The Victim of the Bullied Strikes Back (A Personal Story)

For the regular readers of this site, this is a first and has been building up for the last several months. Some years ago, I wrote a story called “Me As The Bully”. When I wrote that, I would have no idea that the child I referred to 30 years prior to would grow up and read his story here and then that would facilitate an opportunity for us to reconnect, close the gap of years and close the door on the incident referred to in my story. But it’s more than that. This was the first time I could ask and hopefully have a second opinion about my story and how that time affected a life other than my own. I am lucky and happy to now have the story, which is quite different than I could ever have imagined, be written by the other person in my old story. He has added his story below and his feelings and opinions about how these years have affected his life. I am forever grateful to have others that “get me” as well and are willing to share their thoughts and feelings as well. Thank you, David. ~Alan Eisenberg


Juneteenth is coming up and my family and I plan on spending it in South Carolina. A couple of years ago, my extended family and I, with myself in charge, attended a Juneteenth celebration in Newport News, Virginia. As a Hebrew (and Passover fanatic), I identify strongly with African-Americans and their identification through their path of freedom from bondage.

I have been the recipient of a lot of “understanding” from people of all backgrounds and economic levels (pale and not , foreign and not). I have been very lucky to have met so many people who just seem to get me. I have parlayed this in many ways and have followed paths that others have not.

Well this Juneteenth I will be celebrating another special milestone in my life, the launch of my new business. This was a 2 year path that ended with a crescendo in my discovery of a forgotten, yet presently applicable, part of my past. An instinct to fight, to hold others off, and to defend.

I kind of matured slowly.

I had blanked out the incident that I’m a part of that Alan tells the story of in his post called “Bully Incident#24: Me as the Bully (1979)” and I understand why a bit more now after reconnecting with Alan. It was the very beginning of the days I dealt with bullying in 1979, just as Alan was getting ready to move away. I always remembered Alan (but not the specifics of our interaction or the bullying incident at our Hebrew school) and felt like he was dangerous and maybe someone I didn’t want to know too well. It seemed to me that he was in his state of weakness at the time due to the bullying he endured.

It was only 30 years later at the culmination of my high school reunion where I found out Alan was publishing stories on the web about bullying in Lexington, MA. I then looked it up and there I was in his one story of a time in Hebrew school where I was the victim. Interestingly, when I found and read the story the first time, felt exhilarated. No embarrassment but not a great recollection of the incident. While I didn’t remember the tacks in the chair action exactly at that time, I have a vague thought that in the state I was at that time in my life that it did affect me and that I might be more aware of it than I realize even today. my What I do recall of that time, though, is that the realization that there was no safe social place for me, including religious school.

Within less than a year of this time when you and the other kids put the tacks on my chair, my life kinda sucked. I did deal with bullying as well by the kids in Lexington, MA. But also, what happened was every so often i would meet an outsider who would protect me socially. Over the next 6 years I became much stronger. Yet that time in my life taught me some strange survival skills that I incorporated into my professional life as fixer of sorts. In the end, I would help companies that have operational or financial distress.

So I hardly ever felt like a victim. More a participant in a moral battle. My question that I asked Alan in his story (“Why Did You Do This?”) was surely designed to make him and the other kids that did it stronger so that he wouldn’t look at me as a victim.

My finding out about Alan and this story he wrote, along with his whole website also coincided with my helping to heal my one of my best friends from his long-term suffering from bullying, and also a series of interactions within my work life in general, that brought me to think hard about Alan’s mission and good work. I also thought about how Alan put himself out there on this site and his personal exposure along with all the risks that go along with doing that. That has helped me come to terms with my own decision of leaving big law and the dysfunctional situations that I am quite good at surviving now due to my rationalized flight and fight instinct that I developed through my experiences with bullies in my past.

So now I have chosen my own path (which by the way I was very reluctant to choose) and now can focus all my energy on my own path. Bottom line is that throughout my life and especially during 6-8 grade in Lexington, MA, when Alan was there, I realized that I had some “mark” that those with wisdom saw in me. Adults who are smart and anyone who understands how to view things from the outside saw that mark and “got me”. They always got me and have always helped me, especially an African-American judge and Vietnam Vet that gave me a chance, where others would have not. They “got” me! It has made me live a life that seems so easy and lucky. Now this brings us to the present. This Juneetenth I continue on my Journey of Freedom with a view from the outside to help those on the outside get inside (but never myself getting too close).

~David

(Read the original “Me As The Bully” Story Here)

The Boy Who Would Run

Sometimes we just need to be inspired to realize that bullies are in the minority and there are many of us that do good. This story was on the Today show and I had to share it here. I think it’s important to share that we are not alone and that the bullies don’t always win, particularly when we are young. Having worked with children with Cerebral Palsy, I know that all they want to do is do what everyone else does. This boy did not let that get in his way.

And just watch what the other children do to help him learn that. I think you will see why this is an important addition to the bullying stories site.

In the Workplace (A Personal Story)

Bullying in the workplace is getting some attention, but certainly less than childhood bullying. I think that might be because adults are embarrassed to admit they are still bullied and can succumb to that bullying. I think it brave when someone sends me their bullying in the workplace story, because I think many of us also experience this issue and don’t know what to do, other than quiet and be out of work or deal with the abuse on a daily basis. Gayla shares her story below and is looking for some advice, so please comment if you have some feedback for her. ~Alan Eisenberg


In the Workplace

In my quest to find help with a current situation of Workplace Bullying, I came across your webpage. It seems that childhood bullies must grow up to be Workplace Bullying Supervisors, like mine.

In my part-time job as a receptionist at a local Private School of Music and Arts, sounds like a fun, great place to work, right? Well, that is what I thought 9 months ago when I took this job. In the first several months at the job this person had no issues with me, my work performance and nothing negative. All of my work seemed to be a great help to the school, and I absolutely loved going to work everyday. Being told my cheerful attitude such a positive addition to their registration office. It seemed I asked all the right questions about how to do the job in the most efficient organized manner, many times I was told “in comparison to past employees in this position, you are great.” All of the parents seem to like me at the front desk, all of the teachers seem to like conversing with me, all of the students liked a helpful, smiling face as they come in to attend their music lessons or art class.

At some point this person turned into my worst nightmare on the job. This person is my supervisor and all of a sudden I am being talked down to, as if I were a naughty child. If front of others my every action is questioned, scolder and reprimanded beyond petty. With my co-worker and peers being within hearing distance, I ve been told “why are you taking the files out of the draw to organize them, simply leave them in the folder and alphabetized them in the folder.” Or “look at me when I am talking to you, so I know that you are hearing me.” My every sentence has been corrected, I ve been told “I do not like the way your tone of voice changes when you talk to the children.” The other person in the office has acknowledged this person being rude and unprofessional to me ( as well as others in this school ), even to her at times.

Now the worst slap in the face, I had scheduled a few days off work, as my 80 yr old mom was coming for I visit and I am picking her up from the airport after work. So that afternoon, I arrive at work and I my supervisor informs me we have a meeting with the HR representative. I should have seen it coming, she had asked me the day before “why are you giving out wrong information regarding classes” and it was something she had heard incorrectly, I told a parent summer classes are 9 weeks, and she heard is as me telling them the Private Lessons are 9 weeks. So, we go into the meeting and I am shocked, she is placing me on a written warning for false and unfounded statements, on the day my mom is coming in for a visit. I challenged her on several of the allegations and tell her and the HR representative I will be writing a rebuttal. She is shaking as we then return to the Registration Office, and looks at me with her belittling look “if you need to take a break now, feel free to do so.” I simply turn and look her straight in the eyes, and say “no, you go ahead.” Needless to say, my time spent with my mom and family could have been much better without this cloud hanging over me.

My rebuttal has been written and presented to HR, whom in turn sent her a copy. Now I am expecting to be terminated from this job next week, after their follow-up. And since I also have suggested to HR this is a “hostile work environment”, they followed up with an investigation of my claim and deemed it is NOT harassment and my claim is invalid.

In the meantime, I took 2 weeks off the job for personal time, due to experiencing sever anxiety attacks, depression, lack of energy, outburst of tears, and loss of self-confidence. At one point I thought I was having a heart attack, these feelings are so debilitating. Now that I ve returned to work it is, of course, even worse since she feels she has HR and Managements approval to treat people in this manner.

How do we stop the epidemic from spreading? How do we stop Childhood bullies from becoming Managers at a School?

Thank you for reading my story, I hope to hear back from you.

~Gayla

The 8th Grade Speech (A Personal Story)

Imagine going through a year of terrible bullying, where both student and teachers bullied you when you were in 7th grade. Now imagine transferring to a new school in 8th grade, simply to get away and feel safe again. Now imagine being brave enough that when asked to give a speech about something that affected you to your new classmates, that you give that speech on the bullying that happened to you in the previous year. That’s exactly what Hannah did. Not only did she do that, but she sent it to me and asked me to share it with the world.  I am happy to do that for her. Thank you, Hannah, for this gift of your story and your bravery in the face of bullying. ~Alan Eisenberg


The 8th Grade Speech

Last year I went to Reynolds middle school. When I was there, I was scared to walk through the doors in the morning. People were threatening me, for no reason, and I was often being bullied.

While all these things were going on in my life, I was pushed to the point of believing no one cared. I was even too embarrassed to tell my own family. My teacher’s and those who I thought were my friends didn’t care that my life was horrible. The same people who I called my friends didn’t help the situation at all because they seemed to be supporting the people who bullied me; I believe they did this for the benefit of looking cool. The teachers didn’t do a thing when they saw the bullying happen and when they heard about what was happening.

After a certain point, I gave up.

I started what people were saying. I thought of myself as fat, stupid, ugly and so much more, because those were the things I heard. I then came to Corbett hating myself. I came here thinking nothing was going to change, but I was wrong.I came to realize that people really do care, even the teachers. Another plus is that I don’t hate myself anymore. I think that when people bully others and call others names it is because they want to make themselves look and feel better. I personally don’t think that bullies understand the effect they leave on their victims. I have realized that words can hurt, and the hurtful names people call you are never true. Coming to Corbett has made me a totally new person, in a good way!

I know it may sound weird and all, but I can now say that I found something positive from being bullied. I feel that I am a stronger person. I know that I can have someone call me a name, because I know what the truth is and they don’t. I am now able to catch what people throw at me. I guess I’m trying to get it in your mind that when people bully you and call you names it’s not true. If you have people around that care about you, know that they will always be there for you, it will make the hard times in life a lot easier.

So stay strong and hold on.

~Hannah

Their Taunts and Insults (A Personal Story)

Melanie started her letter to me talking of the courage to tell her story. To think it doesn’t take an enormous amount of courage to share specific insults and hurtful words said to you is to think that it is easy to relive the worst moments of your life. When I get these stories I usually have to read them many times so that I can see them with calm, which is usually after the third read or so. Melanie vividly recalls the harsh words said to her and does not see a solution. What can you offer to help her? ~Alan Eisenberg


Their Taunts and Insults

You should know that I am a 17-year-old girl who comes from Germany. And was bullied from kindergarten up to high school. But for me it was the worst time from primary to secondary school.

In 2002, my parents and I moved into a small village. A new home also means new school. For the first few weeks, it was quiet around me. I had found some friends. And then it hit me straight in the face. I did not get along with the new school curriculum and was therefore called Dumb. It got worse as the summer came. Instead of making ordinary sports, we went swimming. This meant that all must change together. However I was for a 7-8 year old girl, already quite well-developed physically. They began to point with a finger at me and laugh. They insult me. Monster. Freak. Witch. My friends turned their backs on me. They said that I am no longer usable. One day a boy came to see me and put a knife to my throat. He threatened to kill me. This boy was in a class below me. No one helped me. I was hated. I cried a lot. At school (and at home). This was also the reason why I was called crybaby.

I came into main school. Again, it was quiet for the first few weeks. I had made friends.

But then a friend wrote a letter to me. The letter was written that I was a bitch and I should disappear out of her life. Shortly after the letter, began a group of boys to bully me. Shove. Pick with their fingers. Hair pulling. So they began. But at some point they wanted more.

They threatened to rape me. So I told my parents. And my mother went straight to the school. But the school has done nothing. However the guys forgot the rape threats.

In return, they insulted me. Bad. Bitch. Miscarriage. Whore. Freak. Monster. Witch.

Ugly. Fat. Amazon. When a bird would poop on my head, I would be pretty. They shouted “yuck” when I walked past. And when I touched them they fell back. For this they would say that they would have to be disinfected. My so-called friends always watched. Laughed. They ignored me.

So I started to pull me back into myself. I lost confidence in the people. So I created my own world where I felt safe. They quickly realized. They spread, that I had depression. They spoke also of illnesses. And that was the point where I gave up everything.

I had no friends. The teacher looked away. And the bullying was getting worse.

I felt dead. Unintentionally. Hated. Unloved. I saw myself as a monster. I tried to kill me. The first time had not worked. Although it had left its traces. I tried it a few times. I gave up. It did not work. So I started something else. I started listening to them. If they had problems, they always came to me. And after I had helped them, they gave me a small smile. But that was about it. They bullied me further. Until the day where I was beaten.

I had not defended myself. I said to myself “It’s okay. It will soon be over.”

I went to high school. It was most of the time quiet. But when I once wore an unusual T-shirt, they started the same again. Phantom or ghost of the school they called me.

But a teacher stood in front of me. I will never forget. If we had to work in groups, he had allowed me to work alone. I had him however only once a week. As long as he was not there, they would continue.

Now I have finished school. But I have no friends. But then I think to myself, it’s better without. I like my peace.

~Melanie

Damaging Self-Confidence (A Personal Story)

First, I must apologize to those that have submitted stories this last month. I have been blessed to be inundated with stories and have been delayed in posting them, but know they are coming. Dave submitted this story to me and was nice enough to remind me he was anxious to share it, so it is here. Dave gives a great perspective of the power of a good upbringing and how a good family structure and a calm mind can help during times of bullying. Thanks for sharing all sides of the perspective, Dave. ~Alan Eisenberg


Compared to what I read about today, I wasn’t bullied that much, but it was enough to leave a permanent dent in my self-confidence. Sixty years ago when the worst of it ended, my school was safe; the trouble was outside on the streets and in the parks where I spent all my time in good weather.   The bullies, older than I was, roamed in small gangs looking for amusement.  Most of the time they taunted me for stammering or for my bouncing walk. Sometime they’d assault me: a sharp punch to the stomach; a burn on the hand with a cigarette while others held me; or the grip of many hands holding me over the edge of a fire escape. One boy, just a year older, repeatedly thrust my head toward the spikes of iron fence so both eyes would be impaled if he pushed all the way.

I was an only child in this seaside town where my mother wrote children’s books. My father encouraged me to fight back, but I wasn’t a scrapper, as he had been in an equally tough town.  My mother said it was my own fault because my screams of terror entertained the boys and made them laugh.

Despite the fear that these incidents provoked I managed to have a lot of fun as a kid and to get into plenty of trouble.  A landlord left a supply of WW2 trophy ammunition, and I set out with a friend to convert a cap pistol into a working revolver. I had no intention of using it for defense against bullies; it was just an interesting technical challenge. Thank God, as a ten-year-old, my gun-smithing skills weren’t up to the challenge.  Later the brother of another friend detonated one of the cartridges in a vise and received some shrapnel in the face.  I was horrified when the police told me that my bullets had injured this boy. I gave them all the ammunition and apologized to the boy and to his mother.

I graduated from gun-smithing to model airplanes: a safer hobby.  I wanted to be an engineer like my grandfather, but couldn’t manage physics and math in college. I became a research psychologist and later a computer specialist. Today I teach statistics and neural science part-time.  Technical pursuits kept me from dwelling on problems like bullies. I still fix computers for relaxation.

My parents supplied me with a first-rate cultural education; our house was filled with books and recordings of classical music.  They supported all my endeavors, even driving me to another town twice a week for marksmanship training, and, of course, they paid for my college.

The boy in my mother’s books, Azor, supposedly based on me, had some of the good times that I had and said some of the things that I said at his age.  But Azor showed none of the manifest anxiety, stammering, or social ineptitude that I displayed to other kids.  Somehow, I think, my mother allowed her fictional creation to supplant in her mind that actual child that she was supposed to be raising.  How else can I explain her reluctance to acknowledge my pleas for help with the bullies, or hope to understand her failure to confront adults who threatened me, as some did?

Even today, in an era when bullying is not tolerated, I get angry when I read of parents who actually defend their children, as mine didn’t, and even angrier when I hear of mothers or fathers who stood up for their kids in the 1940s and 1950s when I was having so much trouble.  And yes, the bullying left signs of post-traumatic stress like depression and panic disorder, but not the full-blown PTSD described in DSM-IV.

The boys who harassed me were adolescents whose brains had not matured enough to support good judgment; they did not grow up to become violent criminals. Their gangs were spur-of-the moment collections, not the lethal drug-fueled groups that we have today.  They were tame, even by 1950s standards. Can I forgive them for what they did to me so long ago?  Of course I can. One of them, still a good friend, apologized to me recently.

I can’t say that my experience gives me much wisdom to impart to parents, educators or children contending with bullies today. To parents I would say, “Listen to your kids!” They’ll shut down, as I did, if you deny or minimize their complaints.  And to kids, if you’re faced with physical assaults, I’d say, “get some training in self-defense. “

Why didn’t I turn my anger and persisting anxiety into a burning desire for revenge as some victims of bullying have?  For the same reason that I never planned to use my converted cap pistol as a weapon against anyone: I still can’t think of anything worse than hurting another person.

~Dave

Bully Whispering (A Personal Story)

It all started with an email that I received from Kate Cohen-Posey with her own personal bullying story and an offer to have a new section on this site that she could help others through as a “true” professional who works with victims of bullying. Kate Cohen-Posey is a professional counselor and author on the subject of bullying. She has a practice in Florida and has written three books on both bullying and other issues in the world of professional personal therapy. As many realize, we know to help others in many cases by remembering what has happened to us. In the coming weeks, Kate will share her professional support in our new section called Cool Comebacks to Cruel Comments. But for now, she will share her story below. ~Alan Eisenberg


Bully Whispering

I think I’ve had the usual dose of mean comments, but two instants were over the top. When I was very young, I was surrounded by a large group of kids and told that I killed Jesus. The second stand-out memory was when a young man would come sit next to me in the school library and whisper in my ear that I should have died in the gas chambers. I would sit there paralyzed with shame. I’ve often wondered why I never told anyone this was happening—not my best and dearest friend, not my parents.

I experienced many other hurtful comments that did not qualify as bullying; they were not repetitive, intentionally aggressive remarks by people who perceived me as weaker. Often, in their ignorance, my friends said things like, “He’s so Jewish,” or don’t let him “Jew you down.” When I was in the 11th grade I shocked myself and confused my friends. Someone had made a cruel comment, and out of my mouth popped the words, “Why are you complimenting him when he’s being stingy.” This response planted the seeds for my future career. The bully whisperee became the bully whisperer.

I am now a psychotherapist in central Florida and teach people how to “whisper to bullies” by disarming disdain. I’ve published bully books for children and adults: How to Handle Bullies, Teasers, and other Meanies and Making Hostile Words Harmless. Bullies are no longer a problem for me. It’s not that they don’t exist. In fact I think adult bullying is more rampant, but more subtle than what children endure. My most empowering moments have happened when I blocked a bully. An ER doctor yelled at me for being late for an evaluation and I kindly told him he was a good doctor who cared about his patients. He backed off with his mouth open. If the meek frightened child that was me can learn to do this, anyone can.

~Kate Cohen-Posey