Bullying Needs a Name Change: Try torture, psychological blackmail, first-degree self-confidence killing, life-altering interactions, sexual/physical/mental abuse etc.,

ImageBullying is an outdated term. Families/school teachers in the 50′s used the word ‘bullying’ to describe a kid being left out of a recent game of tag around the block. Now that same word is being used to describe a hailstorm of offences committed that include sexual assault, online harassment, tarnishing someone’s name and image, and even can result in untimely loss of life. It’s time to use a new, more powerful, word to describe the torment that is felt around the world.

Moreover, it’s time we take a step back and actually analyze what’s happening. This isn’t just bullying, and this isn’t just kids against kids. This is serious stuff. The biggest problem is that a lot of the bullying we see today is committed by adults – not by the leaders and role models of tomorrow but by the leaders and role models of today.

Let me tell you a little bit about myself. I have, through various therapists, good friends, and mental exercises, managed to turn what was a severe case of anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression into what is now a sarcastic, cynical, and useful sense of humor. But I am one of the lucky few.

When I was first called ‘Fat’ I was 6. I was in grade 1. You know what happens when someone calls you ‘Fat’ in grade 1? Well, first you go home and you ask ma and pa what it means to be ‘fat’? Then you watch as they look at you for a silent second and you start to suspect that it can’t signify a good thing – mostly because dad averts his eyes and mom looks at you with such pity and astonishment that you almost think you did something wrong. They regain their composure and tell you not to listen to those silly other kids, who raised them that way anyway? I went back to school with a newfound assurance that there was something wrong with those other kids, that their parents missed a lesson that I got because I was never mean. That lasted all of the first half-hour of school. By lunch I was in the bathroom crying. It had taken my first two weeks of public school as a newcomer to the country to severely stunt all my self-confidence, at the time and in the future.

This went on. I began to hide in the bathroom often. The four boys that tormented me would call me names, make fun of me, push me down the hill. I became scared of who I was. If I brought food from home (polish food) that looked/smelled different than theirs, they would make fun of me for being an immigrant and for eating garbage food. I felt bad telling my mom I didn’t want the food she made me every day so I took it from home in the morning, but threw it in the garbage on the way to school and stopped eating lunch by grade 2. I never tried any sports because the first time I tried to play baseball I was tormented and teased so much I gave up on gym that moment. From grade 2 until high-school I would never have the confidence to attempt to play volleyball, basketball, soccer, football, track. To this day I have anxiety walking into a new gym by myself. I need my sister or my friend to come with me to walk me to the tread mill, because I feel like everyone is mocking me.

I started sitting out of swim class with faux-diseases by grade 3. My tormenters had done their work. They no longer teased me daily because they didn’t have to. They had succeeded in creating the seed of self-doubt/loathing in my head and it did their work for them. They made sure to throw in an insult here and there to keep the ball rolling, but other than that, I had now become my worst enemy.

I was classified as Academically Gifted – but I refused to go to special schools and special courses designed for my level of inquisitiveness because I thought they would make fun of me. They altered a potential course of my future.

This continued into middle school. I had cried so much, and so often, that no one paid attention to me. I started to think everything was my fault. My parents wanted to know why I was so sensitive, my teachers suspected I had emotional disorders and needed counseling; my friends weren’t really my friends because it’s hard to be friends with a paranoid girl who thinks everyone is out to get her. But I was confused as to why everyone was focusing on me? Didn’t anyone think it was weird that these boys, six years later, still tortured me? Didn’t their parents wonder why they were so mean, so fixated on watching their victim squirm? Like my parents fixated on my faults and seemed convinced it must be something I was doing?

And so, at 12 years old, I started cutting. Not for attention, not for pity, not for sympathy, but because I had no other outlet. I had no one to tell my pain to, no one that would still listen, and their insults wouldn’t stop. At this point it wasn’t just that I felt fat, but it was that I felt fat, stupid, weak, sensitive, friendless, alone, ugly, geeky, tragic, pathetic, lonely, poor, a loser. It was everything. Everything I did and touched was tainted by self-doubt and self-loathing. Every good mark I got wasn’t good enough, every friend I made I discounted because they’d be gone soon enough. And it was true, they were.

The cutting didn’t stop until well into my twenties. But neither did the bullying.

In high school it was bullying of a different sort. Now the boys still called me fat, but the girls got in there too. There was the guys who told me my pants were too tight, the older girls that would stand at the bottom of the hill and yell/scream insults as the younger girls walked by. I would wait in the school until about an hour after school was done to go home, I couldn’t walk by the older kids without fear of severe mockery. It was debilitating. Snow balls were thrown, cafeteria insults were hurled, gum was put in my hair. People that would be my friends in private would be menaces to my sanity in public. I would spend hours on MSN chit-chatting about my pain, the suffering, to certain guys/girls I considered my friends, and then they’d mock me and make me cry the next day at school. My first boyfriend cheated on me (obviously – what else would happen to an already incapacitated 16 year old) and it became a rumour-mill battle ground. He was, coincidentally, the first guy I slept with. Everyone somehow knew that. When I finally found out he broke my little heart on his grad trip, I ran crying to my friends and realised that everyone had already known. The humiliation, the realization that everyone had known a month before but no one had the respect to tell me still could make me cry, to this day. I suspect there were a lot of factors at play, no one wants to be the rat, nor was there probably a benefit to telling me in that stage of my emotional development.

In university I thought I found my niche. New friends, new places, new lives. What I didn’t realise was that the problems in my head were there for life. The cutting, the self-doubt, the pathetic attempts to garner approval from every new man/woman/child I met – all those were now lifelong issues I had to deal with. I began drinking heavily, dressing provocatively, impressing everyone with new outfits (OSAP), new makeup (OSAP), bar tabs (OSAP), and my general false wealth (OSAP). It wasn’t long before they found out my family had no money, and the torment based on my ‘poverty’ commenced. Keep in mind I had clothes, shoes, books, and was going to university – it’s just these people got BMW’s at 16 and didn’t like to mesh with ‘my kind.’

The charade ended and soon I was experiencing bullying of another kind – sexual pressure/harassment/assault. Guys I thought were my friends would coerce me into their dorm rooms. Guys I trusted. Guys that would take me home would be very pushy if I changed my mind about having sex with them (something I did often, but I was very intoxicated and never one for one-night stands). They got angry, said things like, “come on, don’t be a cock-tease.” Would be forceful, and would talk shit about me the next day. They’d be mad and no longer be my friends. Sometimes I would walk into a bar with my friends and one of the guys I considered my best friends the day before would be giving me the finger, publicly, across the room. My boyfriend at the time cheated on me many times, but each time would consider it funny/tell his friends/blame it on something I did. Men started throwing around the word, “crazy”, like it was hot. It was the new word to describe an upset female. If a man cheated on his girlfriend and she got really mad, she was crazy. If a girl walked into a bar and saw her boyfriend making out with another girl and got really mad, she was crazy. If anything happened at all and the girl showed any sort of human emotion, she was crazy. Crazy was my new tagline and it was frustrating. No one listened to girls, we were nothing more than accessories, goals, things to discard and pay no heed to.

I heard stories of girls passing out drunk after they went home with a guy, and guys putting beer bottles in weird places and taking pictures of them. I’ve heard horror stories of girls who woke up and didn’t know where they were, how they got there, or anything else but the guy had sex with them anyway. I’ve heard of upset girls going home with trusted guy friends, only to be taken advantage of. I know of guys who have bedside tallies scribbled on their walls as a sort of homage to the amount of cattle they’ve brought home.

I’ve seen sexual violence, I’ve seen blackmail, I’ve seen extortion. These kinds of crimes weren’t committed by some random dude that lives in a trailer in the woods preying on little girls. These crimes were committed by my peers, by the leaders, executives, corporate board members of today – against their friends. It wasn’t a crime to them, it was a joke.

And here’s where the problems are with bullying. Things I can’t understand but things I noticed.

From day one I had a strange, fucked up, yearning to be friends with these boys. I even developed crushes on the meanest ones sometimes. I wanted to hold their hand and be their friend/girlfriend. This started from the first day they started bullying me. I wanted them to like me so bad.

This was further justified because all the adults around me told me, “It’s just because they like you.” What kind of a lesson is that for a little girl? It sets me up for a lifetime of abuse that I subject myself to, agree to, even invite because I’ve been taught from a young age that it means acceptance and love from the opposite sex.

I’ve been taught that it’s just because boys don’t know how to express their feelings. If we continue letting little boys and girls bully because we think it’s the only way they can express themselves, when are we ever going to teach them how to deal with/speak about their feelings? These boys that were never forced to talk about their emotions are going to beat their wives/girlfriends later in life because they won’t know how to recognize and curb their anger. Then we’ll wonder why their wives don’t leave abusive relationships. See above point.

There’s always something wrong with the victim. Here I’ll finally mention Amanda Todd. So many people wonder why she didn’t get more help, why she was so sad and alone when she had a family who loved her, why she did this, why she did that, why she, she, she.

STOP. I will never understand why so much attention is focused on the victim and what the victim does/doesn’t do. I don’t understand why so many anti-bullying rules focus on the response on the victim. “If you don’t want to be bullied, don’t pay attention to the bully. Don’t give them a reaction. Don’t do this, do that.” Huh? Why isn’t there more attention, almost all of the attention, put on the perpetrators? Why is there only a 20 person strong RCMP task force looking for Amanda Todd’s extortionist now? Why only post-mortem? Didn’t her parents know about this guy before? Didn’t the police know about this guy before? Was everyone too busy sitting there thinking of ways Amanda could be blamed for her torturer’s sick obsession?

Focus needs to be on helping the victim heal. The rest of the time we should be punishing the bullies. Kids need to be punished at school if they bully others, and parents of these kids need to take an active role in parenting. They need to stop saying, “well he doesn’t mean it, he probably just can’t express himself.” Instead, they need to say, “I am very sorry my son/daughter has been bullying someone. I will ensure that this matter is dealt with properly at home.” And no more TV, no more video games, no more rated-14A movies for their seven-year old kid.

Sexual assault, mental abuse, and emotional abuse is not funny. Somehow, somewhere, we lost the equality we fought for and now – on college campuses and university campuses everywhere – it is funny/acceptable to treat women like cattle. Women who protest too much are labeled crazy, emotional, uncool. Women that go with the flow and don’t see the point of protesting, that want to fit in so they accept their roles in this fucked up dynamic are eventually labeled sluts and discarded on the side of the social road. This needs to be addressed. If the men sitting in the offices of Bay Street today were to write out their dirty deeds of yesterday, or even last weekend, we would be much appalled to know who is leading our worlds. We would also suddenly realise why body politics, abortion, and reproductive rights are still such issues of debate.

So, after all that, I stand by my initial statement. Bullying needs a new name, and we need a new plan. It’s not just hop skotch and ‘missed me, missed me, now you gotta kiss me.” It’s suicides, spousal violence, murder-suicides, crimes of passion, and frat houses. The war needs to change, the enemy is different.

21 thoughts on “Bullying Needs a Name Change: Try torture, psychological blackmail, first-degree self-confidence killing, life-altering interactions, sexual/physical/mental abuse etc.,

  1. Hi there. I stopped by because your 20-something post has been trending on Facebook (good post; as a fellow 20-something, it resonated with me, of course), but I actually had a question about this post, specifically your school photo. Strangely enough, I think I’ve seen it before, perhaps from one of my friends. I squinted and tried to read the name of the school but can’t make it out. Would you mind sharing?

    • Hey there. I don’t want to give out the school photo details in case people in it get offended/feel like I’ve breached some sort of privacy thing. But it is from my grade four class in Toronto!

  2. This is a wonderful post, I feel your pain of being bullied my whole life. I can relate to you and am glad that you are able to share your feelings, put them into words better than the rest of us. Amanda Todd has touched a place close to home for me, and your right everyone is all why didn’t she… but people who have never been bullied do not understand how hard it is to be that person, you don’t want to tell people and talk about it, because that means you’ll get ridiculed more and more.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings, your post brought up strong feelings for me, and I’m glad someone else feels the same.

    xoxo
    Kat

    • Hey Kat. I’m sorry you had to go through similar experiences in your life. However, I do believe that if we all band together and speak out against it we can make a difference for someone else. Plus, reaching out to others really does start to take the edge off the memories!

  3. Thank you for sharing that intense, nightmarish testimony. As somebody who experienced severe depression and anxiety WITHOUT the help of bullying, I can’t imagine how I would have survived your experiences and come out spunky and strong as you seem to be. I would just like to address something you bring up in your second-last paragraph. Correct me if I a wrong, but you seem to suggest that opposition to abortion is a symptom of the same abusive misogyny that you experienced. Yet in my extensive experience within the pro-life movement and coming from a Catholic sub-culture of traditional sexual morality, the very opposite is true. The men who are most abusive, who treat women like trash and sexual objects are the most likely to pressure their sexual partners into getting an abortion, because they have no sense of responsibility or concern for the woman’s desires. Most women have abortions only reluctantly, and because the father of their child is not there to support and love them in that difficult time or assist them with financial support. These type of men use pornography, attend strip clubs, use prostitutes, cheat, and otherwise abuse women physically and emotionally.

    Anti-abortion Jesus freaks on the other hand, generally speaking, are the ones who are less likely to force themselves on a women (many of them believing that sex belongs only within marriage or an otherwise committed loving relationship) and as part of their crazy religious beliefs think that a man should listen to his partner, show care and concern, support her and help provide for their offspring. It is a misconception that abortion is inherently misogynistic – on the contrary it is the perfect tool for abusive men to remain free of commitment and responsibility. When a woman becomes pregnant, she trots off alone to endure the invasive traumatizing experience while her staunchly pro-choice sexual partner is at work bragging to his buddies about his latest sexual exploits. Abortion belongs hand-in-hand with pornography, prostitution, sexual slavery and – this will seem a stretch to you – contraception. The modern seperation of sex from procreation has resulted in the dehumanization of women by two or three generations of men who have progressivly fallen into the roles of sexual predators, while women, desperate for real love, play to their every whim. Until the integrity of sexuality and the traditional family are rediscovered, this situation will only get worse.

  4. Oh god. This is retarded. My wife is a PhD psychogist and she wrote her dissertation on bullying. All I can say is that it is grossly exaggerated. Get over yourself.

    • First of all, I strongly doubt that you read your wife’s dissertation because had you read it, you most likely would not comment on someone’s PERSONAL story and call it “grossly exaggerated. And while we’re on the topic of your wife, the “psychogist”, maybe she should have taught you how to spell before she wrote her dissertation.
      Secondly, referring to ANYTHING as “retarded” is offensive/politically incorrect.
      Thirdly and finally, if you really feel the need to read something so personal and inspirational and then comment negatively on it, you are basically being a bully. So perhaps it’s time to take your own advice and get over yourself. Or go fuck yourself. Whatever works.

  5. Reblogged this on iam30something… and commented:
    It’s no secret I have some very strong opinions…about, well, pretty much everything. Bullying is no different. I was bullied as a child, called fat, ugly, picked on by boys and even called a “Slut” by a girl in Grade 6. I went home, told my parents and things got figured out. I shudder to think how much I would have been picked on if there was no escape. Kids, actually scratch that, people (children and adults alike) bully people in every single way, whether it be online or face to face…there’s no escape, no shut off button. It is heartbreaking. SOMETHING needs to be done. Serious conversations needs to be had and it has to change.
    I feel the pain this author expresses in their blog post, because I get it.

  6. Pingback: Bullying Needs a Name Change: Try torture, psychological blackmail, first-degree self-confidence killing, life-altering interactions, sexual/physical/mental abuse etc., « iam30something…

  7. Thank you so much for your blog post – it takes a great amount of courage to share what you did. And to the person (Get Over Yourself), everyone is entitled to their opinion, which is based on their individual experiences. You don’t necessarily have to agree with what is written but you should respect it. Bullying is very real. It happens because people are not taught to respect each other – that simple, oh that and bullies are not disciplined. What would have happened when you were a kid and someone sexually assaulted or harassed you? or followed you around non-stop and tore you down…….don’t you think they would have been reprimanded? I’m just saying we are living in an era where people turn a blind eye to something that is very important. People are killing themselves because of bullying. It is sad :(

  8. I don’t think changing the name will change the situation. The terms `blackmail`, `torture` apply to crimes committed by adults – it is right to apply them to the person (referring to the online bully) who did it to Amanda Todd.

    It is wrong to apply them to children at school, yes – they do bad things, but they’re not criminals; they’re people without a decent education or people with problems of their own (normal families where both parents are kind and intelligent don’t produce children that are `serial bullies`).

    I’ve had my share of bullying and obviously it made school less fun than it could have been. On the other hand, I have a loving family – while the bullies do not.

    If you punish the bully (I refer to children in schools), you are not solving the problem, because when they return home – they’re exposed to the hostile environment that their parents are responsible for.

    One solution is to create places where kids can go and hang out with adults who read to them, teach them how to program computers, draw on T-shirts… anything to occupy the curious and hungry mind of a child. Investing into such spaces is much better than punishing, as long as these spaces are not churches.

    One thing is certain – your ability to influence other people and their families is very limited; if you try to do anything about it (say, talk to the bully) – you may get sued. Therefore, as a parent, your best shot at this problem is to educate your own kid such that they can withstand the bullying while taking minimum damage.

    I am very sorry that you ended up throwing away the lunch your mom prepared for you while investing love into it. Why didn’t you tell her about it? Naturally, she would do something about it.
    The problem is that even in normal families there is a certain distance between children and their parents; if you reduce that distance – many problems can be resolved before they escalate to serious levels.

    My uber-solution to this problem is to write stories for children, which teach them things I consider are important. One of them, in this case, is that it is a good idea to share your thoughts with your parents.

    Would you like to contribute to this project? Please share the 4 most important things you would tell your younger-self… Imagine you could meet yourself right before mini-you decided to throw the lunch away, and that you’d walk to school together, what would you choose to tell?

    Please send a copy of the answers to my email [make the necessary substitutions first:-], so I am sure I don’t forget to drop by your site again, thank you!

    • Alex, I agree with you. Many children who are bullies, and continue to be bullies into adulthood, come from volatile home environments. The best way to counter this is to engage these children in some degree of social normalcy. However, I think this article speaks to another type of bully that perhaps is more likely to be present in affluent communities. This particular type of bully was raised being taught that they can do no wrong – they are the best at everything, they should try to beat every other child at everything, and everyone else is below them. These children are made conceited from infancy by their egotistical parents, and will go through life believing that they’re better than their peers and have every right to take advantage and make fun of those “worse” than themselves. These types of bullies had their lives handed to them on silver platters and will go through life believing that is their right to put down those they consider beneath them.

      I applaud your initiative and think that you’ve acknowledged (and hopefully acted on) a very key way to teach children how to respect their peers. However, I feel very strongly that this particular sort of bully – the affluent child who believes he is the greatest child of all – needs stories to teach him otherwise, as well! Compassion, sensitivity, respect, and non-materialistic values are just as important, and though this child may engage with stories of this manner in a different way, I still think they are an important demographic to reach when dealing with bullies through story telling.

    • Hey there. I very much agree with what you are saying, however I don’t think it’s just children from hostile environments that do the bullying. I also think it is children that are overly spoiled, some who are taught that they must be the best at everything, and also those from priviledged backgrounds that have limited exposure to the real world. Leading a sheltered existence can be just as dangerous as leading an existence overly exposed to the trials and tribulations of adult hood. I think that we need to take a multi-pronged approach to bullying. One that addresses bullies and problems from all walks of life, with a multi-faceted attack. There is no “one” type of bully and therefore there is no “one” solution. You make a very good point here.

  9. I applaud you on your amazing article. When the victim comes forward and has to explain that someone is “bullying” them the case immediately looses seriousness as it as seen as something elementary, without substantial importance. However, anyone who has been “bullied” can understand that its far more than something of childlike nature, it is psychological torture due to its long term effects on the human psyche. Anyone, at any age, can be bullied. I was done so in college for 5 years straight. I think you can imagine how much will power and restraint a human being has to have under those circumstances. However I was not some socially withdrawn, potential psychopath as the media loves to portray. Instead I was a young man from Los Angeles, who chose to venture out and experience other parts of America with his education.
    I was completely opposite of how “bullied victims” are seen; popular, good with the ladies, driven, and happy. However, I entered a small town which was not as accepting as Los Angeles, as this place was ultra-conservative and very resentful of any outsider who gained attention from its community. The first few years I was in complete denial, yet after cases of sexual assault, stalking, and harrassment which were all ignored by University police, I began to see how I was in fact a prisoner and slave to torture, and this community saw me as someone who somehow deserved this outcome. It wanted to believe that nothing like this could happen and in fact I was just a city boy wanting attention. In one word, this was complete hell that I was forced to pay for, for 5 years of my life. I have no clue of what it means to enjoy or have fun in college, half of my 20′s can never be given back to me, and I find myself just now being able to continue the career in medicine that I desired back in 2005. I can do nothing to get back my life from those years. Its taken years of counseling to get to this point in my life but I have come to see myself as a pioneer, as I am one of very few who had been able to overcome the effects of “psychological torture” at their school without any sort of violent outcome. Back in those days I didnt even have the strength to get out of the bed, let alone attend a course where I would always be met by at least 3 guys wanting to make my life hell, or one RA who excluded me from all resident hall activities and forced me to starve during dinning hall shutdown, or one person on the street who felt the need to curse me out and tell me ” we don’t want you here”.
    Yet through all of this, when I finally had to courage to file a grievance to higher authorities the attempted to label it simply as “bullying”. Imagine, sexual assault usually results in prison time for the perpetrator, stalking with the use of illegally obtained personal information usually results in prison time, and persistent harassment typically results in at least school action. Yet my University tried to silence it all and tell me to “move on”, then used the University Police to cast doubt in my mind and intimidate me. Thereafter, during my graduation, an officer showed up and forced me out of the auditorium with saying I was a “threat”, all the while holding his hand by his gun.
    I had to internalize all of this because of extreme institutional corruption, and the very fact I am alive today is my desire to improve the circumstances of all who are in those similar shoes. I know that my situation is a once in a lifetime occurrence, and happens once every billion years, yet I can honestly say that the term ” bullying” does very little in explaining what happened. I gave up going to Occidentlal College and opportunity to transfer to Columbia , yet I know all things happen for a reason.

  10. Great Article ! I’m a fifteen year old boy, I was bullied from 6 years of age to 4th grade(few comments here and there still, but mostly from 12 year olds), and I still find myself crying thinking about it. I was mostly bullied by boys, and I think that can be a reason to why I have a hard time interacting with male children without feeling uncomfortable.I don’t deal with criticism or stress very well, and I constantly catch myself thinking that my friends aren’t actually my friends.The only friend I never think that of, is my best friend(female) who stayed with me through bullying, when no one else did.

    What really infuriates me is how those kids stole my childhood. Whenever someone says they’ve repressed something, they’re not taken seriously, but I just remember a few situations. The only thing I can remember clearly is how shitty I felt, and how I adapted my whole personality and way of being after what I thought they’d approve of. I’m only recently beginning to get myself back.

    People say to shrug and shake it off, but it really sticks with you.

  11. Hi there… I went through the entire article and I completely understand your pain. However, there is something that I do not agree with… the part where you mention that why do people only focusing on the victim and asking her to change… I genuinely feel that as human beings we can only control ourselves… we cannot control what other people treat us like, we can just choose the way we react to their treatment. It is true that ‘bullying’ or whatever you choose to name its extreme cases, exists because we let it affect the victim. The bully who torments a teenager knows that his comments or remarks will affect the target, and hence give him the satisfaction he is looking for. If we stop being tormented and face it boldly with faith in ourselves, we’ll fail their attempts and interest.
    I truly believe that it is the law of nature that we have too ‘face’ our fate and survive it to continue living. It’s sad that an individual has to meet a fate like this.It is for those times actually that the ‘she should do this’ methods are meant for, to cure the victim and revitalize them, so that they do not let themselves become ‘victims’ again. To fight something as rigorous as this, we need a balance between the two methods of both prevention and cure… prevention is what you are suggesting… and cure is what can happen only through overcoming the personal struggle.
    P.S. the fact that you have gone through so much, I’m assuming you’ll understand what I’m saying. Do let me know your take on this.

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