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Ask Dr. C: The Terrible Truth About Bullies

For almost one year, 15 girls terrorized a young classmate online.  art-fla2-620x349

Months of tormenting texts and cruel words such as ‘drink bleach and die’ and ‘you haven’t killed yourself yet?’   broke 12-year-old Rebecca Ann Sedwick. 0431911161_11520924_8col

On September 9th, she climbed a tower at an abandoned concrete plant and flung herself to her death.  A 14-year-old girl and a 12-year old girl have been arrested and charged with felony aggravated stalking.  The 12-year-old girl used to be Rebecca’s friend, but was turned against her.  Other girls stopped being her friend too, afraid of being bullied themselves.

This is just one headline out of many:

  • A 15-year-old, Felicia Garcia, jumped off a train after being bullied by football players who were bragging about sexual acts.
  • A 16-year-old girl leapt from a bridge in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  She survived a 40 foot fall into a rocky stream bed.  The cause:  Bullying on FB.
  • A 15-year-old, Alex Moore, jumped from an overpass above I-65 in Jemison, Alabama. She had complained of bullying at her school.

… And the list goes on and on..

What is going on?

Mean girls and bullies have been around as long as groups have been getting together, but technology has given them a whole new platform to spew their venom and insecurity.

What do we know about bullying? 

We know it’s when a person is picked on over and over again – by a person who is stronger physically or who has a posse backing them up socially.

We know that girls (and guys) get bullied for different reasons, but it usually centers around appearance, social status and boys (relationships).

Bullies pick on people they don’t think fit in – because of the way they look or act.

Bullies pick on people because they, themselves, are insecure or jealous and see the other person as an easy or accessible target.

Some bullies attack physically (hitting, pulling hair, shoving) and some bullies attack psychologically (gossiping, shunning, teasing, taunting, insults).

Some bullies steal your stuff and make you do things you don’t want to do.

Thousands of teen boys and girls wake up afraid to go to school each day.  One of the more painful things about bullying is that it is relentless.  Everyone has been teased in a situation from time to time or has been the butt of a joke.  But just imagine if this went on, by peers who seem to hate you, for weeks or months.  You can see why depression and low self esteem is common in kids who have been bullied.

We are just beginning to realize just how extreme and serious this behavior really is. It is not merely a, ‘rite of passage’, it is changing the course of these children’s lives – forever.

Not only is it horrific for the kid being bullied, but studies are showing that people who bully in elementary and high school have a much higher percentage of committing crimes later on.  The conclusion researchers are reaching toward, is that school bullying is a strong and specific risk factor for later offending (criminal) behavior and that effective anti-bullying programs should be viewed as a form of early crime prevention. Bullies change the course of their own lives – as well as the lives of the people they torment.

Lovely mentor groups are a safe place to talk about what is happening to you.  If you are being bullied, having a friend who is not afraid of the bully and who will support and listen to you can make a difference in how you feel about what is happening.  A peer mentor can also help you reach out to the adults who can help you at your school or home.

We couldn’t help Rebecca or Felicia or Alex or…  But can we help you?

Dr. C.