It is interesting in that I got two stories in a row from women that were about them dealing with parents as bullies. While their stories are vastly different, the themes are similar. It makes me wonder how many people were bullied by their parents and does that lead to further pass down bullying to the next generation. ~Alan Eisenberg
I am a 60 year old woman and was severely bullied as a child.
I was (I think) bullied for three reasons: one, I had a dreadful scar on my hand from a terrible accident when I was barely 5; two, my parents divorced and in those days (the 1950’s) this was a fast track to social ostracism in middle-class American society; and three, I had an awful name which lent itself well to being twisted and thrown in my face. When I moved and changed schools at 12, I began using my other name, and never ever disclose the first one.
I can tell you that adults supported the bullying, including a teacher’s assistant and the principal of the grade school. I have never forgotten the incidents nor have I ever forgotten those people’s faces OR names. And it has been, what – half a century.
The worst bullies were my own parents: a father who continually taunted me – “whatsa matta can’t you fight your own battles” was just one of his many and repeated sneers even when I came home bloody and in shock from being repeatedly struck and kicked including in the face by a little boy, a classmate who himself was bullied by other little boys because “his daddy owns a tavern” – another cause for social ostracism. It was just that I was a step below on the social rungs, being a child of a split family, you see, and with a scarred hand at that – my “evil thumb that could put witch spells on people” – that was a popular thing to yell at me, and this little boy thought he was going to “kill the witch.”
My father, who wanted a boy so badly (he only got female me) that he cut me out of his Will for “disobeying him” (continuing a relationship with my mother, arguably the less abusive of the two) and promptly legally adopted the adult (age 39) son of his new wife so said son could more easily inherit my father’s very large estate. And when he passed, that is exactly what happened, and I was left with nothing from my father while my adopted brother was left everything. I still live as I did then, at the edge of the lower middle class.
My mother, who was verbally abusive and considered her child to be no more than her handmaiden and if the ridiculous and overwhelming demands were not met, well, there was the short and skinny horse-riding crop employed quite skillfully. I made Cinderella look like a child of extremely spoiled and indulgent privilege. I wish I were exaggerating because this looks rather like I’m just wallowing in self-pity. I am not, however, exaggerating.
I can relate to the story of being beaten in the school gym while a teacher looked on in disgust. In poker terms: I’ll see you that story and raise you one of an adult who was gloating. Yes. Gloating.
You might think given what I do for a living that I actually succeeded as an adult. Well perhaps if you look the outward appearances: at less education than I would have had, had I not been bullied into submission by a teacher and high school counselor, and using my brains and work ethic to work my way up from entry level secretary to paralegal (by way of too many employers to list).
But you would be wrong if you looked underneath that glossy “paralegal” label at the real story.
With an IQ well into the hundred and a half range and as a straight-A high school student – which latter achievement was because I studiously avoided bullies who populated the extracurricular activities and stuck to the books – I was up for a National Merit Scholarship. The teacher who was a parent of one of the bullies, and the high school counselor who bullied girls in general, both voted me down for the scholarship because they said (and even told me directly) that I “was a snob who did not care to participate with the other kids in extracurricular programs.”
So what does a high school graduate with no job skills do when the beatings at home and taunts of worthlessness and continual abusive criticism make it impossible to stay? Take a couple of community college classes and learn to type, and then look for the best paying job they can get, just to survive.
That was in a law firm looking for an entry level typist.
This turned out to be quite a “gotcha.” Do you know what lawyers mostly are?
Like most cops – they are BORN BULLIES. The profession attracts vicious, power-hungry, abusive people who love nothing more than making others’ lives miserable. Including their staff’s lives!
So after a number of years I gathered my courage and stepped out into an even lower paying world, academic administration. Just to see, you know, if there weren’t as many bullies there.
And discovered the worst thing of all which is this: that there are bullies everywhere looking for victims and if you do not know how to protect yourself you will fail miserably. Some fail by taking their own lives. I didn’t but I sure thought about it. I count myself lucky to have survived four decades of such misery. Survive, I say, not “thrive.”
So in summary: parents who bully their children leave their children helpless and hopeless with no skills for surviving the adult world and often emotionally crippled to an intense, extreme degree.
School authorities who allow bullying – look the other way or encourage it – create young adults who are often either paralyzed by anything and everything that is a physical, mental or emotional threat, or act out in rage. The media is full of reports of both results.
Most of us, we just shut up and go away. We go away physically, and we shut down emotionally.
It is called survival.
I am within shouting distance of retirement now. I can look back over the decades and while I can see an overview and even understand a lot of this objectively and intellectually (at least) begin to understand how the whole thing worked.
But I can tell you this. The devastating hurt especially that caused by adults who do not protect the child they were obligated to protect never ever goes way. That hurt is with you day and night. It prevents you from living your life or even sometimes understanding that it is preventing you from living your life.
And it makes you afraid of everything – all the time.
That’s my story and I’d give anything to “not stick to it.” But like other bullying victims, I have no idea how.