A victim’s chilling story

“I feel bad a lot of the time, and suffer from low self-esteem. Sometimes the pain of being bullied gets so bad that I think about suicide.”
So writes a Rainy River District student in a letter to the editor I received yesterday afternoon in which he wishes to address “a problem that is well-known in the community although it is well-known not too many authorities have devoted much time to finding solutions or responding to the pair of the victims.”
He signed it, “From a concerned student who has suffered enough.”
For obvious reasons, the young man didn’t want to have his name attached to the letter. As such, even given such extenuating circumstances, I’m not going to run it as a letter to the editor, per se. If you make an exception for one person, then someone else is going to want one, and so on.
Besides, I’m a firm believer that letters carry much more weight, or resonance, when the author is willing to put his or her name to it rather than hide in the obscurity and safety of anonymity.
Of course, try explaining that to a young student who clearly is being tormented on a regular basis, and who usually doesn’t want to go to school “because I dread running into people who pick on me.”
Still, his message warrants being heard. Bullying is a serious, and very real, issue that cannot be shrugged off as something kids have been doing on the schoolyard for generations—and will continue to do so for generations to come.
According to the Ontario Provincial Police, studies show 16 percent of students in schools are involved in bullying—nine percent are the victims while seven percent are the repeat offenders.
More frightening, the OPP said 60 percent of identified “bullies” have a criminal record by age 24.
Then there’s the victims. Earlier this year, an Ontario student was expelled after presenting a monologue in his drama class that described a bullied student blowing up his school to exact revenge against his tormentors.
Unfortunately, this isn’t just happening “somewhere else.” And what better way than to hear its effects in the own words of a victim.
It’s not a pleasant read.
“I want people to understand how it feels to be picked on, day after day, week after week, year after year,” he writes. “I live with a daily fear of getting hurt and hurting others. At times, I get so angry that I don’t know what to do.
“Not only have I been picked on, teased, and called names, but many times I have been assaulted. I have felt lonely because I thought that no one liked me or could help me or offer their support.
“Sometimes it seems that the adults who could, and should, help are looking the other way.
“So I urge you to talk about bullying with your friends, your family, your co-workers, your children. Talk about it whenever you get the chance, during breakfast and dinner, on your lunch break at work.
“If you know someone who bullies other people, please try to help them to understand how much pain they are inflicting on someone else. If, after reading this, you still do not understand, please at least try to do some research on the Internet, in books, or through some other media.
“Please do so.”
Consider your message sent. Let’s hope it’s heard loud and clear. In the meantime, take heart in knowing steps are being taken to reduce violence (read bullying) among youths.
The Rainy River District School Board, just last night, approved its “Code of Conduct” that includes immediate suspension for students who utter a threat to inflict serious bodily harm.
Police will become involved if an assault causing bodily harm requires professional medical treatment, or if the student uses a weapon to cause bodily harm or threaten such harm.
And as part of Crime Prevention Week which started Sunday, Dryden OPP is taking the “OPPIES,” a 15-minute, anti-bullying performance featuring colourful puppets, to area elementary schools.
The OPP said the puppets define bullying, demonstrate the effects of this form of harassment, and provide effective ways to deal with this issue.
But just as important, putting an end to bullying takes the courage of victims to stand up and bravely share their stories in hopes of making a difference for others.
My young letter writer has done that. Oh, and I—who’s faced my share of bullies over the years—have a message for you. “There is always a light, no matter how dim it may seem, at the end of every tunnel. Just hang in there.

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