Quick. Name a bully from your elementary school days. Most likely you remember both the first and last name of the bully. The power of bullies is so great we often remember their names - and their meanness - forever.
Unfortunately, that bully didn’t graduate from cruelty when school ended. He (or she) might be the boss who is rude and harassing. The alcoholic who drives drunk through your streets. The man next door who beats his wife. The mother down the block who verbally abuses her kids. The couple in your church convicted of elder abuse.
Bullies almost always grow up to bully some more. They can disrupt and destroy our lives. They can pose as big a threat to community peace as drugs and drive-by shootings.
Because of this reality, we’ve devoted much space in today’s newspaper to bullying. In the IN Life section, writer Julie Sullivan documents the long-term effects of bullying, on the bully and the victim. Experts she interviewed stressed that only adults can stop this behavior.
Bullying is not something for children to “work out” among themselves. Victims do not build character by standing up to their bullies. Adults who know about bullying must step in quickly and forcefully. Not only to rescue the victim, but to help the bully as well.
Also in today’s newspaper, you will find several first-person stories on the Perspective page and in the IN Life section. About 20 readers sent in their bully stories when we asked for them three months ago. They wrote of the human costs of bullying. You will not soon forget the terror Jacob faced in gym class. Or the humiliation Lisa felt when students booed during her campaign speech.
To those who wrote, thank you. Your courage in speaking out may very well help prevent some other young person from experiencing the pain you did.
The bullying problem is huge, and the consequences can be tragic now that children have increased access to guns. But there are solutions.
Talking is the first step.
Some children who are bullied keep it secret. They feel shame, plus they often feel that they brought the abuse upon themselves. If you suspect a child is being bullied, do not keep silent. If your suspicions are true, do not stop talking until the bullying stops.
We hope you use the bullying stories to begin discussions with children in your homes, churches and schools. If children sense they are not alone, if they know that someone else has lived through torture on a school bus, if they know an adult will help them escape, then the bully loses power. And we’re all safer for it.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rebecca Nappi/For the editorial board