All are guilty

Have you ever been disrespected? Well, I certainly have. In fact, one day after football practice, in early high school, I was toweling off after a shower when two big kids (seniors) threw me out of the locker room, nude, except for the towel tha...

Have you ever been disrespected? Well, I certainly have.

In fact, one day after football practice, in early high school, I was toweling off after a shower when two big kids (seniors) threw me out of the locker room, nude, except for the towel that I had miraculously and desperately hung on to, and there I was on a nice, crisp fall day, outfitted in a birthday suit just outside of a gymnasium door, wondering what to do next.

Of course, a number of choices ran through my mind: I could streak, act as though nothing had happened, pick leaves off a tree and quickly sew them together, jump into a pile of leaves until darkness arrived, tackle someone my size and steal their clothes or have a mental breakdown.

Instead, I stole a pickup truck from a friend who'd left his keys in the ignition, a common occurrence in those pre-oil boom days in my little hometown, and sped home.

Upon arriving I prayed that no one else was there, which was answered, then two-stepped up the stairs to my bedroom and picked out something nice to wear for the rest of the day, no harm done, if you forget about the blow to my ego.


However, the event obviously made an impression on my mind or I'd not be writing about it today. And I suspect you too have similar or worse experiences that happened in your youth, and maybe a few that are still happening today.

Because, you see, a man stopped by my office the other day and he has been abused almost every day of his life for being a little bit different; which had nothing to do with anything he did and everything to do with the body that God gave him.

The pain on his face was measurable, the quiver in his voice unmistakable and the occasional tear in his eyes most memorable.

For he did not want to be in my office talking about a subject that had embarrassed him all of his life and yet there he was, like a hero, asking me to write about bullying so that it could maybe help at least one or two or even you, who might be a victim of abuse and have no recourse.

In doing so, I realize that I too am a bully and so are you. Because, if you have ever excluded someone from a group, called them a name -- even behind their back, spread a rumor, or told them they were something less than what they really are in jest, you're a bully. And who hasn't done that?

Now, a little research revealed to me that there is an incredible amount of abuse taking place in our country. For example, did you know that 90 percent of fourth through eighth graders report that they are the victims of bullying? Plus, 282,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools each month, or about 42 Super Bowls full of students per year.

Did you also know that, according to the National Education Association, 160,000 students miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students? And 75 percent of school-shooting incidents have been linked to harassment and bullying?

According to the American Association of Suicidology, the suicide rates amongst 10- to 14-year-olds has grown by more than 50 percent over the last three decades? That's crazy.


So what should we do when we come upon an incident of student bullying? It's actually more important what you don't do than what you do. Because, according to the website stop, you are certainly not to ignore it or try to sort out the facts. Nor are you to force other students to say publicly what they saw, question the students involved in front of the other students, talk to the students involved together (do it separately only) and don't make the students apologize or patch up relations on the spot.

Then again, my brief office guest said that his high school and college years were a piece cake compared to his years in the workplace. Though, you'd think that as people got older they'd tend to grow up, but apparently not.

You see, there are several types of adult bullies. There's the narcissistic bully with the brittle ego who only feels good when he or she is putting others down. Then there's the impulsive bully who has a hard time restraining his or her behavior. Add in the physical bully, who more often damages a victim's property than the victim, themselves. And finally there is the verbal bully, who starts rumors or uses sarcastic and demeaning language to dominate or humiliate others.

So, like I said, if you think about it, we've all been a bully at one time or another and in one manner or another.

As Rachel Simmons, author, educator and coach said in her book, Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, "There is no gesture more devastating than the back turning away."

Holten is a freelance columnist and cartoonist from Dickinson.

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