Publishers won’t take work that has been published before, not even blog posts. I’ve found that out the hard way. Since I’ve already written on his issue and this piece is an updated version of it, I have chosen to blog it. if you don’t find it helpful I hope that at least it will be illuminating.
My teenage granddaughter was being bullied at school. It was a shock the first time round, but I thought that as it had been sorted out, that should be the end of it. What I know now but didn’t back then is that there is never an end to it. There’s no manual either to refer to because bullies come in all shapes and sizes as do victims. That is what makes a resolution seemingly impossible.
Two years ago, my granddaughter was a happy, outgoing girl, sure of her place in the school hierarchy and in the general scheme of things. Then a group of her long time friends dropped her. It wasn’t all of them at once but, drip, drip, drip, a bit like Chinese water torture, they one by one turned their backs on her. It took a disaffected and determined person and her acolytes to orchestrate such an awful plan. That they didn’t ultimately succeed in their nefarious scheme wasn’t for want of trying.
The former friends didn’t speak directly to D but aimed nasty comments in her direction making sure it was within earshot. It was a particularly nasty and insidious form of bullying that left her bewildered, abandoned and feeling worthless. But that was only the beginning
A victim is effectively cut off from the herd and left alone with her misery and her thoughts. After a time she comes to believe what her enemies tell her about herself and is too ashamed to admit it to her parents or to ask for help. Deep down though she believes her parents would be as powerless as she is to do anything about her situation. She sees her tormentors as all powerful and no one can protect her from them. She fights a losing battle without any hope of support. ‘Children who were bullied were up to nine times more likely to have suicidal thoughts, say some studies.’ (kidspot.com.au)
Once it’s reported, if it’s reported, school counsellors do try to help. There are anti bullying policies in place, but success is limited, especially at the high school level. Parents are the last to find out. Often it’s when the school calls them in for a discussion.
I used to think that victims were easy prey because they are loners and they lack social skills. But D doesn’t fit into that category. It only took one determined leader and her back up crew to cause D both physical and mental anguish.
I realise now that there’s no use appealing to a bully’s better nature or conscience. Most don’t have them. And no one is exempt. Even the acolytes, when pressed will say they were only following orders. They wouldn’t want to attract the wrong sort of attention. D’s confidence spiralled and we despaired of ever coming up with a workable solution until one day her dad had a light bulb moment. He suggested she realign herself with people she knew and liked but hadn’t socialised with before.
That worked for D. But it’s not as clear what solution we would have come up with if she had been a friendless loner. Theres no definitive answer to this problem because each time it’s different.
Most recently two boys decided D was fair game and teased her. Despite her previous experience she worried about the fall out that would affect her if she spoke up. Even though there was a positive ending, it took some time before she confessed to her parents that it was happening all over again. They decided the best way to conquer was to divide. One talked it over with the principal and the other talked to the boys’ parents. It turned out to be a good combination. Bullying is a complex issue. Any chance of it working depends on the proverbial village: Parents, grandparents, uncles and aunties, teachers and counsellors and the victim who is first, not last on that list to all gather together and brainstorm. But first and foremost we have to make sure that victims understand that it isn’t they who should own the shame.
We’re on the alert now and looking out for the signs. We are not taking it for granted any more that it won’t happen again. D’s experiences have made her a stronger person. She has learned that other people’s behaviour are not her fault and she has regained control over her life. She knows and we know that it’s up to all the people involved in her life to play a positive and supportive role in her life and it all begins with her.