36 years old and a survivor

i'm 36 years old.

i survived childhood bullying, but i still bear the scars. i still battle with anxiety attacks and trust issues that the whole event caused.

my story started when my family moved from the house i'd always lived in, when i was 8 years old.

i started my 3rd grade year at a brand new school. i had no friends there. i didn't know anybody in my grade at all. i was also small for my age. i'd always been smaller than most other kids my age. things started well. i met some other kids who seemed nice and who were friendly with me during the first week of school. things seemed to be going well. i was getting used to my new school and new friends.

then, one day, it all went wrong. the playground bully noticed me. noticed i was small and new and didn't really know how to fight at all. he was in my grade too and he was 11 years old. it started with small things. being pushed into walls "accidentally" or with him "accidentally" stepping on my feet or my fingers whenever he could get away with it. always whenever it was recess. and he had a team, a gang, of younger boys who were closer to my age who would distract the teachers who were supposed to be watching the playground and keeping order out there.

he would always wait for the teachers to be distracted before he set in on me. i'd been taught that when you're being hurt by another kid, you tell a teacher or other adult. i did this. i did it EVERY TIME he attacked me. i told EVERYONE who'd listen, but nobody did anything to stop it.
then, things evolved from being pushed into walls and such to him hitting and kicking me and just generally beating the daylights out of me. this happened EVERY DAY there was school. some days EVERY TIME we had recess. i never really knew when he was going to appear and do whatever he had in mind that day, but i KNEW it would happen at some point during the school day.

this went on for months. my parents felt powerless because they didn't know how to help me. talking to the school didn't help because the school just suggested that maybe i wasn't "old" enough to be in 3rd grade ... even though i met the scholastic guidelines to be in that grade. anytime my parents tried to address the issue with them, the school would suggest that my parents have me put back a grade "for my own good"

the whole first semester of school, i got beat on every single school day. i came home with bruises and other injuries. i eventually stopped telling the adults at school what was happening because they weren't going to help me. my new friends, they deserted me because NOBODY wanted to be friends with the new girl who had become the playground bully's new favorite toy.

so, i started playing by myself. i found games i could do alone. i learned to like playing hopscotch. my school had the pattern for the game board painted on the concrete in one area of the playground. ... so that's what i usually did. or i played on the playground equipment alone. always alone because whenever i'd go into an area of the playground, everybody would leave. they ALL knew what was happening to me, but NOBODY was willing to speak up and help.

i don't know at what point i started hating school. i used to LOVE school, but at some point, i started to HATE it. i started begging my mom to not make me go anymore. i begged and pleaded because i KNEW 100% what would happen that day if i went. it was guaranteed. after this, i hated school. always. this experience totally destroyed my love for school and i never got it back. school became something to be endured, not loved.

and one day, the last day of school before winter break, i was playing hopscotch by myself. the place where the things were painted on the ground was kinda isolated, but i'd stopped caring about that long before this day. my attacker waited until i was on one foot getting ready to make a hop, then he came running from behind me and straight-armed me to the ground. this was during morning recess. my pants were torn, so was my shirt. my knees were both scraped up badly, so was my face and right hand and arm. i don't remember crying out when i was knocked down and injured, but i must have as badly as i was injured. yet, nobody came running to help me. i don't remember crying after, but again, i must have. and nobody was there to comfort me. my wounds went unattended. the school didn't even bother to call my parents to bring me clean, undamaged clothes to wear. i was NEVER told that what happened was not my fault, not by anyone at school.

the ultimate betrayal to me and the last straw for my parents came when i got off the school bus that day. because my parents were totally unaware i'd been hurt at school that day. and by the time i got home, the school was closed until winter break was over. my mother was beyond livid when she saw the way i looked coming off the bus because our bus stop was right in front of the house we were renting.

the very first thing mom and dad did, after they made sure i was as ok as i was going to get, was take pictures of my wounds and my clothes. then next thing dad did was spend all that winter break talking to lawyers to find out what his rights as my parent were and my rights as a child and a student of that school were ... AND the RESPONSIBILITIES the school failed to live up to. i was totally unaware of what my parents were up to at that time, but they told me they'd take care of it and make SURE it would NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN.

when school started back up after winter break ended, i didn't return to school immediately. i didn't return until late in that first week after. and then, it was with my daddy in tow and we had an appointment to see the principal of the school. i got to watch as my daddy told that man what was going to happen. the man tried to tell Daddy that he couldn't do what Dad was asking him to do, so Daddy TOLD him that he WOULD do it, or else. and then Daddy went on to explain what "or else" meant. it meant that that principal, the school, the teachers, the school board had ALL failed to protect me and to provide a safe and nurturing environment for me to learn in. AND that every person who'd failed me was liable for it and he would sue ALL of them, individually and as a group, for every penny they had.

i KNOW my daddy meant every word he said. my daddy always said EXACTLY what he meant and NEVER made idle threats. my daddy made sure the man believed, too. and he definitely did, because i was assured that the abuse would stop immediately. and it did.

see, that kid who beat me up daily for 4 months, his little gang friends ratted him out because even they felt he'd gone too far. and about a week after my daddy had laid down the law with that man who'd failed to protect me, i was called down to the principal's office out of class ... and there, in the principal's office, sat that boy at the big round table in the principal's office. he was crying. ... and that day, the man who'd failed me for months told me that what had happened before would NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN.

i didn't find out until much later that the boy had been spanked for his actions and that was why he had been crying that day. and i didn't find out until years later WHY he'd been doing what he did. apparently, his home life was less than awesome and his parents really had no interest in what that boy or his sister did or failed to do. so, until my daddy had FORCED my school to stop what was happening, he'd really never been told what was too far and what wasn't. plus, he was 11 and still in third grade.

in 2004, the boy, now a grown man, found me working at the local Walmart store. he came through my line with his wife and 2 kids. i could tell they were his kids because they were built like he had always been and they had his hair and complexion. ... and in front of those 2 kids and his woman, he APOLOGISED to me for what he had done. i could tell that it had been really bothering him for probably a really long time. and i did another thing i've always been taught, i forgave him. because he needed it and i needed it.

that school, still in operation, NEVER apologised to me for what happened. they have NEVER admitted that they did wrong or failed me. and they probably never will. i have to learn to accept that. and i have to learn to accept and move past what happened. because that terrible thing that happened almost 30 years ago still haunts me every day. i'm always afraid and i never feel truly safe. i don't know how to trust people, not really. i have to be in complete control of everything that's going on, or i get really uncomfortable and start to have anxiety attacks.

mine is the face of an adult who survived childhood bullying. this is what happens when it's not addressed and stopped as soon as it starts.

i can't change what happened, but i can learn from it and i can use it to teach others that this is NOT ok. it is NEVER ok to allow kids to treat each other like that.

i have watched one of my best friend's kids go through being bullied and i made really sure that child knew what happened wasn't caused by anything she did or failed to do. i told her that it was NOT her fault. and i helped her mom get it stopped. i know how it feels to be in her spot. i WILL NOT stand by and watch any child in my life bully or be bullied.

i know that it is unlawful for a school or other learning body to fail to provide a safe environment for learning to occur. i know that EVERY child has a RIGHT to go to school and not have to worry about being attacked by other students; not mentally, not physically, not emotionally. and that's how it is. if you take nothing else away from my story, remember that. and make sure you know both your rights as a parent and your child's rights as a student. it varies slightly from state to state, but the general core of the thing tends to be the same. be an advocate for the kids in your life because sometimes their voices are ignored by those in power.

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