Bullying is not a Childhood Problem

With the American election entering its final weeks, I’m finding it really hard to cross my hands and sit still. Slam ads, digs at each other in rallies, Twitter wars. It’s hard to watch, and it seems like nobody’s calling it what really is. It’s bullying.

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I don’t usually talk about bullying, because it dredges up old experiences and makes me angry, but in the swing of such a nasty election, I think it’s worth a mention.

It seems to me that “bullying” is built up as a childhood problem, a problem that we’ll all get over. We’re taught that bullies are just kids who will learn their lesson, that they don’t really mean to hurt us, they’re just trying to find their place. But then I see adults doing it– making veiled threats, harassing each other online, and calling each other names in front of an entire nation. What kind of message does this send?  

I was bullied in high school. It got so bad I had to be homeschooled for two years. After 24 months of psychiatry, therapy, and worry, I decided to go back to high school. In my senior year, I started at a new school and graduated with a new group of people. Even though I took myself out of a toxic environment, the fear of being victimized and ridiculed never went away. It still follows me every day in university. Living in fear of bullies, I’m constantly told to not let it bother me, to get over it. But it’s not that easy.

I graduated, yay!

I graduated, yay!

Something I learned as a victim is that bullies are really good at making other people think nothing’s going on. What people never got when I was victimized is that bullying is abuse. There were no consequences for any off the people who sent me anonymous hate messages. The police said they couldn’t do anything, because technically they weren’t threatening my safety. Once, I stood up for myself when one of my bullies blocked my path in the hallway, and I was sent home. I was punished for having fear, and acting on it. When I reported it to an adult, she asked me what I did to make them hate me so much.

I’m not saying abuse is easy for bystanders to stand up to. When I asked a friend to stand up for me, I learned that she was afraid of being their next target.

I still sometimes hear the voices of my bullies and feel panic rise up in my belly. I haven’t seen them in 3 years, and I haven’t heard from them either.

It’s important that we accept that bullying isn’t a childhood problem. Bullying is abuse, and it needs to be addressed that way.

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