Friday, November 19, 2010

End the Isolation of Kids Who are Bullied

“I just want to die. I can't tell anybody. I am too scared."

“I’m at the point I cry my self to sleep at night. I’m scared to walk alone in the hallways of school. I’m cutting myself because of the pain.”

“I hope I will be able to withstand these hurtful feelings."

These are the real words of kids who endure repeated bullying. Drenched in despair, their sentiments are mirrored by countless other kids who are bullied daily and believe that nothing or no one can help. Some have reached out to their schools or parents for help but are either rebuffed or are not given sufficient support. Hence, the sense of helplessness and despair deepens:

 “When I told my mom about the bullying she said ‘just ignore it.’ That DOESN'T HELP IT AT ALL!!!!! I have attempted suicide a few times.”

“I went to a counselor and to the principal, both. They told me they were going to take care of it but they did nothing except give the students a little slap on the wrist. It kept getting worse and there were times when I wanted to kill myself. Schools are supposed to protect their students and make them feel safe. I feel like my school did neither.”

When kids go to adults for help, but sufficient steps aren’t taken to end the bullying once and for all, a very damaging belief is reinforced: that they are completely alone and nobody can help. That’s when many kids give up. They stop asking for help, and they start entertaining thoughts of suicide. The problem is intensified for gay teens. According to a recent report in LiveScience, “62.4 percent of bullied gay and lesbian teens did not report the harassment to school officials. Just over one-third of those who had reported the bullying said that the school staff did nothing in response.”

Not telling anyone is a common choice among many kids who are bullied. According a study published in the journal Children and Schools, there are seven reasons this is the case:

1. Fear adults will do nothing: Kids may be skeptical that adults can, or will, take steps to stop the bullying.

2. The cloak of secrecy: Bullying often happens out of adults' sight, in settings such as hallways and school lunchrooms. Thus, bullying stays between the victim, the bully and peer bystanders.

3. Power: Bullying is marked by one participant — the bully — possessing more power than the other, whether that power is real or perceived. Children learn to gain power by aggression and to accept when others wield aggressive power. So a "weak" victim is not likely to tattle.

4. Self-blame: Victims may feel shame and blame themselves for their situation. One girl told the researchers she was at fault for her victimization, because she was "a little chubby."

5. Retaliation: To some kids, the logic is simple: Tell an adult and make the bully madder.

6. Vulnerability: Kids who are bullied are often less accepted by their peers and may struggle with social skills. They may yearn for acceptance from the very people who torment them.

7. Fear of losing a friendship: Sometimes the relationship between bullies and victims isn't so straightforward. If the victim counts the bully as a friend (or wants to be his or her friend), telling may not seem like an option.

There’s much that can be done to support kids who are bullied and help them move beyond the wall of silence:
If you are a parent, click here to find out what you can do if your child is being bullied:

If you’re a teacher, group leader, or you work with kids in any other capacity, click here to find out what you can do to help kids who are being bullied :

To order the Bully Free Zone poster pictured above, click here:

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