Local teen opens up about raw and personal story of being bullied
October is National Bullying Prevention Month – “Be an UPstander, not a bystander”
Largo, Fla. – She is 18 years old now; but from the age of 12 to 17, life for this teenager who chooses to remain anonymous was not full of fun, memorable moments that she would cherish forever.
“I was consistently called a name, Rat Face, from the same group of kids on a daily basis,” says the teen. “Every day when I walked down the halls, into each class, during every class change, every lunch, and nearly throughout all of middle-school, I was called this name. Sometimes when I raised my hand in class and the teacher would call my name, a couple of people would say ‘that’s not her name, it’s Rat Face’. The teacher didn’t seem to see it.
“This made me feel alone. I ate lunch alone. I was hit by other students as they passed by and would yell the name that the popular group started calling me. I’m a girl and boys would literally punch me in the arm as hard as they could and call me that name. It spread. Everyone acted entitled to call me that. They made up songs and even sent me friend requests only to send me one message; the name, and then unfriend me. They laughed and I went home and cried.
“I stayed home some weekends, while other times I tried to go out to the movies with all the other kids on a Friday night. But even at the movies, there it was, that name. I always hoped that if I was out with my mom shopping or at church that no one would call me that in front of her. I was embarrassed and ashamed. I would tell her everything was fine and then go in my bedroom after school and cry. She had no idea.
“Even the couple of friends I did have would sometimes laugh when others called me this. They would sometimes even call me the name. I felt ugly, worthless and hopeless. Wasn’t I a nice person though? What did I do to everyone to deserve this? How do I make it stop?
“Looking back, I can say this was a painful and lonely point in life. I turned to dangerous stuff to get through it. I thought I’d be better off dead. I really just wanted help, attention, and for it to stop.”
This teenager’s story is all too-real. With October being National Bullying Prevention Month, local non-profit, the LiveFree! Coalition is urging the community to stand up to bullying by being an ‘UP’stander.
What is bullying: Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems. According to stopbullying.gov.
Cyberbullying: Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Electronic technology includes devices and equipment such as cell phones, computers, and tablets as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites.
Examples of cyberbullying include mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.
Who is at risk: No single factor puts a child at risk of being bullied or bullying others. Bullying can happen anywhere—cities, suburbs, or rural towns. Depending on the environment, some groups—such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered (LGBT) youth, youth with disabilities, and socially isolated youth —may be at an increased risk of being bullied.
Prevention: Parents, school staff, and other caring adults have a role to play in preventing bullying. They can:
- Help kids understand bullying. Talk about what bullying is and how to stand up to it safely. Tell kids bullying is unacceptable. Make sure kids know how to get help;
- Keep the lines of communication open. Check in with kids often. Listen to them. Know their friends, ask about school, and understand their concerns;
- Encourage kids to do what they love. Special activities, interests, and hobbies can boost confidence, help kids make friends, and protect them from bullying behavior;
- Model how to treat others with kindness and respect.
Responding to bullying: When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior they send the message that it is not acceptable. Research shows this can stop bullying behavior over time. There are simple steps adults can take to stop bullying on the spot and keep kids safe, such as:
- Intervene immediately. It is ok to get another adult to help;
- Separate the kids involved;
- Make sure everyone is safe;
- Meet any immediate medical or mental health needs;
- Stay calm. Reassure the kids involved, including bystanders;
- Model respectful behavior when you intervene.
HASHTAG OPPORTUNITY: The LiveFree! Coalition is urging the community to post to their social media profiles a sign with #UPstander to show that they don’t stand for bullying; they stand up to it!
MEDIA OPPORTUNITY: We have an expert available for interview along with teens from LiveFree! clubs in high schools of Pinellas County.
About LiveFree! Coalition: LiveFree! Coalition raises awareness about the harmful effects of substance abuse among youth, young adults and adults in Pinellas County. By offering trainings, advocacy, town hall meetings, a Speaker’s Bureau, environmental strategies and awareness events, LiveFree! encourages Pinellas County families to live safe, healthy and drug-free. For more information, visit the blog at www.livefreeblog.org or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/livefreeFL.