Jennifer was brave enough to send me her story which has all too familiar themes of bullying from 20 years ago. If anything, it helps to know that you are not alone in the types of bullying that happens to you. Jennifer’s stories are so similar to many heard and told by others. As she says, it still hurts 20 years later. The PTSD effect of bullying is a major focus of mine and it seems that Jennifer also plans to do something about it. Also, as she says and we know as we get older “it does get better”, but also it does still hurt. ~Alan Eisenberg
20 YEARS LATER AND IT STILL HURTS
I was a victim of bullying. It started in my home, with my parents threatening physical discipline if I did not “behave” in the way they expected me too. I was often “spanked” or “whipped” with my step-fathers leather belt. I was sheltered, living in Washougal, WA, 15 miles up the “river road” and away from town. I seldom was able to spend time with kids my own age, and was sheltered from a lot, so I was unfamiliar with how girls my age “normally” behaved, dressed or socialized. Then, we moved back into town…
In 6th grade I began middle school. I was told by classmates not to be friends with a girl because “no one liked her” and if I became friends with her, no one would like me either. I thought they were just making empty threats. I couldn’t see the sense in not friending someone based only on the opinions of others, so we became friends, really good friends for a while. But, the other kids I went to school with held to their word, and within a month I started to get bullied. It started out with girls whispering to each other and pointing at me, laughing. I tried to ignore it, but then it began to progress. I would get “shoulder bumped” walking down the hall to my classroom, people would knock my books out of my hand, they would make mean comments about my 2nd hand clothes and eventually, I had girls I didn’t even know approaching me in school threatening to “kick my ass” if they ever saw me out of school. I was terrified to go out, to play by myself at the park, to go to functions after school. My parents were very poor, and more often than not, my clothes were old, dirty and out of style. I became depressed at 12 years old, often having thoughts of suicide. I had no “safe zone”. I was scared at school, of my peers. I was scared at home, of my parents. I had no one I could go to. I became withdrawn and shy and very self-conscious.
My mom finally took notice in my change of personality. I was crying all the time, never wanted to do anything and was failing all of my classes. I explained my problem to her. She spoke to the school several times, but they did nothing except inform the kids who were bullying me, that I had “snitched”, which cause retribution in the form of more bullying. I remember a particular incident where we were running laps in the gym room with was surrounded by brick walls. These two girls came running up behind me, shoving me into the brick walls while the P.E teacher watched and did nothing. My mom took me to a district meeting, where we stood in front of a panel of School officials, and requested a transfer/boundary exemption for me to go to the high school in the next town over. I was appalled when the “chairman” of the washougal school district at the time stood up and denied me my request, claiming “We all have a bad year in school, we have all been bullied at one point or another. That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, and it builds personality.” To this day I want to find that man and tell him: “I suffer from social anxiety, PTSD, depression and mild agoraphobia, is this the kind of personality you want ALL your students growing up to have?” I cannot make the memories go away, the feeling of being afraid to leave your own home because someone made a threat to cause you harm. I do not do well in social situations, I am terrified of conflict, and when someone criticizes me, I take it very personally.
I did graduate, from another school. My parents moved us into another school district, but the violence at home continued.
I am now trying to start a program at my daughters elementary school to help prevent bullying. I am getting more and more confident every day that this is the path for me. I went on to a trade school and now work in the health care field. IT DOES GET BETTER…however, no one should have to go through what I and millions of others go through every day. I have a NO TOLERANCE policy in my home for bullying. My children know my story and I have talked with them many times on how to solve problems in a positive manner without resorting to violence. I do not spank, or hit my children. I believe that is where bullying starts, in the home, by a parent or an older sibling who uses force, threats and size to intimidate, scare and manipulate. However, even after 20 years, the memories of how I was treated, and the words from that chairman bring tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat. Where would I have ended up had someone stood up for me? What kind of a person would I have turned out to be had ONE TEACHER, ONE COUNSELOR OR ONE OTHER ADULT stood up and said, NO, THIS IS NOT OK! How much character and personality does bullying build, when the victim ends their own life?
~Jennifer Laddusaw LMP