20 Years Later and It Still Hurts (A Personal Story)

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


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 I became withdrawn and shy and very self-conscious.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

16 thoughts on “20 Years Later and It Still Hurts (A Personal Story)

  1. YES.
    I get EMDR therapy and have been dealing with the bullying thing in therapy for the past year, since I had a job with an abusive boss and it brought all of this up – and yesterday, the thing that came up was over and over ‘why didn’t anyone stand up for me? why didn’t anyone believe me?’
    the bullies did what they did in secret, where no one saw them, whereas my reactions and flinching, anger, sadness and temper were public, so I got labeled the bad kid, ‘over-sensitive’, and no one believed my version of stories.
    I’m so damn angry about this. I wish I was in a position to educate teachers and parents and anyone else in authority…

  2. I felt like this was how my life has turned out due to the bullying I endured when I was in junior high. I too have social anxiety disorder, depression and generalized anxiety disorder. I was twelve when I contemplated jumping out the window at school. I was bullied because of my handicap, and I was overweight. I was threatened if I didn’t get a home run in gym class even though the brace I wore made it impossible to put my head down. They threatened sodomy with the baseball bat. They hit me over the head with the teachers spanking board, tried to take my clothes off and sang sexually explicit songs about my body after invading my privacy in the bathroom. When I got to high School noone wanted to sit with me at lunch and I felt like the teachers noticed it so I eventually skipped lunch and sat in the office until it was time to go to my next class. After graduation from high school I had no idea what skills I had. I became a caregiver of the elderly twenty four hours a day five to six days a week. I used to hide around the corner when a car would go by because I thought people driving by would think what is that stupid idiot doing going across the road when all I was doing was getting the mail. The pain of those years cannot be expressed in a short time or short space. I never did well at jobs because the anxiety got in the way as did the physical handicaps. I have not worked for over two years because I was bullied at the workplace and became severely depressed. I kept making stupid mistakes and there are times when I cry for an entire day. Bullying has got to stop.

    • Actually, I’m also a victim of bullying when I was a child even in the office but one thing who helps me the most not a psychiatrist nor therapist but believing in GOD and Jesus Christ coz HE was also bullied while carrying the cross and crucifixion by people. Let be an inspiration to them. What I do is did prove to bulliers that I can be more intelligent, knowledgeable and talented most esp. in studies. To learn what they don’t know and be good to others and that you’re more a human to them.

  3. Jennifer,

    Sorry you had to go through something that was such a detriment to you then and ultimately now. I really think you’re a lot braver than you’ll ever know. By you taking a risk to stand up for a girl that was pretty much the focal point of those bullies speaks measures of your character and the way you were raised. Additionally, you might have changed someone’s life forever, your friend you stood up for could of possibly been on a path where she was contemplating suicide and perhaps she would of taken her own life if it wasn’t for you. End of the day, you’re a life-saver and I’m sure your changing more people’s lives with this program your starting.
    Good Job
    Bobby Reitz

  4. I am hopeful, Jennifer, that change is coming and that teachers, administrators, and other adults will not make the comments you heard in your youth any longer. I heard many the same thing or just saw responsible adults turn a blind eye when they knew it was happening. I think the awareness today is higher and I certainly hope this means that the adults in the school and administrative world take it more seriously as well.

  5. Hello-

    Thank you for such a raw and brave posting. I want to commend you in your path of healing and I believe it is our biggest wounds that offer our best teachings. You have much to give.

    I am seeking people to guest author on my blog at middleschoolcounselor.com. I you are interested I would be very open to supporting your story and mission. Please let me know if it is of interest.

    Again, thank your for your pursuits.

    • I would really like to post on your blog, It boggles my mind that many people still think bullying is no big deal, and that all kids get bullied at times. Our children are dying! Dying! Why are our children afforded less protection and fewer rights than adults? If you went to work every day and harassed a coworker, calling her names, humiliating her, threatening and physically assaulting her you would go to jail. You would be prosecuted, and may end up spending time in prison. And this is all because you were ‘bullying’ another adult. An adult who can protect herself, call the police, quit her job, or get an attorney to sue her employer. Why then can’t we offer these same protective measures to our children, who are so much more vulnerable?
      This new campaign “It gets better” is a good idea, and it is a start. But having to wait until adulthood for things to change is much too long a wait for most kids. Imagine being threatened every day at work, and after reporting it you’re told not to worry, it will get better. In four, five, ten years. It’s ludicrous. It has to “Get Better” now, starting today, and not stopping until those responsible are punished and are held accountable. Bullies must be stopped in their tracks today, not 10 years from now.

      • Amen to that, Teague. I have been saying that it always intrigues me how we differentiate what kids do and say that’s OK compared to the same thing that an adult might do. If I punch another adult I go to jail and they can sue me for personal damages. But as a child, it’s totally different. We need to create a society where it is not acceptable either way.

  6. Bullying is a major problem that we have in our society today and it needs to be stopped. I am glad that you are one of the few people helping to stop this problem. Your story is something that many students and others can learn from. Then maybe the next time a child thinks about bullying someone else they will stop and think twice before actually bullying that person because of your story. I just hope that would actually happen, but in reality not every human beeing may feel the same way about bullying. I know, for me at least when I become a teacher I will make sure to make bullying awareness apart of the lessons that I teach.
    I know that the school that I was helping out at last year had a specific part of their cirriculum where they would have lessons about empathy. Teaching students about how to feel what others may be feeling will help some students see what they do effect others. Helping students see that violence is not the answer can be done in many ways. Some of these ways are by having students be put into to groups so that they can get to know one another so they can be respectful of one another. Also, you can teach students to take responsibility for their actions. Doing some of these things will help students see that their words and actions may hurt others around them.

  7. Jennifer,

    thank you for posting ur experince iv been bullied since the 2nd grade nd it dose in deed hurt i almost had to get surgry cuz of iti would be triped nd hit evrey day nd still do it really dose take a toll it really dose wow how it dose reading ur post it makes me understand that i am not the only one so thanks – sierra

  8. I know it sounds awful, but I feel so not alone now. I had started to wonder that perhaps I was over sensitive, I mean surely it shouldn’t bite so much after 20 plus years. My school years were a misery, when the nasty words, rumours, coventry for months at a time didn’t break me – I got a good stingy slap, just to see me cry. It was relentless – I changed schools, & the main orchestrator didn’t like that so she tracked me down and tormented me in front of my new friends. I couldn’t go anywhere without her there, my own little stalker! I do struggle with insecurities now, I know I over think situations – prob verg on paranoid – any I try very hard not to, as most people are decent human beings & don’t think of ways of how to make ur life hell, I view it now as I was just unfortunate to meet a physco at school – & they always know the vunerable ones (my mother was seriously ill with a progressive non curable disease). So over 20 years later, yea it still smarts, can’t tell anyone though as I will deemed as a bit light in the head, typically British:)

  9. Jennifer, I understand what you’re going through and I think that you’re doing the right thing. Keep it up and things will get better if we do something about bullying.

  10. I can so commiserate with this person. I was bullied all through grade school. The girls from the projects would gang up on me, and everyone knew that they never fought one on one, instead 5 or 6 girls would jump you at once. I was terrified of them, and would dream of suicide as my only viable option. In 8th grade I became very good friends with one of my bullies. This kept the others from threatening me, and I really liked her. After being molested for the third time since 8 years old, at age the of 12 I ran away from home. I was gone 2 weeks, and when I came home she was so angry with me, and feeling betrayed because I didnt tell her what I was going to do. My first day back at school she bullied me, threatened me, and egged the other girls on as they bullied me too. At lunch time, after suffering all day and realizing that it was happening all over, I decided that I was going to refuse to have my brief hiatus stopped and the bullying start up again. I attacked her in the cafeteria, in front of everyone. I screamed at her, and the others, that I wasn’t going to take it this time. I screamed, “I will f’ing kill the next bit#% who comes near me!”. My father had to leave work and come get me. He was pisses, but more so at the school than at me. He told the principal that he was tired of me being bullied and the school doing nothing to intervene. The solution? Take the caucasion looking girl out of that school for fighting with a black girl, and place her in a school with less than 10% white students. I fought every single day, then I started skipping school constantly. My mom would drive me to school and the minute she left so would I. After numerous threats from the principal saying if I didnt straighten out I would have to repeat 8th grade in that school I knuckled under and finished the grade. Still after being threatened by a group of over 20 girls from the projects shortly after starting 9th grade I began skipping school again. And after a white student was stabbed to death by a black student in front of a bunch of students (myself included) racial tensions mounted and I just stayed away. At 14 I ran away from home, and stayed gone for 10 years, with no word to my family. At 24 I contacted them and went home for the first time. Thankfully they welcomed me back with open arms. There were many reasons that I ran away, but bullying played no small part. When you are constantly threatened, are afraid to go anywhere because they might see you and attack you, you become paranoid and desperate. I homeschooled my son when he was being bullied, he is 28 now and has said that he was becoming so desperate at the time that he considered suicide (and homicide at times too), and felt that he had nowhere to turn. This is a very real, extremely devastating problem, and blaming the victim or telling them that it’s part of growing up is just another form of bullying, and it’s perpetrated by authority figures, which makes it even more heinous. Parents, be aware of what’s happening to your kids at school, and in the neighborhood! if your school has no zero tolerance program in place talk to other parents, go to meetings, get your voice heard. And if you suspect that your child might be a bully, stop an intervene ASAP! Many bullies are victims themselves. Find out why they are doing this and make them stop. Please let’s get this problem stamped out. Let this generation be the last kids who are ever bullied.

  11. I was bullied around the same time in life 5th-7th grade. Similar treatment… I remember telling my parents and they told me the other girls were just jealous and not to worry about it. I felt isolated and helpless. I believed I was in the wrong and built an irrational coping mechanism: be more critical of myself to somehow protect me from my peer’s judgments. Over the years this self-protection mechanism continued to be in full force as those same bullies were at my high school. I turned to online gaming, introduced to me by my bother, as my evening refuge. At school my refuge became art classes. It was the only time in the day I felt safe.
    It wasn’t until college that I made deeper friendships and finally let some walls drop to express vulnerability to my closest friends. It didn’t come easily. Luckily I had some wonderful friends who supported me and remain in my life today. Some of the greatest personal growth I felt was during a study abroad program in Europe. In leaving American culture and meeting people separate from my past, I felt a clean slate to be who I really was. I gained confidence and healed somewhat. Returning to American culture brought back my fears, but this time I held hope close.
    Soon I graduated college and all my friends and I dispersed across the country for the next chapter of our lives. Feelings of isolation and helplessness returned. I landed a great job but felt incompatible with the work team. My boss and her friend in the department reminded me of the girls of my past. I felt a lot of strong emotions, though looking back the experience helped me learn about my traumas and encouraged me to confront my past. A therapist helped me vent my early feelings that were never processed. One exercise involved punching pictures and shouting at the girls who hurt me growing up. My chest turned red and it took courage to shout at these images. Ripping up the pictures and saying you no longer control me felt liberating. Sessions with this therapist and leaving that work environment were two great decisions.
    To this day I sometimes feel low self-esteem and rejection-related issues. I’m trying to identify the triggers; however, it isn’t an easy feat. At the same time I recognize I’m making progress and developing personal strength. I recommend taking time for yourself to work through whatever you want to work through. Utilize whatever resources help you do it. AND READ! Right now I’m reading I’m OK, You’re OK. Growing up, we often feel like we’re NOT OK and that others ARE OK (ie parents, peers, etc). To get to the place of I’m OK, You’re OK, requires us to make the decision… but first we have to understand where we are at. Another great book is the Five Love Languages. The DISC profile test about your communication style is also a helpful tool. I fully support you in your mission to influence the system and create positive change! A suggestion might be to ensure to teach communication techniques. I think this is a huge piece missing from American education… equipping them with the vocabulary and models for effective communication and behavior… not just through play and trial & error. Best to you! Thank you for sharing your story.

  12. Actually, I’m also a victim of bullying when I was a child even in the office but one thing who helps me the most not a psychiatrist nor therapist but believing in GOD and Jesus Christ coz HE was also bullied while carrying the cross and crucifixion by people. Let be an inspiration to them. What I do is did prove to bulliers that I can be more intelligent, knowledgeable and talented most esp. in studies. To learn what they don’t know and be good to others and that you’re more a human to them.

    • Thank you for your wonderful thought. Everyone can find comfort in something. I am glad you did. Whatever it takes to rebuild your self-esteem is so crucial to recovery.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s