My name is Jesse. I am now 32 years old. I can tell you that being bullied in school has changed who I am and has influenced much about my self image and personality. From grade school to the first year of High School, I was bullied. I was a social outcast, a loner. I used to come home from school and tell my parents about my suffering and they gave up telling me how to manage it productively because nothing worked, no one in my school cared. I was called names, publicly embarrassed, picked on, beat up.
In our grade school, when you were done with lunch someone at your table had to go to the front of the cafeteria and get a sponge and clean the table. Where you sat at lunch determined who you were friends with and how popular you were. I was borderline obsessed with being popular and did everything I could to fit in. I was only allowed to sit at the table if I cleaned it at the end. So every day I sat with kids that ignored me, called me names, threw food at me, inched their way as far away from me as possible to make it seem like if I touched them I would give them the plague, and added insult to injury when I had to clean the table.
There were kids that would follow me home and try to fight me. I was one of the taller, stronger kids growing up, so maybe they thought it was some kind of challenge to pick on me. I got into many fights, always 3-7 kids to fight just me. Needless to say, I lost more fights than I won, and sometimes winning just meant I got away without getting really hurt. I had weapons pulled on me, had my life threatened, was beaten up in a public park in front of two friends by 7 kids, some with knives. But honestly, I would have taken that every day if it meant I didn't have to deal with the constant verbal abuse at school.
Now I am an adult, but the teasing I got in my youth has shaped me. I have gone to therapy, taken anti-depressants, dealt with feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. I question the motives of people being nice to me, I become easily defensive when being criticized even if it's minor. I know that in the end I lucked out. Something changed in me that helped me "bloom" and I made friends and learned how to be sociable. But to this day, I will never forget the pain I was put through in school.
I cried numerous times during "Bully". I am appalled that even now, our educators and school administration are oblivious to the actions of bullies. Either they are unable or unwilling to change what is happening. I can tell you, there is a significant impact to being bullied that scars you in such a way that you never truly recover. Even so, I am still here where other kids made the choice to end their lives. As devastating as it is to lose even one child to bullying, those of us that remain have one very powerful tool we can utilize to end bullying: Our Voice.
Our Voice. Our Voice is strong. One message at a time, one child at a time, one class, one bus, one school at a time. We must MUST change this. A zero-tolerance policy for bullying is needed in our schools. Mental health guidance is needed for kids from troubled homes. Resources need to get to the schools who need the most help. Whatever needs to happen so we don't lose one more child. Whatever needs to happen so our children don't grow up doubting themselves and never trusting another person. We need to do it.
Count me in.
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Ryan Knowles commented 2013-04-03 13:04:07 -0400Jesse, Your story is incredibly powerful, moving, heartful, and insightful. Thanks so much for taking a moment to share it with us. What is the most powerful part of your story is how you’ve grown from your own experiences, that through the harassment and abuse, you clearly have found your voice, and it reflects so much of what we work everyday to do in communities across the country.
Would you have any interest in volunteering for us? If so, send us an email at [email protected], we’d love to speak to you more about coming on board!
Keep fighting the good fight,
The Bully Project