August 1, 2012 —
According to the American Justice Department, one out of every four kids is bullied, and 14% of those who were bullied said that they experienced severe reactions to the abuse. There are two types of bullying: physical and verbal. Parents should be asking themselves: “Are my kids being bullied? And if so, what can I do to help?”
Rebeka Baker is a smart and pretty strawberry blond who will turn 18 this month. At age 10, she was a city girl who moved into the small town of Honesdale. Almost at once, the bullying began because, she said, “I was the outsider.” Initially, when someone said something mean, Rebeka dismissed it.
“It seemed minimal,” she explained. “But as the harshness increased more and more, I felt the need to stand up for myself.” Rebeka was mostly teased for superficial things, such as being short. She is 4 foot 11 inches. “People teased me for not liking things other kids liked and for not dressing and acting like other girls my age.”
According to Rebeka, standing up for yourself can make things worse because it makes the bullies angrier. This is one of the greatest challenges for a victim of bullying.
I’ve known Rebeka since my freshman year at Honesdale High in 2009. I noticed right away that she was treated poorly by the other students and couldn’t figure out why. She was smart, pretty and friendly. I began to wonder what it was that the other kids didn’t like about her. When I asked her about her life, she told me that she had two jobs and was living independently from her parents. She had moved into a local hotel in Honesdale, where she was a housekeeper.
In the state of Pennsylvania, at age 17, if you are employed and have a place to live, you can leave your parents’ home. Rebeka moved in with her boyfriend. “My parents protested to no end at first but eventually gave in, though they didn’t like it.”
The bullying continued throughout both middle and high school. (Although she was no longer living with her parents, she continued to attend public school). However, the stress from the constant harassment pushed her to finish her senior year with cyber school. “Bullies will attack you for anything,” said Rebeka. “They will make fun of you for being short, or they will make fun of you if you have long legs. If they say you are ugly or lame, you know the truth.” Rebeka advises anyone who is being bullied to “turn to your friends because they also know the truth.”
When I asked Rebeka what advice she would give to the parents of children who are being bullied in school, she said, “As a parent, comfort your child. Tell them that they know the truth and not to believe anything the bullies say about them. There are bumps in the road we all have to go over. It may be hard, but high school is going to be over soon, and it’s only the beginning of your life.
“Now a days, I can turn a blind eye to this kind of thing. What nasty things other people have to say don’t bother me because my own opinion of myself is stronger to me.”
[Lucy Jan-Turn is interning at The River Reporter this summer. She will enter the College of the Atlantic in Maine this fall.]