Bullies Be Gone
Today I'm attending a fundraiser in Vancouver in support of Pink Shirt Day (coming up on February 26th) to raise funds and awareness for anti-bullying campaigns across the country. I am more than happy to lend a hand because bullying can happen to anyone, at any age, including myself.
I am the youngest of 4 children which by definition means I spent my early years getting teased a bit. Did my birth order make me an easy target for others later on? I’ve often wondered. A dark cloud hangs over the years I was in grades 4 and 5, when a boy named Shane tormented me relentlessly. He loved to tell me I was going to grow up fat and covered in zits. In those days bullying wasn’t a thing parents and teachers talked about like they do today.
Shane got his kicks by organizing fist fights between other girls and me. He’d corner me in the hallway and tell me when and where to be later because so-and-so was going to fight me. And if I didn’t show up he’d find me and “pound my head in”. I believed him. When the other girls didn’t show up he always had an excuse. As well as a promise that he’d have someone else to fight me tomorrow. It was a stressful way to live though grade 4.
I never told a soul. I never stood up for myself and I never let that boy see how scared I was. I just took it and did whatever he told me to. Then, hallelujah, one day in grade 5 Shane announced he was moving away. I was free. But it wasn’t a freedom I’d won on my own.
Later, In first year university I lived in residence. My girls floor had a boys floor right below and we were encouraged to socialize. They were supposed to be like our big brothers and watch out for us. Instead, I became their target. They would sneak into my room when I was in the bathroom and steal all the lightbulbs or hide a rotting piece of food on my window ledge. At first it was harmless. But then one day I came home from class and discovered my room had been broken into and all my underwear had been stolen. Every last pair. I was horrified. I was 17 years old and its not as though I had a fabulous collection of slinky things to show off. (Not that that would have made it ok.) Shaking, I marched downstairs to investigate.
All the doors were closed and the place was deserted. But something didn’t feel right. I went outside and around the building and pushed through the bushes up to a window and peered into an empty room. I moved along the brick wall to the next window where I saw another empty room. And another and another. Then finally, at the end of the row of windows I looked in to see about 20 young “men” dancing around with my underwear on their heads. They were throwing it around, taping it to the walls and behaving like imbeciles.
I felt so violated, humiliated and embarrassed, I stood in the bushes and vomited.
Later, when they realized how upset I was the leader of the pack returned my personal items along with an apology and a letter of regret signed by all. I finally got the courage to ask, “why me?”. His response has stayed with me my entire life: ”Because you’re the only one who can take it.”
Translation: You’re the only one who won’t cry or tell on us. You’re the only one who won’t do something about it.
Bullying is rooted in a feeling of superiority. I have run into it many times since university but at least now I’ve learned that bullies only get their power if we give it to them.
On February 26th, wear a pink shirt and take away a bully’s power.