Open Your Eyes
Victims are the solution to bullying
Published: Monday, October 22, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 22, 2012 16:10
Perhaps you have heard of Amanda Todd. Her name has been all over the Internet lately, from Facebook and Twitter to news sites across the world. A 15 year old girl from British Columbia, she was harassed and bullied on the internet and in schools across the span of years and cities until she finally committed suicide two weeks ago.
After looking into Amanda’s story and watching the video she posted on YouTube a few months before her death, I couldn’t help but feel a ball of anger burning inside me. The issue is incredibly complex, and the search for solutions to bullying is equally as difficult. By no means is Amanda’s case a stray instance, but because her story is so visible, it is a good cast-off point for the catalyzing of change.
Even Amanda’s story is complex. She was blackmailed on the Internet, and when she showed a stiff backbone, the bullying made the jump to her school. Here, her abusers latched on like leeches on a minnow. They sucked the life from her, drove her into depression, and chased her out of the town.
She and her dad moved. Twice. And then she went to live with her mother. Her cyber-tormenter – the insane creep that he is – followed her everywhere. Finally, after publishing a YouTube video that detailed her story in a cry for help, she took her own life.
And for what? At the age of fifteen, she had made a few more mistakes than most kids her age. But they were hardly life-ruining choices. Given a healthy support group of friends and family – which, at one point, she had – those choices, if left alone, would have ended up as nothing but learned lessons for her to look back and reflect upon later in life.
But when you throw her vicious tormenters into the mix, those hateful, spiteful, ignorant fool kids who took such joy from tearing her down and watching her life fall into pieces before them, those choices she made were exploded into something they never should have been. Instead of questioning the asinine judgments imposed upon her by her peers, Amanda instead questioned her own decisions – she listened to her abusers, believed that what she had done was a big deal, let them get into her head.
Never should this have happened to a girl like Amanda. Never should it happen to anyone. And yet it does, day after day. Why do kids have such a need to bully? Look upon the sneering face of any teenager in the middle of pulling a nasty prank or dropping a cruel joke, and see if you don’t feel the urge to knock them back down into their rightful place.
Their need to put others down stems directly from their own insecurities. The cycle is sickening – kids who have no self-confidence take heart in destroying the lives of bright, happy children with no insecurities. The bullies instill these innocent victims with all of their own poisonous hate, anger, and self-loathing.
And why don’t the victims fight back? Because that isn’t who they are. They don’t have the same evil instincts as their tormenters. They weren’t molded to ruin others’ lives, and even when their own wellbeing is at stake, they have the strength of will and clarity of mind to see that retaliation is fruitless.
If they are lucky, that is. Children like Amanda are sucked into the vicious cycle too quickly– they haven’t even the time to get a glimpse of what is real and what matters before the abuse completely consumes their lives.
So where do we begin to solve this problem? Bullying probably will never go away – it is the base evil that plagues our world and prevents us from attaining any lasting peace at any imaginable scale. But kids can overcome it! All they need is the vision to realize that what they are enduring with such grace and dignity is trivial in the larger scheme of their lives. It is all but common knowledge that college is the perfect time when kids like this can come out of their shell and begin to flourish.
What is often overlooked is the reason for that flourishing. Sure, it is easier to make friends in college due to the wider array of potential friends at your disposal. But what really matters is that the bullies never make it that far. Those who were never able to deal with their insecurities in any constructive way are eaten alive by them, and are often never able to attain success at any level comparable with that of their victims.
The solution then, is not only about preventing bullying, it is about equipping the best, brightest kids with the tools to deflect all of the abuse. At home and at school, when bullying becomes an issue – and even before it becomes an issue – kids should be made to know that it is not the end of the world. That people who bully are never worth listening to. What they say really does not matter in the slightest.
So as the debate rages in Canada over the next couple of weeks on how best to deal with cyber bullying and the drafting of anti-bullying legislation as a reaction to the death of Amanda Todd, we should also be looking at how we can better equip children to deal with these, the greatest rigors of middle and high school.
Nathan is a senior majoring in landscape architecture. Follow him on twitter @nwstottler.