The scars bullying leaves may never be seen by the naked eye.
The following three vignettes tell the stories of three generations of women who were bullied in their childhood and how that changed not only how they saw others, but also how they saw and felt about themselves. Sarah shares her family history in her own words:
As a child, my mom hid a lot of pain. At home, she was made to feel that she was never good enough and that she should be more like her older sister. So from an early age, my mom was already wounded by her parent’s words, which weakened her spirit.
My mother was beautiful but tall, and she was taller than most of the boys in her class. So a group of boys would tease her as they walked to elementary school calling her all sorts of names. But over time, the names began to change from her physical appearance to uglier names.
As the boys continued to get away with it, they became more brazen. One day they ganged up on my mom and began pushing, kicking, and throwing things at her. They also pulled her hair and spit on her. The school bullying continued for several years. Because of the stress at home, my mom never told anyone.
Over time, however, the constant bombardment and pressures welled up within my mom and her personality began to change. She started to believe she was worthless and unlovable. Soon all of her relationships were affected. The belittling at home made my mom vulnerable to the school bullying.
I had long straight hair, big brown eyes, and a smile like my mom’s. When I was in fifth grade, a boy began calling me names. I was called all sorts of names: “ugly, stupid, fat.” But the name calling eventually turned vulgar to include body parts.
Day after day, the bullying increased so eventually recesses became a hostile time for me. On the playground, the school bully always found me. The bullying eventually changed from name calling to physical abuse. During recess, others enjoyed watching the bully hit me so eventually a crowd of kids would surround us. As they laughed, I cried.
I started to go to the nurse’s office with headaches and stomach aches during recess and lunch time. Why did no one stand up for me? What was so wrong with me? Did I deserve this?
The bully’s unkind words stayed with me over the years and some of the scars still remain.
One day my daughter’s beautiful childhood was marred when a boy on the bus called her fat. The other kids on the bus laughed. No one stood up for her. They were afraid of being the one targeted, so they joined in.
This experience launched a series of events that eventually escalated. The bully became more and more bold. One day he hit my daughter over the head with a bucket. All the other kids laughed. Another incident involved a neighborhood girl choking my daughter while a group of kids surrounded her.
As her mother, I stepped in when the bullying became physical. I told my daughter that she needed to stay away from these kid but she wanted to be liked so badly. So, eventually, we decided enough was enough. We sold our expensive dream home and moved.
After we moved, my daughter made new friends and started from scratch. No one knew her past. But my daughter had changed. Throughout her school years, she constantly struggled with being afraid of her peers.
A SHINNING LIGHT
But in spite of all the school bullying, in her young adulthood, our daughter has learned to stand up for others. Now she will never let anyone be bullied on her watch. Unlike her grandmother, or myself, my daughter had a family that believed in and supported her. So she acquired an inner strength that ended up galvanizing her spirit with courage—enabling her to eventually stand up for others. After three generations of victimization, our daughter’s goal is to stop school bullying and stand up for the kids who struggle.
COLOR ME ORANGE – COLOR ME KIND
ArtPrize 8: Color Me Orange—Color Me Kind has drawn thousands of visitors within the competition’s first week. To date, over 30,000 ribbons have been incorporated within the artwork to illustrate solidarity in the movement to eliminate bullying. To participate, visit the Gerald R. Ford Museum from now until October 9 and find one of several hard-working volunteers along with additional support provided by the Girl Scouts of Michigan who will be handing out the interactive ribbons.
For reasons of security, names have been changed.
Coloring with Kindness
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum
September 21 to October 9, 2016
(Located outside on the museum plaza)
Tell Us Your Story. #ColorMeKind