Hiding In The Bushes: How Bullying Helped Me Become The Wonderful Person I Am Today
I'm tired of Social Darwinism, so it's time to move on. Perhaps I'll write something else about it later.
Actually, this entry may have something to do with Social Darwinism because it deals with discrimination and sexual molestation. The subject is myself, and here's the story:
I learned how to read way before I started kindergarten. I remember sounding out the words to Dr. Suess books while I was being potty trained. I would sit on my cute little throne reciting the words from "Green Eggs and Ham" and "Put Me in the Zoo" at the top of my lungs. I wrote poems too. They weren't any good, but they were mine, and I was proud of them.
When I started school, I was far ahead of the other kids, at least in an intellectual sense. I arrived all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, eager to socialize and learn fun things. Within a week, my enthusiasm morphed into despair. The kids in my classroom turned on me, and they even persuaded some of the older kids to pick on me on the playground. These weren't just little incidents either. I was kicked, I was pushed down, my belongings were destroyed and I was emotionally battered.
Being something of a coward, I chose flight instead of fight. I hid in the hedges surrounding the back fence during recess, and for some reason, nobody seemed to want to approach me there. I was safe, at least for awhile.
In my second grade year, the school put me in a third grade classroom because of my advanced reading and writing skills. It turned out to be my sickest time ever, and I missed so much school that I was held back the next year. Thus, much to my horror, I was back with the same cruel classmates I'd had to deal with during my early school days.
This was when things went from bad to worse. A group of boys in the class seemed to be gunning for me almost all the time. Their methods of torture were usually physical in nature and often revolved around pinching my nipples and pulling down my pants. One time, the class was preparing for the annual Thanksgiving play. I was going to be an Indian maiden and I was wearing a fringed shirt that had slits up the sides. Several of the boys decided it would be fun to run circles around me and pull up my shirt. They did this over and over again with me standing there like an idiot until our mousy, ineffectual teacher finally put a stop to it.
I made it through the year with most of my psyche intact until late spring. Then the unthinkable (at least in my young mind) happened. One afternoon, when school was dismissed, I went into the cloakroom to gather my things. I had been dawdling that day to avoid any after-school confrontations. When I entered the little room, four of my male tormentors were waiting for me. They descended upon me and pushed me to the floor. This was the one time I really fought, but it was useless. One of them got control of my flailing arms. Another proceeded to pin down my legs. A third one placed his hand over my mouth. The fourth boy pulled down my pants and proceeded to violate me with his fingers. He poked and prodded, sometimes painfully, while his friends laughed and made rude comments. I finally managed to bite the hand that was covering my mouth and the boy screamed and let me go. This must have ruined the party atmosphere, because they all released me and left the room. I remained a quivering mass on the floor for a little while longer before gathering myself and heading for home.
I couldn't tell my parents, and it wasn't until years later that I let them know what had occurred. It was too traumatic to mention. I cried buckets in secret and attended school as if nothing had happened. The four tormentors were back to their old tricks, but they never touched me in a sexual way again.
This event changed me dramatically. By the time I started fourth grade, I was a totally different person. I hated my classmates--all of them except for Anna, my friend. I no longer needed to belong to a social group, and I still don't. I no longer cared about what anyone thought of my eccentricities, and I still don't. I no longer cried, at least not much, and I still don't. I became, and still am, one tough (and often cold) cookie. I revel in being alone and never sweat the small stuff.
Even now, so many years later, there are times when I wonder why I was chosen to be the victim. Was it because I was smart? Was it because I was pretty? Was it just some random thing, or had they planned this in advance? Whatever it was, it definitely left a huge imprint on my emotional development.
I also wonder what happened to the boys. Do they ever think about what they did and feel remorse? It seems strange to me that 9 and 10 year old boys would even be interested in sexual matters. Perhaps these boys were precocious. Perhaps they were involved in the whole pack mentality thing, like the Nazis. Maybe it was a power trip, or maybe a couple of them were sociopaths. I'll never be able to figure it out.
There is one thing I'm certain of, though. If I ever see one of them again, I'll chase him down and pummel him until I pass-out from exhaustion.
Facts about bullying:
· Of second graders identified as bullies, 65 percent had felony convictions
by age 24. (Johnson Institute, 1996)
· Of boys identified as bullies in middle school, 60 percent had at least one
conviction and 35-40 percent had three or more convictions by age 23.
(Limber, National School Safety Center, 1996)
· Bullies are more likely to abuse their wives, use harsh physical discipline
to punish their children, and raise children to be bullies. (Hodges & Perry,
National School Safety Center, 1996)
· Thirty to forty percent of children are involved in bullying at some period
in their lives, either as bullies or victims. (Johnson Institute, 1996)
Unfortunately, the patterns for aggressive behavior are already well established by the age of eight.
Facts about victims:
· One in five students is at risk for victimization. (Batsche, 1995)
· Victims frequently suffer depression and severe self-esteem problems
well into adulthood. (Hodges & Perry, National School Safety Center, 1996)