Someone I love is being bullied…

Someone I love is being bullied – and it is breaking my heart. We spend lots of time talking about bullying, wear our pink shirts, react to stories on social media, but really we have done absolutely nothing as a society to address bullying. Sorry, let me correct that – in actuality what we have done is lots to reward the bully, and make life a living hell for those being bullied.
My loved one’s bullying began in elementary school, ironically it was easier to handle then. As parents we could intervene, we could tell the school what we expected to happen and we controlled where our kids went. Wow – that’s right, this bullying actually began in elementary school – and the whole experience in dealing with the bully was a nightmare, extending beyond school into sports. And then came high school and suddenly it stopped, perhaps there were new targets for a few years. And we enjoyed a couple of years of relative peace, although still had some issues when playing sports on teams where the bully was present. And then out of the blue, the bully struck again, same old behaviours including a threat to kill my loved one. This was the 3rd time this individual has made such a threat. So we did what we needed to, contacted the police (again for the 3rd time), contacted the administrators at the school (can’t even count how many times we have done that). A physical altercation occurred, and my loved one stood their ground and defended themselves. My loved one did what they should have and needed to do to end this, but it didn’t end there. Because the bully did not get the result they wanted, so it continues. We have followed the advice of the police to a tee, and yet my loved one suffers because of that. Because in the you tube age where everyone just wants to get a good video to share, my loved one is called names because they refuse to engage (as directed by the OPP). And the OPP have been clear there is substantive evidence to support charging the individual in this instance, but my loved one refuses to do so fearing it will actually make things worse. Right, because in Ontario the Youth Criminal Justice Act ensures that very little can be done to the bully. Hmm, maybe you should talk to the parents – well been there done that, got the scars to show it. Because there is no accountability, in fact when these discussions have taken place the parents of the bully have never accepted responsibility. But they have been quick to throw it on everyone else, that’s right the bully bullies because of the actions of those he bullies. Makes sense right? But wait, I’m an academic and here is what I know from the research – bullies bully because it is known behaviour, it is behaviour they are exposed to, generally from one or the other parental unit! That’s facts folks, cold hard facts – not opinion. I’m sure the parents of the bully will read this somehow, and know there will be no insight into the behaviour of the bully or themselves – and hey the bully bullies them too so really they have no control.
So personal stuff aside, we have had it in dealing with this. We have done everything one is supposed to do when experiencing bullying and yet it continues, maybe just a little more covertly now. And we see the changes in our loved  one who tells us everything is fine, yet we know that is not the case. I had the good fortune to have coffee with a friend from high school this week. We both shared stories of our loved ones experiencing bullying – eerily similar stories. We commented on how our very large group of friends never experienced any of this when we were in high school, and in fact we had all been getting together again recently and at those events it is as if the years between now and high school never happened. So how did we go from a time when this behaviour was not acceptable to what happens today? How is it ok that we laud platitudes about not tolerating bullying yet the reality is that we are very reluctant to really and truly do anything?
Our efforts at controlling bullying as a society have failed. Our educational institutions fail to really keep our kids safe. Our laws, intended to protect the vulnerable, really only make them more vulnerable. When it comes to bullying the person with all of the rights and freedoms is the bully. No wonder young people are reluctant to report it when it happens. They know the only outcome will be further grief for themselves. Our kids are told to report instances of cyberbullying, to notify adults when there are threats made against them – but for what purpose? Nothing happens to the bully. And if the bullied person follows the advice to avoid the bully, they are chastised by their peers for being weak. The victims of bullying are the ones who feel restricted from attending social events or playing sports for fear of what may happen to them. But no one tells the bully they can’t do any of this. And even when sharing past events with coaches of sporting teams, there is never any sense of obligation to help the person who has experienced bullying.
There is a viral video right now of a mom eating ice cream and telling other parents that it is their job to not be their kids friend. I could not agree more, but I would also say to parents that you know when your kid is being an asshole – and it is your job to stop that behaviour in its tracks. Maybe what we need to do is to start going after the parents of the bully – I mean after all they are the ones who have raised the kid right?! Because when you raise a kid who has never had any regard for rules, never ever known a consequence and had every single wrong action they have made fluffed off as being out of their control, you are going to raise a bully. A bully who not only has no respect for the laws or for other people, worse has absolutely no respect for you, his parents.
It’s time to do more then feel sad when a young person takes their life because of bullying, or wear our pink shirts. We need to do more and we need to focus on the person being bullied – and limit the rights and freedoms of the bully not the victim. How many more examples do we need? For now, I will do what I can to protect my loved one – and count the days until the bully is of age, because at least then I know something more can maybe be done. Until then you won’t catch me wearing a pink shirt, rather I will be more overt in addressing bullying, beginning with calling it what it is. Because bullies act out because they are powerless, and I for one refuse to give them any more power.