• Wed, May 16 2012

Were You Bullied As A Kid? I Was.

The principal was too busy “handling other issues,” so my parents’ concern was dumped onto the vice principal, Mrs. Ross (who is now retired in Florida and quite happy, I suppose.) To Mrs. Ross, it didn’t matter what Mitchel had said or what he had done, her response to all of it was simple:  ”there’s nothing we can do about it.” It was taking place on a bus which, technically, isn’t during school. She could talk to him, which she did, but it really wasn’t her place to get involved, as she explained to us. So Mrs. Ross spoke to Mitchel, and the harassment ceased for a couple days, but then came back threefold with biting words I had never heard (I just knew they were evil by his tone), combined with consistent kicking and smacking, despite my tears.

If Mrs. Ross wasn’t going to do anything — although my parents had spoken with her several times and pleaded for help in the situation — my mother was going to do the only thing she could, and drove me back and forth to school every day so I didn’t have to deal with the bus. I was lucky enough that Mitchel was a year ahead of me, and I only saw him once in the hallway during that time, but it didn’t take away the words or make the physical abuse any less painful.

By the time I reached third grade, Mitchel was gone; he had moved out of the town, and the bus was safe again. Although I’d be subjected to bullies several times throughout my awkward years (aren’t we all?), it was nothing compared to Mitchel. I may have only been in second grade, but when you need to go home and ask your mom what “abortion” means after you’ve been kicked to the ground, that shit stays with you forever.

Again, we could chalk it up to “he has a crush on you,” or “boys will be boys,” but haven’t we done that enough? Haven’t we made excuses for this type of behavior one too many times?

I don’t know where Mitchel is these days. I like to assume he has a full time job at a gas station somewhere in New Hampshire and is tied down to three or four kids, a wife he probably dislikes and has to drive to work in a Ford Escort that’s been on its last leg since 2000. I don’t wish him ill will or harm, but I do find a bit of solace in the potential that he is miserable wherever he is, if only to feel that I’ve been vindicated.

Bullying, in all its forms, is vile and inappropriate behavior. I understand that kids are rarely aware of the influence they have on a peer or fellow classmate when they’re spewing such vulgarity, but that right there should be enough to educate kids about the possible deadly results of their words and actions.

As I said, I’m not looking for a “woe is me” reaction to this; what I am looking for is for school administrations to fucking step up to the plate and take responsibility for this behavior. Dismissing any type of bullying with “there’s nothing we can do about it,” is turning a blind eye to an epidemic that is a serious matter.

I realize my case is minimal in the grand scheme of things. I didn’t take my life over it, and although it is something that probably scarred me more than I’m willing to admit, I’d like to think it made me stronger. However, I’m lucky in that regard; others are not so lucky and as long as we live in a society that doesn’t take bullying as serious as it is, we all lose.

What We're Reading:
Share This Post:
  • SO

    Really powerful piece. Thank you for sharing. I agree, schools need to get on top of this shit. I, too, was the bullied new girl. All of the girls in my new class ganged up on me, and while I wasn’t physically assaulted, social warfare is really something. Damn kids

  • Marissa

    What an awful ordeal for a little girl! My husband,who was perennially on homecoming court, and I had a conversation where he tried to minimize bullying; but I still remember one Valentine’s Day in second grade where I was skipping along, eager for our afternoon party, when my class’s known bully JOSHUA (I still hate that name) randomly punched me in the stomach without saying a single word. This stuff sticks with you forever.

    However, the entire time I read your piece, I couldn’t help but think “Where the hell was the bus driver?” and “Why didn’t your parents call bus services?” “Why didn’t your mom call Mitchel’s mom?” My mother called bus services (not for bullying but because Russell the bus driver was clearly stoned out of his mind and kept missing my stop), and the problem was cleared up quickly.

    Also, school admininstration DOES have big problems to deal with besides bullying and disciplining students…namely, educating students, training teachers, and meeting all the standards that freaking No Child Left Behind has put in place. As much as I agree that the Vice Principal could have made a simple phone call to Mitchel’s mom, I’m tired of putting all the expectations on schools to parent kid. Bullying prevention needs to start with parents.

  • Maggie

    It makes me so sad to read this, and any other story about kids being bullied. I was bullied mercilessly from grade 2 to grade 7, and you’re right; that shit sticks with you forever. The boys who bullied me in elementary school actually apologized when I confronted them about it as adults, but the two boys who bullied me in middle school (and beat the shit out of 12-year-old me when I stood up for myself) are now 1)unemployed and 2)in jail. So there is a smidge of justice in the universe, but it came at a pretty heavy cost to my self-esteem.

  • Janna

    So, so true. I was lucky to have a great teacher in elementary school and a fiercely protective mother. But ,of course, they could never make it stop completely, only for some days, and then the other kids were angry with me for telling on “my peers”, as if bullies and their victims could ever be peers.

    I remember so many times when I reached out for teachers, adults and at point my pastor (when I was bullied before and after Sunday school) because I felt helpless and desperate. So much “Deal with that yourself”, “They are just jealous/in love”, “I’m sure it’s not that bad” or half-hearted attempts at scolding the bullies. It left me suspicious of other children and their intentions and disappointed and left alone by adults. I always thought it was their duty to help and protect a child in need, even though I know, adults cannot solve all problems between children.

    I’m fine now,don’t worry! Maybe a little too tough, too bitter. I just tend to get a little post-traumatic discussing this :)

  • Naomi

    I was literally bullied out of high school. My sophomore year, I (being one of the few “weird” goth kids in my school) was verbally harrassed daily by a football player about twice my size during one of my classes. The one day that I chose not to ignore his constant insults by telling him calmly to go f*ck himself, I was followed out into the hallway at the end of class, grabbed by him, and punched in the face several times. My cheekbone was fractured. When the principal questioned him, the football player said (out of some sort of twisted self preservation, I suppose) that I had called him the “N-word” (which I’ve never uttered in my life). The principal took his side and wanted to suspend me. The head of the guidance department refused to consent to punishing me and didn’t believe the football player. My assailant was only suspended for a week and told everyone in school that he’d been defending himself from racial prejudice. The principal warned me that if I pressed charges against my assailant, I could be expelled for “promoting racial disharmony” in the school. So I did nothing. But for the next year, I was daily threatened with physical violence by people who believed the lies about me, received death threats, and had my property vandalized. I started skipping school for the first time in my life because I was terrified. My parents consented to allowing me to take the GED exam so that I could get the hell out of dodge and be left in relative peace. I don’t plan on having children but if I did, my faith in school administrators doing their jobs and looking out for victims of abuse would be non-existent.

    • Fabel

      This is absolutely horrible & I’m sorry this happened to you.

    • Naomi

      Thank you.

  • Kimberly @ Twen-Teen

    Great piece, Amanda. It really annoys me when people say “well, that was such a long time ago. get over it.” in response to stories about bullying or teasing. People remember that stuff.

  • Jamie Peck

    Fun fact: bullying is a major component of my lingering self-esteem issues! I’m a pretty happy person these days, but they’re still there in the back of my mind, and always will be, I think.

    • Shezbot

      Same here. I hated my body for years and mistreated it due to the things that boys said and did to me. Looking back, I realize that I developed earlier than most girls and the boys didn’t really know how to handle that (uhm, politely?) . There was one boy who called me “Buffalo Butt” day in and day out of my 7th grade year. In high school, we ended up working together at the same drugstore. I flat out told him that I hated him for what he had done to me. He didn’t get it.

    • Alexandra

      Same, I feel bad cause I haven’t been bullied for the past two/three years, but everyone expects me to get over my issues because it was so long ago, and I just can’t. (I was bullied everywhere up to the last year of high school)

  • Cee

    I was bullied for not speaking English my first years of school, for being fat, for being a nerd and just last year for being gay.

    Schools and parents need to start taking responsibility for their children. I whole heartedly agree with Marissa on administration being stretched too thin, however it is their job to come down and remember to take care of these needs because a bullied child and these types of problems also affect administration’s precious test scores.

    Parents often overlook this type of behavior when it comes from their children often with excuses such as: kids will be kids, my kid is incapable of that, your kid must’ve done something, how DARE you. Some parents will acknowledge that their child is a bully and not do a damn thing and lastly some parents just don’t care about what their child does.

    If schools don’t have parental support, some of the big issues about the bullying will not be remedied .

  • Lo

    I started modeling in middle school (after my ‘awkward’ phase, which hit earlier around 4th/5th grade) and it was around the same time that girls in my grade and school began being extremely evil to me (many of these girls used to be my ‘best friends’ in elementary school).

    It got to the point where I skipped lunchtime every day and stayed in vacant classrooms for nearly two years to avoid dealing with them and came home crying every day.

    After two years of hell, my parents agreed to let me go to the other middle school in my district and drive me there, across town, every day. It was there that I met the people who have remained my three best friends today.

    I know the other girls were jealous or whatever but seriously, WHY are adolescent girls so cruel? And why is middle school the worst time ever?! I was nothing but nice to those girls and they just made my life awful for two years.

    I only hope others who have been bullied were able to recover as well as I did, basically saying ‘F You’ to the girls who harassed me, as I’m much more successful in my life and career (and still better looking..am I also cruel to even say that?)!

    Related note: I just saw the movie Bully last weekend and it really hit home, I recommend that everyone see it.

    • Alle C

      I don’t think you’re cruel for saying that. I feel the same way about the kids (girls especially, but also some guys) who picked on me in high school: I look amazing, my life is great and the best stuff in my life is in front of me. Their best stuff is behind them.

  • EKS

    Also scary is thinking about where bullies are learning their words and behaviors. If that’s what plays out at school, I tend to worry that what’s going on at home may be pretty terrible as well. Btw, glad to see your parents took action – not everyone’s do!

  • Lo

    Oddly enough, most of the catty, vicious bullying came to me (girl) from boys. Maybe that’s not the sort of thing teachers are looking out for.

    There was one time I managed to stop a bully, and I did it by keeping a journal of everything he did to me, and sometimes getting a couple of friends to sign it when they were witnesses. After a couple of months, I handed it in to my teachers, and luckily they took notice and the bullying stopped.

    I do wish I’d had the wherewithal to hit back when another little fucker punched me in the stomach. I’d like to see him again.

  • Still bothered

    I was bullied from the 6th grade until I graduated high school. I am now 27 and it still has a negative effect on my social life. I was followed around the hallways by girls talking blatantly about my hair, my clothes and the way I talked. I had clothes stolen from my gym locker, of my clothes line, a lunch tray dumped on my head. Teachers and administration observed some of the behavior but did nothing. Girls can be so cruel and til this day I have maybe one or two close girl friends. I am glad there is more awareness about bullying now. I truly hope other kids do not have to endure what I did.

    • Enlightened

      I am sitting under a light bulb right now. I have never gotten along with women for some reason. I have only one female friend. But I hadn’t made the connection before – my bullies were female. Sort of an “aha” moment for me.

    • Rezia

      I’ve always wondered why I had trouble getting along with girls. Guys have always seemed nicer and less mean and complicated to me. I finally understand! Thank you. I was bullied in junior high by some really mean girls. And that’s the reason I still have trouble trusting other girls. I have maybe one or two close girlfriends.

      Even now, in university, there are still mean girls. Girls who think I’m stupid and can’t know how to program because I wear lipgloss. As soon as I see one warning sign, I run. I thought there was something wrong with me, but at least I know what it is now.

  • Brianna

    Ugh. I’m so sorry this happened to you. I want to tell you that I relate, all the way down to living in NH and switching towns/schools in elementary school. My bullying started as soon as we moved and I switched schools in 5th grade. Girls would ask questions like “how did you grow that unibrow?” “did you get punched in the eyes? what are those circles?” And those were just the heckles. When we moved on to middle school and joined classes with a neighboring town, the number of bullies doubled. All were girls. They’d walk behind me and tug at my clothes. Yell at me. Steal my stuff. One girl threw a pair of my shoes out the bus window. No one ever hit me (that I can remember), but I’d go home crying all the time, my parents had no idea how to help me. I hated school, hated the people. And I agree with “Still Bothered”: when you’re bullied by girls, you learn to never trust them. I have a few female friends now but even still I keep them at a safe distance.

    As they say, it gets better as you get older, but the wound never heals.

  • Avodah

    I really appreciate this article. I certainly had my tormentors when I was in grade school.

    I want to open a dialogue about far-m0re-subtle forms of bullying such as workplace bullying, mommy bullies (mommies who bully other mommies or non-mommies), bride and bridesmaid bullies and more.

    For adults, the bullying is often less overt and (hopefully) less violent. But, I still think women have a long way to go in terms of how we treat one another.

  • Stephanie

    I was a bully. I never physically hit anyone but I was sharp with the tongue. I’m not exactly sure why I did it but the plain cold fact is that I found satisfaction being in control of someone else’s emotion. Of course, I find it disgusting now that I think about it. There are a few reasons why I think I did it. It could have been that I wanted the heat off me…I was poor and didn’t have the best clothes so I picked on a girl who lived in a halfway house. I wanted to seem funny because I didn’t think anyone would like me. I wanted someone else to look stupid for a change. My older sister kind of bullied me in an extremely abusive way physically and mentally. To the point of ripping out huge lumps of hair and deep scratches that would leave scars on a weekly basis. My mother just accepted it as sibling rivalry but it was more. My sister would ingrain in me that I was an idiot who would never accomplish anything and I wanted someone else to feel that way too. I was cruel and I hate myself for it. I’ve even begged for forgiveness to the person I did it to and from the grace of God and her kind heart she forgave me when she didn’t have to.

    I still have a sharp tongue but it’s only to quiet those whom I see displaying the same behavior as a child. I am not as hurtful but I use my wit to turn things around on them so they know what it feels like. I use it on snippy coworkers or obscenely rude people.

    I wanted to share with you although some bullies may never grow out of their evil ways, I would be more than a few sincerely regret everything they did. I do. I’m so sorry for what happened to you. You are none of those things. Know your truth and make sure if you ever see anyone getting bullied to get involved. No one ever stopped me but I know if I would have been reprimanded or put in my place, I would have stopped. Bullying is serious and we need to get DEEPLY involved.

    • Janna

      Thank you so much for that! I often wonder if we ever grow out of the roles we play (or maybe are assigned?) as children.

  • Amanda Chatel

    Thank you to everyone for sharing your stories!

  • Lori

    I was also bullied. I had my own encounter on the school bus when I was in first grade. An extremely disturbed boy who was a terrible bully ‘chose me’ to be his punching bag. Literally. He grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and slapped me in the face, back and forth, all the way home. By the time I got off the school bus and walked up my street (my face red and puffy from crying and from being hit so many times) — my parents had received more than one phone call. Other kids on the bus were shocked and scared by the incident but no one had the nerve to do anything. These kids told their moms as soon as they got home from school and the news was in the grapevine.

    There were other incidents with other bullies, but that one stands out in my memory and your story provoked vivid memories. This torment sticks with you for life, I’m afraid. I am an extremely happy adult with a loving family and plenty of supportive friends. I have had no reason to think of myself negatively for many years and have been blessed with much positive feedback in my adult life. But being bullied has left scars. I tend to be defensive…hard on myself…reflexively “funny” to mask true emotions, etc. I have been working on my self esteem for more than 30 years now!

    The kid who slapped me around when I was seven never made it to adulthood. He was found dead in his living room when we were in our late teens. It was unclear whether his death was suicide or homicide.

    I am not ‘happy’ that he is dead (and so young). I recognise that he was very sick and the early 70s was not a time when kids with severe issues were being diagnosed and given help. I cannot imagine what his life was like…what caused such violent hatred and sadism in a person so young. As miserable and terrified as he made me, I can guarantee that his life was a short tragedy.

    I also want to express to the author my empathy and sympathy for what she went through. It should never be diminished.

  • Avodah

    @ Enlightened- I hadn’t thought of that before. I am not great at making friendships with women, and my tormentors were mainly girls. Something to think about…

  • Georgie

    To be fair, sometimes it is truly a case of parents thinking the sun shines out of their kid’s arse. Yes, teachers are there to foster the development of children and schools should be a safe, caring environment, but parents are also to blame. Some parents can literally not grasp the fact that their child is a conniving, cruel shit at school. They believe anything their kid tells them i.e. it’s actually the TEACHER bullying me! Parents also consistently assume that teachers are there to show kids how to behave, no, that is for parents to do. Every school I’ve been to has had strict anti-bulling guidelines in order but that doesn’t change a vicious-natured kid into a good person. Short of expelling kids left, right and centre (which would certainly not help the bully in any case), how much can a teacher actually do? If parents aren’t willing to pick up their game then kids will continue to be bullied and suffer at school.

  • kt

    Eh, In my 20s i was still bothered by the people who were mean to me as a kid, but I’m 30 now and for some reason I just kind of got over it (this was not due to any major epiphany on my part). I sort of still hate myself, though, but for different reasons.

  • Arnie

    I, too, was bullied all through primary school, right up until around halfway through secondary school, although it got better once my so-called friends finally got sick of me and just left me to my own lonely devices.

    I was never really physically abused (unless you count being spat at), but holy crap girls can be nasty. And all the more so when they’re the only “friends” you have. I’m very lucky to have much more awesome people in my life now.

    Having worked with kids, both at schools, and as a nanny, I’d say that schools are often put in a really difficult position. Yes, they should often stand up and put more effort into stopping it than they do,but from a teacher’s perspective, it really is incredibly hard sometimes. Especially as most bullies are the ones who come from families where their parents just don’t care.
    Some parents you call will be profusely apologetic, and be on it right away, setting their kids on the right path, but for every parent like that, there are a dozen who dismiss the behaviour, or are unwilling to even discuss it. As a teacher, it can be incredibly hard to deal with a kid whose parents are not giving them what they need. Schools need to take some of the responsibility, but they’re also no paid nearly enough to be social workers ontop of everything else they do.

  • D.

    When I was bullied in school, fifth grade, my mom told me to go up to the girl on the last day of school and punch her in the face. I didn’t last until the end of the year, I knocked her around a bit in front of the class and ruined my nerd reputation.
    There was another time in second grade when two boys attempted to tease me by saying I was as ugly as a gorilla and I snapped back with, “Leave me alone! I’m bigger than the both of you and will beat you up!” They didn’t do it again, and became my friends.
    Looking back that all seems very barbaric, so I wouldn’t really recommend it at all. It instilled in me a really negative outlook. If someone is mean to you or if somebody hurts you, hurt them. Violence really solves nothing. I don’t know how I’d deal with someone bullying my kids, maybe I’d be the mother trying to get everyone to talk it out and be friends. It is a challenging situation for a parent. If you tell them to stick up for themselves, will they think you’re condoning violence as conflict resolution? If you tell them to talk it out or go to someone, how is it going to go? Will they continue to have their feelings hurt or will they really get the help they need? I hate bullying, thanks for posting this and getting people talking.

  • Bocks

    I was bullied in junior high. This guy who sat next to me in science class would smack my desk as hard as he could and scream my last name, “FARRELL!!!” (not my real last name) as loud as he could. I would jump every time because — WTF — who fucking expects to be screamed at randomly during class?? The last straw was one day when he told me, “Look…” — and he pulled a pocket knife out of his backpack. I didn’t really believe I was being threatened, but in the interest of veneance I immediately told a teacher at lunchtime and he ended up getting suspended. What a dick.

  • Mia

    I had a lot of experience with bullying growing up, but I feel the way that schools are handling it now is going WAY overboard. Recently, I sat in on an elementary school classroom on the day the “anti-bullying coordinator” (or something like that) came in to do a talk. While I thought it was great that they taught children the different kinds of bullying and how to handle the situation, I think that prosecuting a teacher for not reporting a bullying situation within 24 hours is way too extreme . Maybe it’s because I live in NJ and we had the Tyler Clementi tragedy not too long ago. But that’s getting off topic. Had teachers paid attention, even more slightly, when you were in school, or when I was in school, instead of chalking it up to “there’s nothing we can do”, we wouldn’t have 15 year-olds committing suicide and their bullies continuing to harass them even after they are dead. I think we need to teach all kids to be strong and happy with who they are, rather than completely victimize the victims and crucify the bullies.