May 19, 1996 in City
Living In The Shadow Of Fear
We received more than a dozen stories of bullying - past and present - from our readers when we put out a request two months ago for those stories. Some are published in today’s IN Life sections. Some requested anonymity or use of their first-names only. Here are excerpts from those letters.
Anonymous of Spokane
My father was transferred when I was a senior in high school so I had to go to a new school in a different state. I had to ride the bus to school for the first time in my life. That is where the bully was. A big guy named Bill. He would make sure he always got in line directly behind me and would take the seat right behind me on the bus. All the way to school and all the way home he would bang books on my head, push my glasses off, pull my hair. I had no friends and was afraid of the guy. He had greased-back hair and wore a black leather jacket.
My father was genuinely concerned about how I was “fitting in” so I told him about my problems with Bill. My father assured me that everything would work out in time and to just hang in there.
One day Bill pulled my stocking hat down over my eyes. I turned in my seat and hit Bill right in the teeth. Hard enough to draw blood and cut my knuckles. When I got off the bus he pounded me. He got me on the ground and eventually kicked my lower teeth through my bottom lip.
I was in the bathroom cleaning myself up when my father and came home from work. I can’t ever remember seeing him more hurt. I never had to ride the bus again. My dad took me to school every morning and picked me up every afternoon. I was 18 and could legally drink 3.2 percent beer. Sometimes we would stop and have a glass of beer and play a game of pool. I would hear about his day and tell him about mine. He became a very good friend of mine, and even though he’s been dead nearly 10 years I think of him every day. When it became apparent I needed help he was there for me.
Jackie of Spokane
I grew up on the south side of Chicago which is a tough place to begin life. In school, I never fit in. I was an easy target.
I never was pretty and I did really well in school. Being picked on affected every aspect of my life. The fear that I’m being criticized behind my back continues.
One of the worst parts of bullying is the adults that look the other way. Teachers and parents were no help to me. Too many people dismiss it as “kids will be kids.” It was a miserable childhood. I first started to consider suicide when I was 12. It has taken me many years and being married to the right person to make me feel worthwhile. The scars are still there. I used to fantasize about hurting the people who hurt me. I could never do it because I have never been a violent person and weapons were not available to me. All I ever wanted was to be left alone.
Mary of Spokane
Being a painfully shy child, I was not a bully, but one of my acts of cruelty still sticks with me. I believe it was the second grade. I came to school one day dressed in lime green sneakers. Nobody else had shoes like that! One of my best friends liked them and showed up in a pair the following week. I grew jealous and began stepping on them. Needless to say, she never wore them again. This happened 22 years ago. Sad that even the best of kids can be so mean sometimes.
Anonymous of Spokane
In elementary school, a group of us bullied another girl in our class. She was very smart, but strange. She had facial tics and funny handwriting. We laughed at her and wouldn’t play with her at recess. Though we were never horribly cruel, we were cruel enough.
We made fun of her to make us feel better and I find remnants of that behavior still in myself. I put people down verbally, behind their backs. It’s a grown-up form of bullying. I saw the women we bullied at a school reunion a few years ago. She is beautiful, happily married and has a successful career. I wanted to apologize, but I couldn’t find the right words.
Anonymous from Spokane
A girl befriended my daughter and then she turned on her, calling her names, trying to goad her into fights and threatening her. I was able to stop this by telling her parents to stop or I would have to take other measures. If your child is being bullied, go to the limit to stop it. Go to the school, the parents of the bully, neighborhood dispute boards and if an actual assault occurs, go to the police. My final word is to parents of bullies. If your child is a bully now, what will he or she be when grown up?
Anne of Spokane
When I started seventh grade there was a little girl named Mary who took an instant dislike to me. I am and always was very small for my age and also very thin. Mary was large and fat. After school, she was waiting for me. She knocked me down, pulled my hair and screamed at me that she hated me.
I told my mom what happened to me and she hugged me and told me that this girl was a bully and that unless I stood up to her she would continue to mistreat me. The next day when Mary grabbed me, I grabbed her hair and her nose. She started screaming and got off me. I asked her with tears in my eyes why she hated me so and she said because she wanted to be thin and little. She cried and I put my arms around her and told her I would be her friend and after that she left me alone and when I started being her friend, my friends started treating her nice, too.
Anonymous from Spokane
My daughter is severely hearing impaired. She attended a school for the deaf until fourth grade when she was mainstreamed. Then the cruelty began, day in and day out. Her teacher was unconcerned and told my daughter that she would “just have to learn to accept this sort of thing.” The principal did nothing to stop the cruelty. It seems to me that all too often, cruelty to children who are different is lumped in that excuse that “kids will be kids.” The result is that the victim children will bear the emotional scars the rest of their lives.
Joan of Coeur d’Alene
It started about the third grade. Students didn’t want to play with me and wouldn’t allow me to play with them. The harassment followed me to Blue Bird and Camp Fire camps. I remember grabbing a letter-opener and threatening a young girl who wouldn’t stop harassing me. I scared her enough that she left me alone. But I scared myself, too.
I suffered uncontrollable afflictions and ulcers. I even thought of suicide. How did I overcome it? I am now over 40 and childless by choice. My decision was a direct result of what happened to me as a child. Incidentally, I contribute to Idaho’s Child Abuse Prevention Fund.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: WE WANT YOUR INPUT We’d like to hear your reactions to the bully package of stories in our newspaper today. And if you’d like a few extra copies for discussion purposes in your homes, churches or schools, let us know. Contact Rebecca Nappi, The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA., 99210-1515. Fax to (509) 459-5098 or send send e-mail to Rebeccan@spokesman.com.
This sidebar appeared with the story: WE WANT YOUR INPUT We’d like to hear your reactions to the bully package of stories in our newspaper today. And if you’d like a few extra copies for discussion purposes in your homes, churches or schools, let us know. Contact Rebecca Nappi, The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA., 99210-1515. Fax to (509) 459-5098 or send send e-mail to Rebeccan@spokesman.com.