Giving a Voice to Bullying Victims
By Megan Steyskal-Rondeau
“There’s the crazy girl.”
Am I crazy?
“Don’t talk to her, she doesn’t deserve anything.”
I don’t deserve anything…
“Don’t let her sit next to you…pass it on.”
No one will sit with me, or play with me, or be my friend.
“You’re crazy, Crazy Maddie!”
Maybe I am crazy. I’m different so maybe that’s the same thing.
Why is this happening to me?
I’m just six.
At six years old Maddie is not only being verbally bullied at school but also coping with relational aggression; a type of emotional bullying. There are in fact six types of bullying and it is not uncommon for a victim to be assaulted with several forms.
Physical Bullying is when physical actions are used to gain power and control over a target. Of all the forms of bullying, this is the most obvious form and the easiest to identify.
Verbal Bullying is when words, statements and name-calling are used to gain power over a target. Typically verbal bullies will use relentless insults to belittle, demean and hurt another person. Targets are chosen based on the way they look, act, behave or are children with special needs. Simply “ignoring” should never be advice given to the victim as the words do have significant impact and can leave deep, emotional scars.
Relational Aggression is a more sneaky and insidious form of bullying. It often goes unnoticed by parents and teachers. Relational bullies often ostracize others from a group, spread rumors, manipulate situations and break confidences.
Cyberbullying happens when technology is used to harass, threaten, embarrass or target another person via emails, texts, facebook and other internet apps. This new form of bullying is becoming more widespread because bullies can harass their targets with much less risk of being caught.
Prejudicial Bullying is based on prejudices towards people of different races, religions or sexual orientation. This form can also encompass one or more of the other types of bullying. When a target is singled out, the severity of the bullying can open the door to hate crimes.
Sexual Bullying is repeated, harmful and humiliating actions that target a person sexually such as sexual name-calling, crude comments, vulgar gestures, uninvited touching, sexual propositioning and pornographic materials. In extreme cases sexual bullying leads to sexual assault (Gordon, 2015).
So why didn’t Maddie tell her teacher or her mother about the bullying? Sadly, most victims do not tell anyone, especially adults, when they have been bullied. For most telling about the abuse is embarrassing and painful. Plus many children fear that telling an adult will only make the situation worse.
What are the signs?
For Maddie just being six she doesn’t know what the word bullying is. She knew it made her feel sad, isolated, anxious and depressed. Many kids fear that going to an adult will make the situation worse. As parents we can watch for signs:
-Are they no longer talking about or spending time with their friends? Have you noticed an absence in their presence?
-Has your child’s mood changed? Do they appear anxious, clingy, sullen or withdrawn?
-Have you noticed self destructive behaviors such as running away from home, cutting or talking about suicide. For Maddie’s mother what flagged her of the bullying was when the babysitter reported that Maddie had asked for a knife to cut her throat. At six she may not have understood the actions, but she did know that she wanted the bullying to stop.
-Take note of your child’s minor health complaints and injuries. Are they complaining of frequent headaches, stomachaches or other ailments? Do they have unexplained cuts, bruises or scratches?
-Changes in eating habits: have they started skipping meals or binge eating? Many bullied kids come home from school hungry because they skipped lunch to avoid the bully, or their lunch had been taken.
-Changes in sleeping habits often indicate something is amiss in your child’s life and can manifest in many forms: nightmares or trouble sleeping, sleeping more than usual, crying themselves to sleep, bedwetting.
-Have their school grades fallen? Has your child lost interest in school or other activities they used to participate in?
-Lost possessions: is your kid coming home without personal property or supplies? Many bullies will damage or steal a victim’s property (Gordon,2015).
What you can do as a parent:
- Create a safe environment for your child to open up to you. Tell them you’ve noticed some changes in their behavior and personality and that you are worried they are being bullied at school or online. Let them know this is not their fault and assure them there is nothing wrong with them. As you go through the steps, be sure to maintain open lines of communication.
- Make a commitment to help resolve the issue; let them know you are on their side and you will help them through this.
- Discuss the bullying incidents in detail with school personnel. Your goal is to see that your child feels safe at school. Then follow up with the school to ensure the bullying has been resolved.
- Encourage your child to stick with a friend at school and foster opportunities for socializing with friends outside of school.
- Consider outside counseling to help teach your child skills for overcoming the negative impact of bullying and work on self esteem.
Bullying can have a lasting effect on your child often leaving emotional scars, thoughts of isolation, hopelessness, depression and suicide. At any age your child can experience one or more of these forms of bullying, and as a parent you are your child’s greatest advocate for their safety and happiness.
Writer’s note: I’d like to thank my dear friend Amber for letting me give her daughter, Maddie, a voice and maybe some hope.
Megan is a thirty-something single mom who has worked in pharmacy for the past 15 years. When in “time-out” (of her own accord) she reads and writes, then reads some more. You can find her blog at www.theaccidentallibrarian.com.
For more help there are many online resources available to you:
www.safekidspro.com Keeping Kids Safe on Social Media. Safe from bullies, predators & more
The National Center for Bullying Prevention is helping to promote awareness and teach effective ways to respond to bullying. You can learn more about them at Pacer.org/bullying.
STOMP Out Bullying is focused on reducing bullying and cyberbullying. Find out more on their website at stompoutbullying.org
GLSEN is also a great organization that is working to eradicate bullying and bias in schools. Their website is glsen.org
One of the most important things young people can do when they see bullying is to speak up. Cartoon Network is doing the same by encouraging youth to speak up to stop bullying. They put together this website with great information on what you can do to prevent bullying.
The Cybersmile Foundation is an international non-profit organisation providing support for victims of cyberbullying and online hate campaigns. The Cybersmile Foundation delivers advice, education and support to those affected and their families as well as promoting positivity online. The charity also acts as a liaison point between victims and other groups offering support, including schools, the police service and local authorities. https://www.cybersmile.org/who-we-are
Gordon, Sherri. “6 Types of Bullying.” Web. 18 Aug. 2015. http://bullying.about.com/od/Basics/a/6-Types-Of-Bullying.htm