Stand Up to Bullying

by Michael Wallace

“Nobody wants to be bothered with you!” “Why are you so weird?” “You’re gay, go someplace else,” “You dress and look like a girl.” All of these are words I have heard throughout my past career as a Child Protective Investigator. I witnessed children contemplating suicide, acting out aggressively against others, socially isolating themselves from loved ones, skipping school, joining the ‘wrong crowd’ just to be accepted, and at times running away from home. I have seen bullying tear families apart due to children losing faith in the adults that they trusted to protect them.

Growing up in today’s world is challenging. Peer pressure coupled with bullying creates havoc for adolescences and their families.  Bullying does not affect just one person, it affects everybody around them.  Everyday life, for all associated, can feel the negative effects.

During my time as a Child Protective Investigator, I gathered more information from a 30-minute interview with a bullied child than most parents received from their child in their whole life. These kids were amazing and special in so many ways. Because of bullying and the fear of being judged, many of them had successfully hidden amazing talents. I loved speaking with them and hearing their dreams and what drives them. These interviews not only impacted me, but it also impacted their loved ones once they heard from their children. They had strong voices and opinions that blew my mind and made me want to better myself. They aspired to be politicians, scientists, athletes, chefs, police officers, business owners. To see their eyes, light up and their faces glow when allowed to express themselves warmed my heart.

One of my most memorable interviews was with a 16-year-old child who had been bullied throughout high school because he was a male cheerleader. He loved what he did and the pride it brought him, but his grades were failing and his parents noticed he was becoming more distant socially. The Department of Children and Families had been alerted due to him running away many times.  There were concerns that possible abuse or neglect was going on in the home. After speaking with him, I learned that he had not only been bullied throughout high school but throughout his earlier childhood. He developed a love for cheerleading because as a child, he never understood the sport of football, but watching it and cheering along with his father brought them closer. So, while growing up, he wanted to be a cheerleader. He was the first male cheerleader at his middle school and now high school.  He experienced bullying and teasing frequently.  I was able to get him to open up to his parents and share his experiences.  He was finally able to talk about bullying at school. I learned one year later that the family had grown much closer and he had become an honor roll student with dreams of going on to college.  I’ll never forget his parents thanking me because they felt that he had finally opened up and was not afraid to speak out and express who he was.

Reflecting on this case, it occurred to me that a young life was almost ruined due to bullying. There is no place for bullying in this world and it needs to end.

To all the children out there dealing with bullying, we stand with you and we hear you.

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