Saturday, October 20, 2012
I'm going to dive into a topic that is.....well, difficult. It's difficult because I have to admit to an ugly side of myself.
But, then again, I think it's a side we all share.
I would suppose that most of you have heard about the young girl, Amanda Todd, who was a victim of bullying and took her own life last week. Her story has galvanized the world right now - and the spotlight is shining on the toxic behaviour of bullying. And just how tragic the result can be.
I'd like to speak about my own experience with this.
Let me start by saying I'm often amazed by the saccharine espousal of many about the innocence and loveliness of childhood. Perhaps I'm coloured by my own rather bleak time back there but mostly I remember the horrific terrorizing we kids perpetrated upon each other. Boys would pulverize each other with more blood than a chain saw horror flick; girls would whip each other with their skipping ropes to the point of raising welts. Jeezus, we were Lord of the Flies personified.
Here's where my dark confession comes out. I was a part of the systematic bullying of a young girl back in Grade 4. For some inexplicable reason 'Betty' was singled out by the class for taunts and name calling....brutal kid crap that tears apart anyone who has been in that particular hell. What was it about this girl that made her such a target? Who knows......the victims of abuse are picked for the most obscure of reasons. But I was swept up in the complicit condoning of picking on her. I knew it was wrong. But I also remember being immeasurably relieved it wasn't me as the target.
I often recall her breaking down in class one day when the taunts just became too much.
And the shame I felt.
But I never spoke up.
I think this is the scariest part of this ugly behaviour - that so many are afraid to speak out. We are afraid to become the target ourselves.
And I did become a target.
In High School - Grade 9 if memory serves, I became the unwanted focus of a boyfriend that was very angry when I broke up with him. I ended our 'relationship' (and that's in quotes because who the hell has a relationship at 14) because he was physically abusing me - oh, the feeling of cringing shame to admit that I allowed him to take me into dark garages and even one time, the crawlspace of a local corner store so that he could screw me. His way of punishing me for finally refusing him was to line up his buddies beside the door I walked out of to head home after school. When I emerged through those doors, they began to cat call and taunt me with the cries and hisses of "Slut, hair pie, ugly bitch" as I walked by.
I will never forget the absolute horror I felt walking those steps. The mind numbing, blood draining, horror as I knew everyone was watching and listening.
For the next 3 months I would hide after school in whatever place I could find until 5 o'clock - making absolutely sure no one was around before I started out for home.
There was nobody I could turn to - girls were judged VERY harshly for that kind of behaviour back then in the late 60's and no other girl wanted to be associated with me. I became the pariah. I recall being abjectly lonely for a long time.
Is there a point to my story? I'm not sure what I can say - I think that sometimes it just feels so hopeless to know this base brutality still goes on - I mean Gr. 9 was 45 years ago for crying out loud! And Gr. 4 was even longer than that...! But bullying still goes on. Is it a part of our ugly human side to pick on others? The saddest thing to realize in all this is people who bully are victims of bullying themselves.
I live in hope that we can be better.
The painting: "The Bully" by Willem Van Mieris, 1638. There you go, we've been acting dishonourably for quite some time apparently.