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Let's work together against bullying and help bring the teen suicide rate down to zero

Why We’re Losing Ground in Bullying Prevention

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I’ve been writing this blog article for about a week, now, in my mind.  Each time I thought I was ready move it from my mind to my fingers and onto my keyboard, that voice inside me would say “wait!  not yet”.  Normally, I hate when that happens.  That usually signals to onset of another bout of Writer’s Block, every journalist’s nemesis at one point or another.  This time, however, I’m glad that voice was there to annoy me.  I wasn’t ready to commit this to the blog just yet.  Now, I am.

Hopefully, I’m not breaking any news by saying that October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.  Well, every month needs to be Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.  However, October is the “official” month of recognition.  How fitting.  What’s been eating at me for the past week is the realization that preventing bullying is far more arduous than I ever imagined.  In the good ol’ days (late last year and early this year), the notion was it was as simple as educating the young people.  Teaching them love and compassion, and teaching it by example.  That didn’t last long.  It quickly occurred to me that the teaching had to start with the adults:  parents, authority figures, political leaders, religious leaders, even older siblings.  What-or-whomever!!!  It had to start there!!  And, I still hold on to that one as being one of the keys.  This week taught me even more than that:  what I now realize is that the reason why it’s so hard to tackle the bullying issue is because it is firmly ingrained into who we are as a society!  It’s how we live.  It’s how we communicate.  It’s become who we are.  At this point in time, it almost feels that bullies are the majority…on one level or another.  Here’s a look at the events from just this week that finally filled in the missing colors for me:

  • The facebook blog page was inundated this past week by the story of was a case, out of California, of a 15-year-old football player brutally beating up a lesbian at his high school, fracturing her jaw with multiple blows to the face.  There was talk of concussion.  Outrage set in, and rightfully so.  After all, this was a girl being savagely beaten by a boy.  I have no tolerance for that whatsoever, for any circumstances.  Allegedly, the boy attacked her for being lesbian.  That was the initial report.  Then, it wasn’t that at all.  Then, the boy responded, saying that he “did not know it was a girl.”  Of course, the LGBT community was up in arms.  “What are you trying to say!!!???  Of course you knew she was a girl.”  Everyone was screaming “hate crime”.  According to “the girl’s team”, the local sheriff’s department was siding with the boy, sweeping it under the carpet, and threatening to side with the boy if the girl decided to press charges.  The way it was presented, of course, gave the impression that even they were trying to get the boy off with nothing more than a wrist slap.  And, perhaps they were.  This story is still unfolding, which is why the names haven’t been mentioned.  There was a page set up on facebook in the girl’s defense, seeking action.  Until it was taken down, just over 24 hours after it went up, I monitored it closely, paying close attention to what was being said, and by whom.  Who actually witnessed it?  Who is just speculating?  Who is just stirring shit!?  As the story was going viral on facebook, I sat in vigilance monitoring the page.  And, it was here that it dawned on me that bullying is deeply ingrained into our collective psyche.  It’s who we have become:  a society of bullies.  The way these young people were talking to each other was nothing short of appalling.  In some cases, it was outright frightening, if not illegal.  The alleged attacker was now receiving severe threats of bodily harm, and even death threats!, right there before my eyes.  I only wish, now, that I had “screen-saved” some of this.  At once, the bully became the bullied.  It got so severe that I began to worry about him, as well.  “Will someone try to kill him?”  “Will the weight of the verbal assault from all around the country, from people he didn’t even know!, in addition to the attacks from “the girl’s team” prove to be too much for him to handle and he resorts to attempting to end his life?”  See, what happens quickly is when one side doesn’t agree with the other, instantaneously the verbal abuse begins.  It starts with name-calling.  It escalates quickly from there.  And, what made all of this even worse?  Not all of the attackers on this page were teens!!!!!  There were adults, both close to the situation and total strangers from different parts of the country, who were just as bad if not worst than some of the teens who were there.  So, the already enraged and impassioned teens are now having their bullying, abusive behavior validated by adults.  The education, and the bullying,  continues;
  • Someone took the time to read back through some of my older blog posts.  Apparently, the one I wrote about Lawrence King’s murderer, Brandon McInerney, and his sentencing caught his attention.  I was hard on Brandon for murdering the young, LGBT teen in cold blood.  I was angry because, in my mind, and in the mind of many (if not most in the LGBT community), this young “monster” killed Lawrence strictly out of hatred for gays.  Lawrence had “hit on” Brandon; Brandon snapped; Lawrence is murdered.  But, wait.  This guy who went back through my blog and read that post contacted me.  And, to be 100% sure, this person was completely polite and respectful in his email to me.  However, he challenged me to look closer at the whole case.  Did Brandon murder Lawrence out of homophobic bigotry?  Or, was Brandon, himself, a victim of bullying (from Lawrence), himself.  And, like many of you are probably doing at this very moment, I immediately scoffed at the idea.  My first thought was “seriously, dude!?”  But, he provided me a link to a facebook page that had been set up in Brandon’s behalf. (you’ll need to read through some of the threads)  Now, granted, the person who set up the page was and is a homophobic bigot.  He originally set it up praising Brandon for standing up against “the radical homosexual agenda”.  The thought of that mentality, that it was completely okay for one teen to murder another in cold blood under the guise of “standing up to the radical homosexual agenda”, existing in this day and age had my blood boiling.  Hesitantly, I continued on.  Make no mistake:  although the person who set the page up set it up for all the wrong reasons and with the exact wrong message, people came quickly to the page and let him know just how wrong he was.  That made it easier for me to continue reading.  The conversation became very interesting.  And, extremely enlightening.  I came away from it all with the changed opinion that, yes, there was a rush-to-judgement to vilify Brandon McInerney as this monster, homophobic, child murderer.  Brandon McInerney was indeed, himself, a victim of bullying…and, worse.  See, there are two people on that page of critical importance:  one knew Brandon personally; one knew the whole family personally,  Their  insight goes far beyond whatever the sensationalists-driven media outlets would’ve ever reported.  The story would’ve been much less potent had the entire picture been painted.  Read it for yourself.  I’m confident that you’ll come away with a different opinion.  But, I digress.  What made this page standout to me, other than the fact that I was able to really get some facts on what really happened, was the level of ugliness being posted as comments on this page.  And, the ones doing the posting were….that’s right:  adults.  Grown adults wishing for this boy, still a teenager, to get anally raped regularly while in prison.  Walk away with whatever opinion you may, as far as the case itself is concerned; however, to post such vile on a public forum about a teenager is beyond reprehension.  How on Earth do were EVER hope to seriously make a dent in the bullying issue with adults displaying this kind of behavior?  Easy answer:  it won’t happen;
  • Just yesterday, this video of Wisconsin newscaster Jennifer Livingston went viral.  It went viral because it is a video of her response to someone, some adult male, sending her a very demeaning, condescending email (bullying) about her weight.  He took the time to go into great detail of her responsibility to the community, especially to young girls, to…essentially…look more like Barbie.  This was a man who didn’t know her personally, who very rarely even watched her segment on the news, but wanted to say hurtful things to her just for his own satisfaction.  Very eloquently yet emphatically, her response to him was decisive and determined.  Still, it wasn’t enough that this guy took time out of his day to attempt to demean Jennifer.  There are people on the social networks, yes…adults, who have taken it even a step farther with their comments.  And, once again, by virtue of his now well-publicized email, and by virtue of some of the irresponsible, and immature!, adult commentors, our youth are being taught that being mean, saying hurtful things, is completely okay.  Bullying is okay;
  • And, lastly, this video was posted just yesterday.  It, thankfully, is a re-enactment of a bullying incident that really did happen in a middle school.  In the video, it’s happening in the workplace.  Therefore, it’s adults…in the video.  And, the walk-away message for every young person who sees it is “why should I stop bullying if grown ups are doing it?”  Indeed, that question is being asked every single day, all around this country, and around the world.

“Why should I stop calling him a faggot?  The pastor calls them that?”

“Why should I show fat people any respect?  My dad says that fat people are losers.”

And, there’s a long list of other examples that I’m sure you can add to that in your own head, from your own experiences.  Here’s the point:  we can forget about trying to stop these young people from bullying each other.  Nevermind the fact that suicide is now the #1 cause of injury death, and many youth suicides are bully-related.  Forget about the fact that bullying victims often end up with deep emotional scars from being bullied.  It doesn’t even matter that, in some cases, the bully victim reacts by becoming a bully, themselves, thus perpetuating the cycle.  It just doesn’t matter!!!  It.  Just.  Doesn’t.  And, it doesn’t because we, as adults, can’t figure out how to get out own act together, can’t figure amongst ourselves, our peers!, how to treat one another or talk to each other.  It doesn’t matter because as long as we continue to teach the young, through our examples!,  that it is ok, acceptable, and even expecting in some cases!, to demean others, to treat people with disrespect, to say and do hurtful things to others, to be intolerant and unaccepting of other people and their differences, we can continue to expect the bullying to continue and, probably, increase.

And, as the bullying continues to escalate, taught and condoned by adults!, the bully-related suicides will also continue to rise.  We don’t have a handle on it at all.  In fact, it’s headed in the wrong direction

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13 Responses

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  1. This is what I have always said about cases of murder or bullycide, sometimes even about animal activism cases. The sick nasty comments some people leave are so hypocritical it hurts. They call upon people to be more compassionate, but then condone harming or even killing others to justify their ill-doing. It’s ridiculous! No one has the right to say that about anyone else, and no mature adult should be condoning the act of saying things like this in a forum where children can see it, hell, where anyone can see it! If you think they should go and die, that’s cool, just keep it in your own sick mind and don’t infect the rest of us with your ugly attitude towards other human beings. Go tell your therapist, no doubt you have one, about how you wanna kill the person you’ve never even met and you know nothing about. Have fun with that, in the meantime, the adults will be having mature discussions about how prevention is key, not punishment.

  2. SO. GOOD. I’m jealous I didn’t write this blog! I’m so glad that you used the FB experiences of bullied bullies to show how we are all so twisted up about bullying that we perpetrate it upon the perpetrators. And your thesis–that the origin and key to the child bullying problem resides with the adult bullying problem–is spot-on. Great job!

    thomsense

    October 3, 2012 at 4:57 pm

  3. You might want to check this out, in reference to the California case: http://www.snopes.com/politics/crime/lancaster.asp

    sanunley

    October 3, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    • I had, in fact, read this before writing this post. Thanks for the heads-up.

      Ron Kemp

      October 3, 2012 at 6:17 pm

  4. One day the US might drag themselves out from being backward and catch up with the rest of the world, give equal rights to everyone, as in Europe, where same gender couples can get married and adopt children. I believe the reason they are so far behind with basic human rights is the idiotic idea that the US is a superior country.

    Penny

    October 3, 2012 at 5:44 pm

  5. Love the article, just a minor quibble: Jennifer Livingston is a Wisconsin news anchor, not an Oklahoman one.

    Trisana

    October 3, 2012 at 6:11 pm

  6. Well said. We need to keep raising awareness about bullying. Here in Rhode Island we have a blog for baby boomers who care: http://www.boomersRI.com . Our latest post is “Boomers Against Bulling” which has a bunch of small steps each of us can take to help stop bullying. We think we can start to make a difference!

    boomersri

    October 4, 2012 at 1:59 am

  7. I blog a LOT on bullying and on issues of importance to the LGBTT2QIA community… and you know what? These kids generally get it. They are smart, they are kind, they actually care. They will outlive all the bigoted adults who are spreading hate, and the kids these kids eventually raise? They’re going to be AMAZING! So there is hope. I firmly believe there is hope. We have to believe in hope.

    Tobi-Dawne

    October 4, 2012 at 4:37 am

  8. […] Why We’re Losing Ground in Bullying Prevention (ronskemp.wordpress.com) […]

  9. Very well said and well written. It’s bad enough that kids are bullied, but if we bully the bullies, we are no better than they are. Where is our role model for our children if we, as adults, are not able to control our emotions and work with law enforcement. As a school counselor for the last 23 years, I have worked with parents who wanted to fight the parents of the bully. This only complicates matters and could easily lead to a homicide, which only destroys families.

    I was bullied throughout my entire childhood from kindergarten through 12th grade, including having been jumped by 10 bullies when I was in 7th grade. These thugs made my life a living hell. Eventually, I got into weight lifting and developed my body to protect myself from the bullies. Along with this, I started arm wrestling my friends for fun. I did so well against them that they recommended that I enter tournaments. Eventually, I won 26 World Arm Wrestling Championships, 10 United State National Titles, 27 California State Titles, and 128 career titles right and left-handed. Needless to say, I found a way to channel my anger in a positive way rather than joining a gang or becoming a vigilant killer. It was only after I developed my body, however, that I earned the respect of these thugs. Sadly, I had to speak their language before they left me alone, I prepared my body to fight, though I am thankful that I never had to prove myself. These thugs chose not to mess with me after they saw my transformed physique.

    I even wrote a book about my life called “Armed For Battle and Destined For Glory,” which chronicles my life in how I overcame adversity, won multiple world arm wrestling titles,earned 4 university degrees, 3 community college credentials, and 8 national awards for demonstrating leadership and excellence in the counseling profession. In addition, in one 14-year span, as a School Counselor, I set up a conflict management program at Fremont Middle School which helped over 7,000 students resolve issues with their peers, many which dealt with bullying issues. No one likes to be bullied, but let’s make sure we don’t lower ourselves to the same level of these bullies. They need help, too, and we need to make sure that we don’t become as violent as they are.

    Victor Torres/26-Time World Arm Wrestling Champion, School Counselor, Author & Motivational Speaker

    http://www.Armed4Battle.com

  10. Share therapeutic process for suicide prevention + abuse, addiction, etc. Use your own creativity when applying these principals and practices.
    “One example of the principles and practice of Self Help”
    “ The Therapeutic Process “
    ( especially for the family members of those who are lost at sea )
    + Regarding Reoccurring Negative Dreams & flashbacks.

    EXAMPLE

    A father and son, living on the West coast of Canada ( in the Vancouver area ), loved to go sailing between the mainland and Vancouver Island. The father, over the years, had
    upgraded from a small boat to a larger sail boat and the son was intending to follow his example, but, at the time of this example the son only had a small boat.

    One day the son want for a sail in his boat and a major storm came up which caused his boat to capsize. The son drowned on that day and his body was never recovered.

    As result, the father kept having a reoccurring dream regarding the loss of his son and the lack of closure. ( no funeral for closure because the son’s body was never recovered )

    In the dream the father would go out in his sail boat to where his son had drowned and he would dive over the side and swim down to the bottom. When he would get to the bottom he would find a treasure chest and when he opened it up it would, always, be empty.
    ( it can be said that the father treasured his son )

    At that time, I was a co-facilitator of a therapeutic group in which the father ( as a participant ) told the story of his reoccurring dream and to address the problem the following potential solution was proposed to him.

    Write up his story including his emotions, feelings, appreciations, anger, resentments, positives and negatives of the relationship with his son and with his death, etc.
    Buy a small tree ( hopefully his son’s favourite kind of tree).
    Take the write up, the tree and some pictures of his son ( + small personal objects / reminders of his son ) and take them to his son’s favourite place.

    NOTE: His son’s favourite place was up on a forested knoll over looking Horse Shoe Bay on the North Shore of Vancouver where he could see the marina that he and his father used to dock their sail boats.

    The father was to take the write up, the tree, the pictures and the personal
    objects to the knoll.
    Dig a hole for the tree / then read the write up ALOUD..
    Set fire to the papers ( write up ) pictures and personal items.
    Let the smoke go up into the air, the ashes and personal items fall into the hole.
    Plant the tree over them. ( burying them and the problem in order to gain closure )

    The father never had the reoccurring dream again…

    NOTE: People and their family members can, by using these principles and practices, gain closure in relation to various kinds of personal and family issues = re: the loss of a loved one, abuse, addiction, PTSD = reoccurring dreams / flashbacks, suicide prevention, anger management, beginnings and endings, unfinished business, closure, etc.

    Some guidelines:

    Use your own imagination and creativity when you apply
    these principles and practices to your own personal and family issues.
    This can be done alone and/or with others who can appreciate their attendance
    and find value in the process.

    NOTE: This therapeutic process can stand alone and/or be an addition to
    existing individual or group therapy programs.

    Helpful hints:

    1. You can bury and get over your own personal / family issues and start an anger free life.
    2. Planting ( a living memorial, a bush, shrub or a crop ) represents hope for the future.
    3. “The obstacles in life, often, become precisely what is required”…

    Warm Regards: to the family members of those who are lost at sea
    ( past, present and future ).

    Author James L. Halstrum ( The Stone Shadow )
    P.O.Box1326 Montague, PEI C0A-1R0
    natvspol@gmail.com
    http://www.facebook.com/james.halstrum1
    Phone / FAX: 902-838-2218

    James Halstrum

    March 2, 2013 at 4:32 pm

  11. […] I think of Bullying Prevention I have to go back to October 2012, the breaking news for Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.  I believe this should be a Monthly Awareness for Bullying Prevention through […]


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