October 8, 2012

Bully This

Along with being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, October is home to several other commemorative months including National Bullying Prevention Month. I cannot express how important this is. Bullying is a problem, a serious problem. What’s worse is that we only think of bullying amongst kids and teenagers, but the sad truth is bullying happens at all ages. This is unacceptable.

NPR ran a story about domestic abuse victims who ended up killing their abusers. The story noted that in California these victims now have a chance at release. This story cut straight to my heart. These victims experienced the most extreme bullying. Bullying is abuse whether it be hair pulling from the twelve-year old girl sitting in the desk the next row over or the spouse who beats. Both of these examples are bullying, and both are abuse.

What is so dangerous about domestic violence is that it creates a domino effect. If children see this violence, they may, and often do, imitate it at school. What’s even sadder is that some young bullies bully because they are being bullied at home. It’s all they know. LiveScience speculated that the beliefs and ideals of a community may influence bully behavior. Doesn’t it stand to reason, then, that the actions of our communities influence us as well? If a child is subjected to a household of violence, aren’t they more prone to violence themselves? I mean, children learn what they see, hear, feel, experience. Bullying is no different.

In less extreme circumstances, we experience bullying at work, too. We all know those co-workers who will use intimidation to make us do what they want or who will politick to create a consensus or who will passive-aggressively guilt us to their side. These are all forms of bullying. In more extreme cases, sexual harassment takes place. More bullying. Each of these is unacceptable.

So it’s not just kids and teens we need to worry about; it’s all of us. Bullying is detrimental to a healthy life. It can be both emotionally battering as well as physically abusive. It can lead one to extreme levels of depression and mutilation. Time and time again we see the results of bullying in the form of suicide and even homicide. All of this is worth preventing.

I don’t really have the answer to preventing bullying in schools, homes, work, and other communities. But I do know that if we prevent bullying in our children, we can stop the cycle from continuing. If we educate our youth and ourselves, we can choose to change, to stop the violence and emotional abuse. We can choose to fix bullying.

This will require some uncomfortable introspection. We will have to decide if we are bullies, and we will have to actively change that. We will have to have uncomfortable conflicts with others who are definitely bullies to help them identify the behaviors. But we must change. We must prevent bullying in the future.

National Bullying Prevention Month should not be just some fun little commemorative month. This is serious business. All the negativity that bullying breeds only works to separate and harm us. We cannot blindly ignore the bullying around us. We must stand up for the victims, stand up to the bullies, and let them both know that bullying is not acceptable. We must stand up for ourselves and our own emotional and physical health. We must stop the bullying.

Image Credit: O Driscoll Imaging / Shutterstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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