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It's that time again. The start of the school year brings excitement and anticipation--as well as anxiety, fear, and loathing.

Surviving Bullying

A story of hope and never giving up

McKenna tossed and turned all night.  Her mind was racing and her heart was pounding. In a few short hours her alarm clock would ring and the dreaded school year would begin.  Would they laugh at her, make fun of her and taunt her again?  McKenna's stomach was in knots and she replayed their mockery over and over again in her head.  Their unkind words were fresh in her mind and they still stung.  McKenna was a victim of bullying.  Most students were excited about the first day of school, seeing their friends and sharing summer stories, but McKenna wanted nothing more than to crawl in a hole and hide...

Unfortunately, McKenna's story rings true with so many young people today.  One look at the bullying statistics below and you'll see the problem is widespread.

  • It is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students. Source: National Education Association.
  • School bullying happens a lot.  Approximately 1 in 5 students report being bullied.  Source:  Dan Olweus, National School Safety Center.
  • 56% of students have personally witnessed some bullying at school.
  • 15% of all school absenteeism is related to fears of being bullied at school.
  • 71% of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school.
  • 90% of 4th through 8th graders report being victims of bullying.
  • Bullying statistics indicate revenge is the strongest motivation for school shootings.
  • 87% of students said shootings are motivated by a desire to “get back at those who have hurt them.”
  • 86% of students said, “other kids picking on them, making fun of them or bullying them” causes teens to turn to lethal violence in the schools.
  • Harassment and bullying have been linked to 75% of school-shooting incidents.
  • 1 out of every 10 students who drops out of school does so because of bullying.

Sources:

Bullying Statistics: http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/bullying-statistics-2010.html

Dan Olweus - National School Safety Center: http://www.violencepreventionworks.org/public/bullying.page

National Education Association: http://www.nea.org/

MBNMBD - Make Beats Not Beat Downs: makebeatsnotbeatdowns.org,

In an effort to reach out to all of the McKenna's out there, I spoke to a remarkable young lady, Victoria DiNatale, who was once the victim of bullying.  She now reaches out to teens through her motivational speaking at school assemblies. Her mission is simple, provide hope to those who are being bullied and let the bully know the impact their words and actions have on another's life. 

Here are some of the questions I asked Victoria:

How old were you when the bullying started?

"The bullying that led to my illness and stole two years of my life began when I was 12 years old, on the day of 6th grade middle school orientation."

What happened?

"I was targeted by a group of girls in my class who recruited others against me throughout the school. I believe I was targeted because I was outgoing and very confident in myself and my abilities. I think this intimidated the bullies."

How did the bullying impact you psychologically/physically?

"I developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to the severe psychological and emotional torment the bullies put me through. I became fearful for my safety at school."

When did the bullying end?

"The bullying in middle school ended when my parents withdrew me from that school for my own health and safety. However, because these bullies were not held accountable for their actions, some of them who attended the same high school as me picked up where they left off in middle school."

How has the bullying shaped who you are today?

"Through my strong faith, I have found complete healing and the ability to forgive the bullies of their cruelty. After thousands and thousands of dollars spent by my parents on pediatricians, a psychiatrist, psychologists, hospital visits and numerous medications, as well as uncountable hours of love and support given to me by my family and a new, safe school environment, I was finally able to heal. Today I am at peace and through my horrific bullying experiences have come to know that this is one of my missions in life--to speak out against bullying, and its negative consequences."

If you could tell a victim of bullying one thing, what would it be?

"This is but a small moment in the total experience of your life. These days WILL pass, and you CAN rise triumphant over your enemies! There is hope for you, and there is help. Never give up!"

And I'll conclude this blog with those last words, "There is hope for you, and there is help. Never give up!"

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