When I was still in middle school, there was a boy who had a crush on me. Adorable right? I did not reciprocate the feeling and when he asked me to be his girlfriend, I declined. Instead of bowing out, he began bullying me.
Like many a student before me, the rude comments and other various small annoyances were ignored by the school staff. While they were small and insignificant in the bigger picture, it felt like a large problem to an insecure preteen trying to figure out what the hell is going on with her body.
One weekend, I went to the pool with my family. Lo and behold, the boy with a crush turned bully was there. For the most part, he avoided us, much to my relief. However, Monday morning was a whole other ordeal.
I had a growth spurt before middle school that had left stretch marks on my thighs. Of course, when I wore a bathing suit, these were visible. They didn't bother me...or so I thought.
Monday morning was the usual clutter of chatting students and general middle school chaos. I was walking to class when I heard the voice of my bully call out over the din, "Hey Stretchmarks!"
The urge to hide in the bathroom in embarrassment only lasted until I turned to see his grinning face. I was done. No one else was going to do a thing to stop him. I had to be my own knight in shining armor.
I looked him dead in the eye and said loud enough to catch the attention of the student resource officer on duty, "Will you shut the fuck up?"
And like many a bullied student, I was promptly ushered into the office where my father was called. Keep in mind I was not a bad kid, so the thought of my parents being called about my use of the F word was anxiety inducing to say the least.
I will never forget how my father reacted. He listened to what the SRO had to say and said he would speak with me after school.
When I got home, we sat out on the back porch and he had me explain what had happened. When it was over he said, "I will never get mad at you for defending yourself."
Those words erased any negative impact the school had enforced.
Why is this story important? According to Pacer's National Bullying Prevention Center, "One out of every five (20.2%) students report being bullied."
The keyword within that statistic is report. My story is just one of thousands where the victim was reprimanded for standing up against a bully. Without the support my father had provided, the negative reinforcement pushed by the school would have impacted me down the road.
By telling any young child, boy or girl, that they are in the wrong for defending themselves is abhorrent. By enforcing that behavior at an early age, the child is more susceptible to tolerating toxic relationships (both private and professional) later on in life. This can lead to mental, financial, and physical problems in the long run.
What can you do if you are the one being harassed? Telling the person harassing you to stop, or to shut the fuck up in my case, is always a decent starting point. You have every right to stand up for yourself. However, if you are continuing to be harassed, speaking with a person with higher authority, such as a teacher or Human Resources, is the next best step. If the behavior does not stop, continue to push for your case to be heard and dealt with effectively.
Bullying has no age limit. Self-defense is a human right and teaching our children to allow someone to harass them is one of the worst things we can possibly do. We should be teaching future generations to stand up for themselves. Besides, there is worse a kid can do than tell their bully to shut the fuck up.