on a couple of things I could do to protect myself against further harassment.

    Turns out one of the other workers she was friends with talked to her and convinced her to drop the whole thing. Unsurprisingly, I wasn’t the first person she’s done this to. She had problems with younger women, and seemed to enjoy playing the ‘victim’ while putting them through hell.

    A week later, I ran into her on the train. She tried to act as if we were buddies, and even tried giving me a hug. Despite the fact I wanted to say or do something very unpleasant to her, I just glared at her and walked away without another word. She, and people like her, are not worth any more of my time or energy.

    The idea that you can’t get legal help unless you’ve already been injured badly enough was just reinforced by that entire experience.

  12. I remember being bullied by groups in high school — although it was always taunting and not physical. I remember running through scenarios in my mind — feeling afraid that complaining to the school would just make it worse because of retribution and because the school adults can’t always be there. Unable to stop it myself through physical violence because of the two-week mandatory suspension for fighting for both parties regardless of the reasons (which I guess served the intended purpose). It was visible. I saw teachers talking to them about it a few times, but it didn’t stop it. I think the attitude back then was that you would encounter people like that through your entire life and you better learn how to suck it up and deal with it yourself. I would have loved to have changed schools, but I suspect I would have encountered similar problems there (or maybe that is the victim in me talking). I know that if my children are ever bullied, I will pursue every legal avenue possible to end it. And if my children ever are bullies… I don’t know what I will do, but it will end.

  13. I remember the school bully, lived in our neighborhood and would do the typical bully stuff (complete with mini-bike, I think that was standard issue).

    One day he screwed with me on the bus as I was getting on, and I couldn’t take it anymore, so I beat him with my Battlestar Galactica lunch box until he ran away to the back of the bus.

    He never said anything to me again. I wish all who are bullied could have that catharsis.

  14. I have the opposite reaction to my former bullies. A couple of years ago I heard one of them lost his father and my heart sank. Another got into drugs and just ruined his life. I felt sorry for him. I stood up for myself a couple of times and that just turned out poorly. I feel terrible about one incident where I threw the first punch after I just had enough of the name calling. I never want to throw the first punch again.
    When I got into high school things changed. I realized I’m the only person that needs to appreciate me. My self esteem went up and I started to get between other kids and bullies. Something that no one ever did for me in grade school. I like to think I made a little bit of a difference.

  15. I was bullied and tormented my whole life. I was called fat, ugly, stupid and many other names. I had a boy in the 7th grade ask me to be his girlfriend and I was so jaded by bullying, on the chance he was asking me just to laugh and throw it in my face, I told him there wasn’t a chance in hell. From kindergarten to the end of high school and even as an adult, I’ve been bullied. As a kid it was other kids, teachers, even my father. As an adult its by people around me- doctors, strangers, business owners…
    “You’re only in pain because you’re fat”, “Well if you diet and exercise”, “How dare you eat food, you’re fat enough already”, “Oh, no, that price is only for REAL weddings”, “Look away, you don’t want to grow up to be like that”– like what? Like I can pass my autoimmune disorder through with the sight of my body? Like I had any say over the love of my life happening to have a female’s body?
    Sometimes worse than the words is the looks. The way people shift their body uncomfortably away from you.
    The pain from years of bullying made me a cold, angry, and bitter person on top of being shy and intimidated. Truthfully, I don’t know if I ever actually told my parents about it because in my mind it could only get worse. As an adult I learned to grow past it, but I have serious trust issues. I have anxiety and depression- I don’t suffer from them, I live through it.
    I’m 27 years old and still don’t really believe it when my wife says I’m beautiful and smart. I know she believes it and I accept that. I embrace the world as an amazing place and I know the bullies in my life didn’t ruin it for me despite bringing me low enough to try and end me. I don’t know the lives they have now but I hope they stop suffering one day enough to bring joy to others instead of pain.

  16. I wish I had just had one bully.

    I was like the ubertarget for bullies from about 2nd grade until my Junior year in HS.

    I started school a year early, was a LATE bloomer, had a goofy first name, scrawny, big thick coke bottle glasses, bookworm, bad clothes, pretty much you name it.

    I can’t even remember most of my bullies. What I do remember was living in constant fear, worrying not if I was going to get beat up, but how bad it was going to be.

    I literally had kids walking by just slug me in the face, and keep walking.

    My parents tried everything, talking to teachers, parents, and even moving.
    None of it really worked.

    Why?

    Because, all the “everybody wins” stuff aside, kids are pack animals to a great degree.

    Bullies are like the lion/wolf that picks the weakest of the herd out as their target. The herd could easily trample the predator, but they flee, leaving the weakest to suffer. Better that poor fool than me.

    Until you get the herd standing together against bullying, it will keep happening short term.

    The real question, how do you stop it long term.

    I had that same feeling of satisfaction seeing one of my bullies miserable, and in a dead end job/life.

    But guess what?

    According to friends, he is passing that bullying right down to his kids. He is making them miserable, and they pass it on to the other kids.

    Until we as a society learn to come together, compromise, not attack, and work together to strengthen everyone, we will continue to have these issues.

  17. I had a few problems with bullies back when I was around 12 to 15 years old.

    My problem is that I have always been the smallest kid in the class, so I was the easy-to-go target. I ended up on trash cans, pile of leaves after the school gardener had done his work, I was thrown on the female teachers toilet, and so on.

    I knew I could do nothing by force, so I went to sneaky vengeance. During phyisical ed classes I used to steal things from the girls backpackes and put into one of the bullies backpack, so when we had to be searched to find out the thieve, he was caught.
    There was one that always pushed me and threatened to beat the living crap off me, and when one day we were playing soccer at the phys ed class, I stayed the whole time around him waiting for that moment when nobody was looking and lightly kicked his ankle, what got me a powerful punch on the nose as his response.

    No one saw me kicking, but everybody saw when I was thrown back a few feet with the impact and my t-shirt changed from white to blood red (i was like the Dutch team Ajax’s shirt. haha).

    He was evicted from school for repeated injury against classmates — I wasn’t his only victim.

    Lately we had a problem with my daughter, who had been bullied by a classmate, and after repeated attempts on solving it with the school board (his parents are quite negligent with his discipline so it wouldn’t help) we knew he ended up being changed to other class, and it ends up he was rewarded instead of punished because he went to the class with the best teacher.
    We gave up and guess who is not coming back to the same school next year? Yeah, we’re going to transfer our daughter.

  18. My son was bullied in 3rd grade. The bully was punished every time he did something….but it didn’t stop him. It didn’t stop until my son gave him some Oreo cookies one day (I can’t remember why he had the cookies)…and for some reason, the bully stopped after that. Now that bully has since moved away, but my son does still get targeted sometimes from other mean kids.

    I work at the high school that my kids attend. I wish I could say that bullies were always punished. But I don’t think they are. I’ve heard too many whispers about social media bullying, texting, and other bullying going on. Our principal does his best to investigate all incidents that get reported….but so many go unreported. The victims don’t feel that it will make a difference, so they say nothing. And too many parents of bullies just don’t seem to care.

    I’m a single parent. That is certainly NO excuse for your child to be a bully. I’m sorry that you and Ryan were bullied. I wish that no kid had to go through that pain. :(

    (And to those who say the victims should move….I disagree. The bully should be the one forced to change schedules or move to a new neighborhood. Don’t punish the victim further!)

  19. P.S:
    Forgot to mention on the previous comment, but we’re changing schools not only to get away from the bully, but we were not satisfied with the way we were treated by the schoolboard when discussing the subject, the way they tried to solve it at first — putting two 5 year-olds to confront on a face-to-face debate without the parents present was just nuts — and also, the kid’s family and most of the school employees go to the same budhist temple, and although I know that’s not a budhist habit, in that school you can clearly see they go by the Animal Farm’s motto: “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”…

  20. In my opinion, childhood bullying is one of the most serious problems our society faces, because of the damage it does to so many of us at such a young age, and how little attention is paid to it. Bullying is often seen as something natural that’s just part of growing up, instead of the real abuse that it truly is. And even those who agree it’s a problem often only offer individual solutions (“just move away from the bully”) instead of acknowledging the deeply entrenched attitudes that allow it to continue. We’re not talking about a few bad kids. We’re talking about every school and neighborhood in America. It is something rotten in our culture that we need to fight to get rid of, just as we fight against prejudice and bigotry. (In fact, racism, sexism, and homophobia are often a large part of childhood bullying. It’s all connected.)

    The shift that’s needed is going to be huge, on the scale of the civil rights movement. We’re all going to have to change how we think about children and how they interact, and stop pretending we don’t know what’s happening and how much it’s hurting our kids – and the adults they will become.

    1. Totally agree pauraque, and in my opinion, it starts with us adults. Think about it; who are our favourite contestants in reality shows?? The bullies. Who are our favourite judges?? The bullies?? Who are our favourite characters in tv shows?? The bullies. Of course kids are going to bully others when everywhere they turn we’re giving them the message that bullying is how you get ahead, bullying is fun, bullying is entertaining. We, as adults, need to change our own thinking and stop seeing bulling as entertainment, particularly when the victims are real people, as is the case with reality shows (regardless of how it’s edited and manipulated to heighten drama and conflict, viewers are still being entertained by a real live person being bullied). Then, maybe, our kids will follow our example.
      And we also need to stop waving it away as being a part of growing up. It *SHOULDN’T* be! And we need to stop putting the onus on the victim to fight back and start teaching our kids to just stop being dicks to each other! What a novel idea! And this starts with teaching kids to not only have respect for themselves, but to have respect for others too. In this culture of individualism and obsession with building self-esteem we seem to have forgotten about this.
      And on a final note; to my mind, bullying is pretty much the lowest thing anyone can do. And no, I don’t feel pity for them because they’re being bullied themselves, because tearing someone else down to make yourself feel better is a f***ed up way to deal with your problems! All you’re doing is contributing to a chain of misery where one person’s personal shit gets passed on down the chain until you get to the poor person at the end, who has to deal with, not only the shit from their own bully, but the cumulative shit from all the other bullies further up the chain. Stop contributing to the chain, act like a functioning human being and deal with your problems without taking them out on someone else.
      That’s all.

  21. I was bullied, but I think what I remember the most is joining league with the bully to avoid the punishment. It has been difficult coming to terms with that. I did nothing to help the victim. And we were cruel.

    Looking forward, my wife her amazing team of artists has worked toward changing the landscape of this conversation. I am proud to be a part of Mirror Image Arts in an effort to change things.

    Thanks for the story Wil.

  22. I was bullied a little bit in school, but nothing compared to home, which was a torment. In the past several years, I’ve noticed that it seems a large percentage of bullies come from homes where they witness or experience bullying (like I did, but I hated conflict and never wanted anything to do with it), and a large percentage of kids who are bullied at school come from decent homes and inexplicably become “the chosen ones,” and I think a lot of times their parents are caught off guard because bullying is totally outside their frame of reference.

    Personally, I think I already was clearly so miserable that either I didn’t look like a very appealing target—or maybe I was bullied, and it was nothing compared to my home life, so it didn’t bother me much.

    Regardless, bullies suck and should be stopped. Or else they grow into people like my dad.

  23. A school, a parent, anyone who is aware of bullying and can act but refuses to is guilty by omission. It’s a silent approval of bullying. That’s one of the things I hated the most too back then.

  24. I was bullied right through high school, I lived with my grandparents during that period and never let it be known that I was being harassed, abused (mentally and physically) as I didn’t want them to worry about me. I would be called names walking into the building so much that it terrified me to leave the comfort of my grandparents house to go to school. While I was in the school building I would be tormented most days by boys and girls who would push, tease, punch, kick , grab and name call me only because I was smaller then them and different. I loathed high school and I still have the scars of that period, the only thing that helped me during it is the love of my late grandparents and my interests of gaming and pushing my imagination through sci fi and fantasy ..

  25. I was bullied for a long time when I was a kid, by pretty much the entire class which only stopped because I got bored with what they were calling me and wasn’t reacting anymore (unless they stole my things). Not sure whether I asked for help back then, this bullying hasn’t been hurtful enough to remember.

    Worst case was by this big girl a year above and was completely random. She decided I smelled or something and started bullying. She expected me to keep quiet and I didn’t, thankfully. First time she hit me she was punished, which angered her even more. She took her revenge later, cornered me when I was alone. I yelled for help, but no-one came to help, they (all adults) watched on doorsteps (presumably afraid of her and her family). She punched me in the gut and later got all the air out of the tires.
    This time again, all the adults rallied around to help by confronting her and calling the teacher. She had to stay indoors for a long time, I got a death threat but nothing came of it and my friends always made sure I was never alone.

    I’m glad she’s never gotten anywhere in life, still a miserable human being with barely any eduction. Maybe one day I will see her again and rub my success in her face.

  26. This made me tear up. My brother who was four years younger then me was bullied in Junior HIgh School. I had no idea it was happening. But the bully messed with the wrong family because when my mom found out she did what I think every parent should do, go completely crazy on the school till they do something to help. My brother ended up having the school Principal walk him half way home every day so that the bully would leave him alone. But it doesn’t change how much damage the abuse did to my brother. By the time he was in high school he tried to kill himself. He’s only alive now because our mother is a nurse and has saved him many times. For the stop bullying she shared on Facebook about my brothers bully and how that shaped my brothers life, “No mother should ever have to do CPR on their child. Or hold his throat closed after he cuts it open while waiting for help to arrive. Or clean up pools of their blood.” Our family is lucky that we have a mother who is a warrior and that the school was helpful. But I know that isn’t always the case. We need to stand together as parents and make sure that things change. If I was a parents in Ryan’s school and found out what was going on I would have stood up with Anne and you and insisted that it stopped or there was going to be trouble. I think they can ignore one or two parents, but a big group carries a lot more weight.

  27. Huge Trigger Warning

    I still find myself getting occasional nightmares or daydreams of all the bullying I had to endure. Every time I head the word “faggot,” I cringe and fight the impulse to leap upon the person who said it and beat them to a bloody pulp. I’ve never identified as queer, gay, trans-* but that word was used against me almost every day I was in high school. And I hate it with the passion of infinity suns.

    I was hospitalized on a couple of occasions. A friend of mine was beaten into a coma and still has to live with the neurological trauma to this day. My car was vandalized. Groups of kids would break out into laughter; pointing and throwing food at me as I walked by and calling me that terrible word. Kids would have no problem threatening me in the hallways using physical force. It was a nightmare and nobody could/would do anything about it.

    It’s been 12 years since I’ve stepped foot in that school and I still wake up occasionally with flash backs to that horrible time in my life.

    You know what’s really awkward? Running into people from my old high school as an adult. That has happened. It’s still horrible.

    The school never did anything about it. The police never did anything about it. There were too many kids involved. Nobody would name names or come forward about it.

    That was the worst of it I guess. I had been bullied since I was little. I had some unspecified behaviour disorder that made me stick out I guess (always a little smarter than everyone else but a near-complete lack of social adaptability). I just never noticed it until I was in high school and it became so bad that I was cutting class out of fear for my safety and well being (only to end up getting into things I probably shouldn’t have).

    I get so mad when I hear about bullying. But when I’m honest with myself I don’t think I’d know what to do either if it happens to my daughter.

  28. Whenever I read accounts like this it always makes me wonder. I never experienced bullying whilst at school and to my knowledge neither did my close circle of friends. I don’t recall seeing anything happen like what has been described here or in the comments. So what did I miss? Are American schools more prone to bullying? Did my schools unbeknownst to me have very stringent antibullying policies (probably not)?

    Basically, was I blind to bullying that was actually happening and does that make me complicit?

  29. I suffered at the hands of a bully through most of secondary school. When he eventually left, someone else appeared to take up that slack. Fortunately this second kid was older and left the year before I did. My last year of secondary school was my best year there.

    I’m glad my daughter is doing martial arts. She’s already had some issues with bullies of the very opportunistic kind, but I hope the confidence and self-defense skills that martial arts gives her will help. She already has a highly developed sense of social justice and will stand up for herself and others. Perhaps, sometime in the future, some bully will get an unexpected, nasty but satisfying (to me) surprise when he/she tries to get physical with her.

  30. I was bullied throughout high school due to the usual factors: geeky, quiet, naive, didn’t fit into the gender roles that everyone believed were “normal”. I did nothing to deserve the bullying but I was pretty much a checklist for the type of kid that gets bullied. I also had one very difficult factor working against me that made it all worse… my parents didn’t believe me when I told them how bad it was. For reasons beyond my comprehension my parents always thought I was telling tales or being dramatic. When I would tell them how my “friends” mocked me and ostracized me I would get a lecture about being tougher, being more understanding (“Her parents are divorced, you need to be nicer to her”) or to learn to ignore the people who teased me as that would make them go away. I learned to stop talking about it, to pull into myself and to stop trusting people. I became very depressed and anxious, traits I continue to fight against in my adult life. The reason that I didn’t end up being a teenage suicide statistic is because I pictured my father saying “Andrea did this to be dramatic” and I was terrified that he would be right. I had internalized what my parents believed about me, which in an ironic twist saved my life. It wasn’t until I hit college that I began to understand who I actually was, rather than what others believed me to be, and even then there were challenges such as realizing I was gay and having to make the choice of quitting school so that I could keep a roof over my head after my parents moved to a different city and sort of abandoned me. So, when I hear about kids being bullied, or kids killing themselves I think back to being a teenager and wishing I could get to these kids and give them a hug and tell them I understand. Because that’s what finally got me to see the light – finding a person who believed what I said and who cared enough to listen. So, if you know of someone who’s being bullied please talk to them and give them somewhere they feel safe. It is an unbelievable feeling when someone says “I understand what’s happening and I believe you.”

  31. I’d say that the first step to stop “bullying” is by calling it what it is a lot of times: Assault and/or harassment.

    Bullying has become some sort of easy word to use instead of a real felony because “they’re just kids” but the emotional scarring and the ACTUAL scars are real and should be treated like something other than a joke or a… slip-up.

    A kid who violently beats, harasses and tortures another child should be held accountable to some degree, unless the school WANTS violent psychos who learns that they’ll get away with anything because they’re young.

    I’ve both seen bullying and been victim of it in my childhood and we did eventually move and it did help a bit but the emotional scarring was already there from the first time. You get a lot of trust issues after you’ve basically been a target for a couple of years XD

  32. I had 4 brothers growing up, all of whom prepared me to face high school. One kid in particular would constantly torment me, but the most harm he ever did was knocking my books out of my hands. That was until I was in a particularly sour mood one afternoon. I can remember everything about the day. The fall smells in the air, the colors of the halls (now long since changed), the names of everyone around us. Yes, I was a nerdy kid, but that’s not an excuse.

    When he finally pushed me to my limit I dropped my books in my locker, turned to him, and pushed him across the hallway (something I will be the first to admit I’m not proud of) and shouted at him to “Back the F*** off!” I turned to grab my books and out of the corner of my eye I saw him bouncing on his feet like he was in a boxing match. Turning the rest of the way, he landed a single blow to my jaw, something I still have some problems with today. I went down harder then the books did.

    The school didn’t see it as self defense but rather that I instigated it. I received a weeks worth of internal suspension (I had to go to school, but had to sit next to the delinquents who frequently treated others this way in a windowless room for the entire day, with the extra 2 hours of detention). The guy who hit me? Yeah, he was there too. Did he continue this? Yes, and this only made him angry too. He’d do it all laughing from then on.

    I saw him a few years later; a drug addict and a drunk. I still don’t know if I’ve fully forgiven him for the h311 he put me through for 6 years (middle school/high school), but being able to stand up to him did help put people on my side. I’m glad I didn’t end up in a hospital or worse, but I had to do something. Teachers knew, the principal knew, mutual friends knew… no one speaks up to it when it’s actually happening. It’s sad and needs to change. I’m glad that when I was tested in elementary school (my brother was being picked on), I stood up to his bully with him. I helped it stop. They became friends throughout the year even. I just wish everyone could be friendly instead of acting like animals.

  33. I, too, was bullied as a child. I was always teased because I was overweight, mostly by the boys (sorry men, little boys can be assholes to little fat girls) but in the 6th grade it was different. This kid, his name was Jerry, chose a different target at random times to bully. He had bullied my good friend, Deana, the year before. I don’t know that he was a bad kid, just a unhappy one. He was being raised by his grandparents and I don’t know that they had any idea as to what he was doing. His bullying was mostly verbal off of school grounds. Mostly name calling, which as I previously mentioned I was kind of used to. One day though, on the way home from school he threatened to kill me. I was terrified. We weren’t too far from the school, I could have gone back, but my friend told me to just come home. He followed us for a while, he told me he wouldn’t kill me if I brought him a Twinkie the next day. In retrospect this may prove how empty his threat was but as a 12 year old it seemed very real. When I got home I finally told my mother about it. She knew Jerry and knew he bullied. She immediately went to my teacher, Mrs. Mostofi, and Mrs. Mostofi went to the principal who talked to Jerry. The bullying immediately stopped. Jerry was even friendly to me. I guess I was lucky. I had people who cared and took care of the problem for me. I don’t know what happened to Jerry, he was 2 years ahead of me in school and went onto high school the next year but oddly, I didn’t hear of him bullying anyone else after my incident.

  34. I consider myself lucky actually. I did suffer for a time but in a way I consider it penance for being a bully earlier. When I was in kindergarten, I wasn’t so much a bully but my friends and I did tease another kid…you might know him: Noah Hathaway (yes, Atreyu). My memories of the time are vague but I do have at least one memory of it so I imagine there might have been more.

    Because of my father’s work, we ended up moving from LA to NY for a few years. There I was in the late 70’s/early 80’s split between two races that everyone hated at the time for different reasons. I mention that because I remember an incident that for the longest time I thought was “regular” bullying until I started realizing me and the other two kids run over by some other kids go-cart (it was literally on top of us) looked or were Asian at the time. I just thought it was par for the course. Still, it was mild compared to Palos Verdes, CA. Holy shit. It was like the place attracted bullies and douchebags at the time.

    The happy ending was puberty. I grew a foot in a year and soon everyone pretty much left me alone (I was still scrawny but apparently height was enough in most cases…plus it helped I made friends with certain classmates who shall remain nameless and descriptionless).

    In the end, I’ve seen worse and it disgusts me when I see a bully, on the Internet or in real life. I tend to follow the spirit of my wife who, from a young age, pretty much wouldn’t stand for that shit.

    You mentioned assault from your experiences as a kid. You’re actually right and the actual physical contact would be battery. To be honest, if a parent is unwilling to discipline and control their kids, they might just have to visit them in jail. Psychologically, bullies are often actually weak and scared and usually acting out because they’re either following the lead of a parent and trying to “look up” to them by being as abusive as they are or they’re trying to just be top dog versus someone because they’re tired of being on the bottom. The problem is, unless you can actually make these kids self-aware and get them to understand the cyclical nature of bullying so they can break that cycle, you may not have a choice. It’s one thing for a kid to be somewhat verbally abusive–kids have to learn to defend themselves at some point though of course there’s a limit either way–but if a kid is becoming physically violent or threatening, it’s time to intervene. If a principal refuses to perform his or her duties, they need to go before a review board. If a parent refuses to perform his or her duties, the police need to be involved.

    Even though I don’t believe in fate, I like to think that there is a sort of karmic justice in the world that stems from the simple fact that a person who acts like an asshole will eventually act like an asshole to someone who will make them regret it. It could be physical or it could be a lost job or opportunity. I have rarely seen a bully succeed in life unless they had help. But, in the end, community and the help of friends and people who disagree with the bullshit of bullying can help stomp bullying. Most bullies I’ve run across only succeed because others backed them up (parents, friends). But when they’re alone, they just look like assholes and unless they have a mental issue they learn.

  35. Wil, I am so sorry that the administration at Ryan’s school had so little care for his well-being and did not defend him as he needed. I can not even imagine how helpless and infuriating the situation must have felt.

    I have a different perspective–that of the childhood bully. I will admit, it was not until I was in my early twenties that I fully grasped that I was a bully as a kid. Only upon reflecting on my childhood behavior, and comparing it to the memories of peers, did I realize how different my school years were. I am sharing this experience not as a defense of my actions, because there is none, but to provide insight on what went through one bully’s head as a child, and how her actions as a child affected the rest of her life.

    You would think that being a smart, good-looking kid, from a middle-class family, and a girl, that I wouldn’t have any reason to attack other children. But I did. At the time I thought I was “rough housing,” that chasing around schoolmates in first and second grade and pushing them down on the playground was all in good fun. I never singled out the little kids, but because I was one of the biggest, I rarely lost the shoving matches. I’d call them names like “dork,” “butthead” and “stupidface” and they’d sling it right back. It never bothered me much, because I knew I was cute and smart, but I never stopped to ask if it bothered them.

    But then as I got older, it became more about exerting my will to get my own way, and doing whatever I had to make that happen. Sometimes that was belittling the other person, sometimes that was convincing every girl in the class to go against my target, thereby ostracizing her until she caved to my will. I was the queen of mind games even in elementary school, manipulating others so I came out on top.

    In fifth grade my teacher nicknamed me the Queen of Mean, and would frequently pair my desk with my bullying target (usually my best friend du jour who committed the crime of having her own opinion), forcing us to coexist until we figured out how to get along. I don’t remember any of my other classmates having to do this, but somehow singling me out didn’t dissuade me or make me feel ashamed.

    I never actually picked a fistfight with anyone, mostly because I preferred mental/verbal abuse over physical, and possibly because I started martial arts training in third grade at a very traditional dojo that forbade us from getting into fights. Somehow pummeling another person was distasteful and mean, but verbally sparring until they cried was acceptable so long as I “won.”

    Home life was a different story though. I was that kid with a dad who owned lots of guns, had a quick temper, a narcissistic personality disorder, and PTSD from his time in Vietnam. He also had a very high IQ. All this combined to create a demanding, impatient, violently explosive man with completely unreasonable expectations of ability and conduct for any child. There were two of us kids and my mom who had to walk on eggshells every day in an attempt to not be beaten or belittled for the slightest offense. It wasn’t as bad as so many tv reports about kids being locked in closets and starved for weeks, but I’ve had a loaded gun pointed in my face for standing up to him. I rarely had marks to show for it, but he messed up my head pretty badly as a kid.

    I think I mostly lucked out though. I figured out that if I mimicked him, I was pretty successful at getting my way, and getting my way felt good. It definitely felt better than being at the wrong end of one of his explosions. And because I couldn’t control his temper (a very chaotic and destructive thing to a small child), I found a way to create order in my life and find an area of relief by controlling others. This very much was focused at my little brother, who handled the abuse in a very different way. I got all of the coping mechanisms, and though I internalized much of the mental abuse and have always had low self-esteem, my brother really bought into it. He was being cut down and denigrated by two immediate family members, two very strong and dominant personalities, two people who were supposed to be protecting him. And he never learned how to defend himself or find a safe place within himself to hide.

    So at 11, when I was 14, he shot himself in the head with my mother’s gun while we were all home. I got to him first, which I will never forget, and he died shortly thereafter. My little brother killed himself, and I was partly to blame. Talk about a fucking wake-up call.

    I realize now that the bullying behaviors of my childhood were my way of dealing with the chaos at home. I could never be smart enough, or capable enough, or big enough, or strong enough to defend myself and my mom and brother at home. But I could “win” at school against other kids. I found what little self-esteem I could from those schoolyard battles. It was enough to carry me into my teens and then twenties intact, but not without a very heavy cost. I have zero recollection of experiencing empathy for the other children. In fact, I believe that the ability to experience empathy doesn’t fully develop until puberty. This is also not an excuse for my behavior, but when empathy is removed from bullying, it’s difficult to grasp why one should stop bullying if the behaviors make one feel better about oneself. My childhood mind figured that everyone was able to defend themselves equally as well as I could, but that I tried harder, so that is why I won. It wasn’t ever about wanting the other kid to feel like a loser, so much as I desperately wanted to feel like a winner.

    I am now in my early 30’s, and have had plenty of time and therapy to help me come to terms with being a bully as a child. I lost contact with those childhood playmates many years ago, and I have no idea what they would say about me if asked now. Probably nothing good. But in the 20 years since my brother died, I’ve calmed down, learned to stand up for myself without needing to knock someone else down, found a great husband, and have a successful career in healthcare. If you met me today you would have no idea that the outgoing, cosplaying, game-loving, Sea Monkey that I am used to be a childhood bully. And that’s exactly how I want it.

    What I want you to take away from this is that kids who were bullies don’t always grow up to be jerks. Some of us eventually “get it” and learn how to function reasonably well (if not sometimes awkwardly) in society. Not all of us lack empathy, but we may have as a kid, when our universe revolved around what was inside our heads, not the needs of others. Which is why it is so important for adults to monitor and patrol children, and be on the lookout for bullying. It is up to the adults to make sure that no child, bully or bullied, is a target of abuse. If you see a child being a bully, or being bullied, please PLEASE make the effort to step in and see what you can do. Protect the bullied child, but also see if you can protect the bully. Had someone stepped in to protect my brother and myself, I might not be an only child now.

  36. There is actually some psychological work that links bullying, particularly in young men, to a behavior pattern called “passing on the sting.” Essentially, it’s “Something happened/is happening to me that makes me feel helpless and weak, so i’m going to visit those feelings on someone else who doesn’t scare me because that’s one way to make myself feel strong again.”
    I too was bullied some as a child, mostly through teasing. A part of me may never completely forgive the ones who picked on me. I respect our legitimate need to be angry with those who’ve bullied us and our friends and family; bullying is never acceptable, and the scars it leaves behind go a lot deeper than any physical marks. But i feel it’s also important to recognize that those who bully are often also victims of bullying. I believe we can get farther if we’re in the position to ask what pain or trauma is driving this person to lash out at innocents, and how can we respond to inappropriate behavior by going after the root causes.

  37. Like others have mentioned, I wonder if society would shift its perspective at all if we called it “assault” or “abuse” instead. That’s what it is. Why is there a separate set of less harsh words when it happens between children?

  38. Many of the schools in my area are adopting Anti-Bullying policies. I had to do a training course on recognizing and intervening if it happens in one of the schools I work at as a substitute teacher. So there are schools that are taking a serious approach to discourage and stop bullying that happens in the schools and are training their staff.

    Unfortunately the policies are not perfect. More often schools will end up punishing both the Bully and the victim. It’s not intentional to punish the victim, but it sometimes happens and is a flaw in a “zero-tolerance” approach that many schools adopt. Also, the policies usually only cover what happens on school grounds or under school supervision. If it’s not witnessed by the staff or reported to the staff, there is little that can be done. Bullies learn to wait until school is out and they are away from the grounds and no adults are around.

    But while the system and policies have some flaws and have kinks to work out, there are schools and districts that are trying to make a difference and stop the bullying in schools. But the schools can only do so much if the parents of those bullies don’t take responsibility for their child’s actions and teach the child how to treat others.

  39. I was bullied in elementary school and junior high….when I got to high school, being a nerd I did all the statistics for the sports teams…girls and boys. I earned my varsity letter as a sophmore because it was like being on all the sports teams at once. After that, the entire football team had my back. No more bullying. And I happy to say that some bullies had to learn the hard way that I was no longer an easy target. Nerds rule. I wish more bullies would learn the way they did.

    I sympathize with all you who were bullied or know someone who was….the pain is horrible and no one should go through it ever. Be strong. There is a way….there must be a way.

  40. I was bullied a lot in elementary school, and I remember the principal explaining to me one day how I had to be nicer to the boys wouldn’t beat me up. Because apparently not losing at wall ball was totally grounds for getting the shit kicked out of me.

    Recently, I was helping my parents move and I ended up reading a bunch of my grade school report cards and discovered that over the course of several years, my teachers described me as having “personality problems”. My personality problems were that the other kids spent every recess and lunch acting as if I had the plague — the main school pastime was a game of tag called “Jacqui Germs” — and periodically beat me up for fun. But that was my fault. Because I had personality problems.

    You know that must be true.

    It said so in my permanent record.

  41. Bravo, Wil and Anne. And way to go, Ryan, for hanging in there!

    One of the reasons I went into education was so my students wouldn’t have to experience the kind of bullying I went through as a kid. Not on my watch!

    Of course the bullies need caring and understanding.

    After they get a swift (and metaphorical, I’m a public employee!) kick in the pants.

    My rule-of-thumb, adapted from a Michael Hyatt podacast:

    When discussing a bad situation with a wise person, keep talking. When discussing a bad situation with a foolish person, stop talking. Set clear boundaries and consequences. Then follow through.

    Bullies need clear boundaries and escalating consequences. Otherwise they continue to victimize others.

    It used to be impossible to get support when local police and other authorities didn’t follow through. Now we have cell phones and YouTube.

    Shining a light on bullying behavior is one of the most powerful ways for victims to get it to stop. Shame is a powerful emotion and not a weapon I suggest using lightly.

    But in the case of bullying, I encourage shaming when other options have failed.

  42. From K – the first part of 5th I was tormented by a sociopath. I was hit, threatened with graphic descriptions of rape. When we tried to tell teachers, we were told he doesn’t know what he is talking about.

    In third grade he smeared peanut butter on me – I ‘m deathly allergic. Oh he thought it was a joke.

    I was repeatedly told he couldn’t have hit you that hard it didn’t leave a mark.

    Then we went to Canada to visit Mom’s family and 2 things happened.

    We were playing baseball on the diamond in Nanna’s back yard and the police called to us to get off her property. (She had trouble with tourists thinking her yard was a park they could pitch a tent in and camp on). My cousin was batting, I was pitching, the bat slipped and smacked me good.

    Our HS and University aged uncles came running from the deck. The cops came running from the driveway. They were worried I was seriously hurt. My uncles sent some of the cousins across the street to get ice from the store. They and the cops (grew up there) were sure my MOm was going to kill them. Then sis popped up with “Kimberly won’t bruise. Bully hits her harder than that all the time and it never leaves a bruise the teachers can see.” Sure enough there was never a visible bruise. I have a skin condition and the different stages of healing – disguised the bruise.

    The same uncles 2 training to be teachers picked up on the symptoms of sexual abuse. Though in my case it had only gone as far as threats. After talking to my sister and I they told my father what the bully had been threatening to do. (I was too ashamed to try and tell my parents)

    When we came home my parents talked to their lawyer about our options. But before they could do anything things came to ahead. Bolster by my Uncles, I started walking out of school every time the bully hit or threatened me. I would get up tell the teacher Bully is hitting me I’m going home then take off. This was putting him in the spotlight. Then he got his revenge – and kicked me in the throat. I got up, refused to go to a teacher and left. It was dismissal time. Mom picked me up to go get some shoes. When we got home, the friend staying with my sister asked if Mom had taken me to the doctor.

    The phone was ringing off the hook – other parents demanding to know what my parents were going to do about bully.

    There was a meeting called for Monday. Our lawyer drew up papers for a Title IX lawsuit – and criminal charges against
    Bully
    Bully’s parents
    School administrators (Failure to protect, failure to report child abuse, failure to report sexual abuse of a child) Also over the weekend a school board member had told my Dad “Kimberly must like getting hit. IF she didn’t she wouldn’t keep making bully mad” That info was in the paper work.

    Talk about stopping on a dime and doing a 180 – we went from boys will be boys he just has a crush on her to this will stop NOW> and it did. I was never bullied again. My family was now one of those families you don’t mess with.

    A few years later my 2nd cousin was being bullied. His parents go the same boys will be boys but if he fights back he it is a fight and he will be suspended. Leaving a meeting they happened to run into Mom (sis and 2nd cousin were in the same grade) they talked about the health of an elderly family member.

    When they left the secertary casually asked if MOm was a relative. Mom explained that the Dad and my Dad were 1st cousins. When they got home – our cousins found a message that the boys had been suspended and there would be criminal charges if they attacked cousin again. Near as we can figure they were afraid cousin’s family would file charges.

    Oh my bully. Left public school. Several years later I heard he had beaten and raped several women and was in jail. When he was 5 he knew how to describe rape in graphic detail – no one ever reported him as abused. He never got help. Women have paid the price because no-one wanted to tick off his rich and powerful parents.

  43. Holy crap, y’all are so close by I just want to reach out and hug you both. Most of my being bullied is packaged neat and tidy in the back of my brain, but it’s a sumbitch whenever that box is opened.

    Take care of each other, and Mr. Wheaton, I’ll see you tomorrow at Fitz’s.

  44. Wil, at least you found the courage to punch your bully once. I never had the courage and at 46 years old, I still regret being afraid. Of course, though, I was never bullied by a single person–the cowards always had one other bully with them.

    I know it’s wrong but I wish nothing but the worst on the losers who bullied me. I came close to kicking one of their asses after high school but he pussied out.

  45. I’ll try and keep this one brief (I failed to keep it brief).
    I was bullied/teased in school from the ages of about 8 through to about 16. I’ve never really known why, but at some point they realised they could get me to react and that was it.

    I think I had pretty much everything, name calling, nit picking at what I did to make me self-conscious and the old favourite intimidation and violence.

    For good or bad I wasn’t afraid of them and the school didn’t have the physical violence which can happen but in mid high school one of 2 the key bullies for me was determined that I had to be afraid of him advised me that if he got in trouble any more he’d been told he would be expelled and that I’d know that it’d happen as it was then he would kill me. Sure enough, a while later I ended up in a doctor’s surgery after being attacked by this lovely lad. He was never charged.

    I avoided a lot of the potential violence as I don’t think I was seen as an easy target. For whatever reason I suspect that they weren’t confident enough that they would just pound me so it was emotional. After a few years it became apparent that one particular snot (or key bully #2) was actually orchestrating the abuse and had been for a LONG TIME (possibly years), he was targeting kids at me which meant that I was being abused by people who I didn’t even know a lot of the time.

    It is probably fortunate that this is all before the days when we all had mobile phones and email. In recent years I’ve seen the parents’ side of things and the helplessness that we can feel. I’ve had a son horribly bullied and the school could or would do little and when we tried to intervene directly our son himself stonewalled us and said that if we even tried we would get him hurt even more and he would leave and never come back. We might have tried anyhow but we simply could not get the information needed to start.

    The biggest problem is that how you stop bullying is different for every instance of bullying, there’s no set of techniques. Some stopped because I ignored them, some stopped because they got in trouble. One boy stopped because I put him in a head lock and hit him repeatedly. The only thing which seems to really have a hope of working is to plan your response rather than reacting. I chose to disrupt my classes on at least 2 occasions because it would draw attention to what was being done to me in a public way which wouldn’t just make me the victim. Once again, I wasn’t afraid of these people which made it easier for me (in some ways).

    I’m now 42. And it’s all in my past, right? Nup. I haven’t seen anyone from my school in about 20 years but bullying still happens. I’m overweight and have recently started riding a push bike again. I’ve had a person throw stuff at me from a car and I’ve had abuse yelled at me a few times. Not abuse that I’m riding badly or inconsiderately or anything. The last one was a car with 2 adults and 2 young kids. The adult on the passenger side, as I passed yelled at me that I was a “Fat F***”. A great example to the young. I wonder how he’d feel if those children were being abused by a stranger.

    I’m giving serious consideration to seeing if I can engage the next person who does this, just to see if they’re prepared to try and justify themselves.

  46. I was bullied through my last years of elementary school. All the girls in my class decided that they didn’t like me any more, and turned recess into a game of “Stay far, far away from Deanna and if she comes near run away screaming.” I, because I had no coping mechanisms or other friends, would always run after them, and this completely destroyed my self respect for the next few years. I never retaliated, all I did was hide away and cry or beg them to be my friends again; it was so pathetic and sad.
    Then in junior high, I found a group of friends who were actually really awful, and became a Crabbe to someone else’s Malfoy. I was so relieved that someone actually was acknowledging my existence that I did everything they told me to, even hurting another person.
    So yes, as someone who has been both a victim and a bully, bullies are sad, pathetic people with no dignity or real friends. This was the worst time in my life, and I’m still recovering from it.
    It’s been nerd-dom that’s helped put me back together. All of the important people in my life have been nerds, who have welcomed me and loved me and given me a community I can feel like I’m worth something in. I’m about to graduate high school, and after years of hell I’m in the most emotionally stable and happiest place I’ve ever been in.
    Thanks for writing this, Wil, and for all you do to foster that community and make it awesome.

  47. I hate how twitter is a haven for bullying. I get it when celebrities call out bullies- that’s coo’. But when celebs or people with ample followers call out people they just disagree with, RTing them to deliberately sic their army of minion bullies on them to pick apart the corpse… That’s just flat out bullying and I hate that. And come anti-bully day, they’re all up in arms with the hashtags.

  48. I got lucky early on in school. The only bully that went after me ended up going face first into a brick wall & getting knocked out. I fell trying to dodge him coming at me and, being the klutzy kid that I was, fell. He tripped over me & essentially knocked himself out on the cinderblock wall.
    Unfortunately my luck changed when I changed schools. The new cretin got me when I was down & left me w/ permanent brain damage. School couldn’t do anything due to “lack of evidence” but I knew… and I got even. =shrugs= Not that it helped in the long run – I’ll never fly a plane, I may never drive again & I’ll be taking pills until the day I die – but it made me feel better at the time, and it scared off all of the cretin’s entourage.

    Last I heard he was doing 10-15 in the big house on drug charges…

  49. Oh boy. I could nearly post a timeline of my entire life based on the bullies I have had over the years. Bullies in my neighborhood. Bullies in every school I went to. Bullies in the “real” world. Bullies online even now.

    Pretty much my entire school life I was the tallest guy in class. So I never had just one bully. It was always a pack because I was bigger than them. But they always had the numbers advantage. I suspect it was in my case, like many others, I was picked out because I was different. I was the tell kid, I was quiet, I was withdrawn, I was depressed (which wasn’t diagnosed till Jr High), and so on. It was the same pack of kids all thru elementary. Then when I got to Jr High that group merged with another pack from the other elementary that fed into that Jr High. The administration at my elementary school did virtually nothing. Being the early 80s it wasn’t considered bullying until there was blood. At the Jr High it was much the same story. However there were a few teachers that wouldn’t put up with any of that kind of shit when they saw it. To those few I was grateful. As I mentioned to Anne on twitter, at one point I had a broken arm (skateboarding, not bullying) which of course painted an even bigger target on me. I was walking thru the hall between classes and got slammed from behind arm first into a bank of lockers. I didn’t know it at the time but my science teacher was standing outside of his room and saw the whole thing as it was developing. He bolted down the hall and grabbed the guy that slammed into me so fast that by the time I had bounced off the locker and regained my bearings both the teacher and the bully has already vanished around the corner heading to the office. Later in the day after my parents had been called, with the help of my science teacher, my parents forced the school to get the bully to pay to have my arm re-x-rayed. That was one of the so few I can probably count them on one hand times that anybody from a school actually did anything to try to put a stop to this shit.

    When I went to high school I was lucky enough to live in a county that had what they called “open enrollment”, which meant that I was allowed to pick any of the 3 high school in that area of the county that I wanted to go to. My Jr High was about a 50/50 split between 2 of the schools so I went to the 3rd (which was also much closer to my house. 4 miles vs 12-15). I managed to get away from that particular pack of bullies but landed in the middle of a whole new batch. And the administration at my high school was some of the most worthless vile sacks of shit that could ever run a school. When I have told other people the shit that myself and my friends went thru at that school the nearly universal reaction is “Holy fuck. I thought that shit only happened in movies.” That school had a fairly sizable hispanic student population(compared to the 2 schools I had just come from). If I had to guess I’d say it was around 60% white kids 40% hispanic. One of the vice principals was also hispanic. He was also, as we came to find out from first hand experience, MASSIVELY racist against white people (especially the white kids at the school that weren’t “normal” like myself and my friends). My junior or senior year one of the guys in my group(who is white) got punched in the face by a hispanic kid, completely unprovoked, right in front of this particular vice principal and the white kid got a weeks detention while the hispanic kid didn’t even get as much as a “don’t do that” from this guy. The principal wasn’t really any better. The 2 of them and half the security staff at the school had a “grudge” against us for some reason. They would look the other way when shit would happen to us. Whenever would would report things they never would follow up on anything. SO my entire group started to do research. We started studying the laws in our area so we ALL knew exactly how far things would have to progress against us before we would be within the law when we started to fight back. And exactly how far we could go in fighting back before things would flip back and the law was no longer on our side. We used that knowledge to essentially “blackmail” the security guards into actually doing their damn jobs. When things started to happen and we saw them just standing there watching us getting attacked one of us would calmly walk over to them and say “they have now crossed the line so we would be legally protected if we beat the shit out of them. If you don’t go intervene now we are going to fight back. Then call the police, have them all arrested and press charges against you for not stopping this situation from happening in the first place.” Only then would they actually step in and tell them to knock it off.

    For awhile (before the above threatening legal action) I managed to get some of the bullies to back off. The summer between my sophomore and junior year I changed my look. I wasn’t trying to accomplish anything with it, it was just the way my interests were going. I had always been one of the geeky outsiders. That summer I shifted to a metalhead/goth. I had been letting my hair grow out for a couple years already since I was already headed down the metal path but that summer I went full on head to toe black wardrobe. Black t-shirts, black jeans, black trenchcoat. So for awhile at least I looked intimidating enough that people left me alone. I was already over 6 feet tall when I started high school and probably a bit over 200 pounds. I looked pretty scary. Even at the time I laughed about it because I am so not “that guy” (until you earn it at least). I still joke about the fact that when I would step into a hall during passing period the crowds would part like the red sea to let me pass. We used that to our advantage for as long as the effect lasted to get them to leave us alone. A few of the other guys (including my younger brother once he started at that school) were around the same size so our presence put a stop to a portion of the crap that came our way. Sometime during my senior year there was a group of jock bullies that were targeting us. They knew better than to try anything when the “big guys” were around because even tho they were all on the football team we were all bigger and stronger than they were and could have taken them down in a fight. So they planned and plotted and set up a VERY coordinated attack one afternoon when all us big guys were gone. They attacked our friends on the common area in the cafeteria, in the other common room, out in the halls at lockers. It was vile. A number of my friends got egged. Several school books got ruined. One of my friends (who was 5 feet even standing on her toes) got attacked by 3 guys who egged her and her open locker including her rather expensive leather jacket. We had all been dealing with shit from them the whole year so every single one of us knew all of them by name. We had them dead to rights. The school refused to do a damn thing. The parents of all the kids that got attacked demanded a meeting with the principal to find out why they hadn’t done anything. The fucker was so uninterested in actually protecting students under his care that he FELL ASLEEP AT HIS DESK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE MEETING. People like this should not be allowed in education.

    This is all just a small fraction of the shit I (and my friends) lived thru just up thru high school. It didn’t stop there either. I have to agreed whole heartedly with the others that have said there is something fundamentally rotten in this society. I really hope that my niece and nephew (and any potential future kids I might have) don’t have to deal with the shit that I or my brothers and our friends did. My niece is going to be started school next year and I am honestly scared of what she might have to deal with. When I was in school the net was just getting started. My pack of friends were emailing back and forth from our AOL and Prodigy addresses. If we had twitter and facebook back then I am fairly certain that myself and at least a handful of my friends would have been just more statistics about bulling online leading to suicides. Even know as an adult I get enough of that kind of shit online that I frequently consider shutting down my personal twitter account. This world is well and truly fucked if this is the kind of shit that passes for “acceptable behavior” in the minds of both school aged kids and adults.

    I also wanted to comment on the whole parents should move to get away from a bully thing. As many have said and I lived thru myself switching schools or moving rarely helps. It gets you away from one bully or group but drops you face to face with another somewhere else. It is just another form of victim blaming. However in some cases, like Wil’s, moving really might be the only real option. As Wil said, his bully’s father was friends with both bikers and cops which gave him pretty much a free pass to be a psychopath. Not much “talking to parents” or “calling the cops” is going to accomplish there.

    Thank you Wil for writing this. This is a discussion that needs to be had honestly at a national level. Not only to try to start taking steps towards fixing the things that are broken in this world. But also to try to get the message to these kids that are suffering now that they REALLY are not alone.

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