Dear Bullies, Victims and Everyone Who Bears Witness

Elementary school pupil being bullied

All my friends are heathens, take it slow
Wait for them to ask you who you know
Please don’t make any sudden moves
You don’t know the half of the abuse
All my friends are heathens, take it slow
Wait for them to ask you who you know
Please don’t make any sudden moves
You don’t know the half of the abuse

Heathens |  21 Pilots

Dear Bullies:

I see you.

I know exactly who and what you are. I know you better than you know yourself. You may lack the social skills to interact with others. You may lack empathy. You may have been bullied yourself. And for whatever happened to you, I am truly sorry. But I will not tolerate what you are doing now to someone else.

I understand that underneath your ugly behavior is a sad, lonely, insecure, hurt person who is now lashing out at someone else because you don’t know or see any other way. Maybe you don’t know any better. Maybe you don’t care. You are so miserable with yourself and in more pain than you can even face or acknowledge that you feel the need to inflict that pain onto others. This is sad and pathetic. I see that. We ALL see that.

And we will not tolerate it anymore.

You can hide behind fake profiles and screen names. It’s so easy to be mean when you are hiding behind a keyboard or a screen or a hidden profile, isn’t it? You can work secretively behind the scenes to turn others into your pathetic army of haters. But I know – we all know – that you are just a coward. You and your little army. Miserable, pathetic, unhappy people who will never be happy in your lives unless you are hurting someone else. It is sad and pathetic.

When I see you hurting someone else, I will call you out. I will highlight how pathetic and cowardly your actions are. I will defend the victim. I will call the police. I will hire an attorney. I will do whatever it takes to make sure that your behavior is not kept secret. I will make sure everyone knows exactly who and what you are. I will never stand by and stay silent.

Never, ever again.

My hope for you is that you can get help. That you can see that what you are doing is so wrong. That you can heal whatever it is that got you here. That you can stop. But if you can’t stop, if you won’t stop – I will not just stand by and let it continue. None of us will.

Never, ever again.

Dear Victims:
Know this: I am so, so sorry that you are going through this. XOXO. You don’t deserve this. This is so not about you and has everything to do with your bully. Do not take this personally. Please. I beg you. Tell someone. If they don’t listen or help, tell someone else. Keep trying. Please, please don’t give up. Because then your bully wins.

I know you’re tired and beaten down. I know you feel trapped and helpless. It feels like you are standing at the bottom of a deep, dark well and you have tried to claw your way back up so many times for so long that you see your claw marks in the dirt walls and you can’t even see a flicker of daylight at the top anymore.

Don’t give up. Please don’t give up.

Know that you are not alone. You don’t have to suck up anything or “just deal” with it or put it away for years and years and walk this earth with deep, painful wound haunting you for the rest of your days. It may scab over but it will never truly heal. If you’re an adult, get out. Get out as fast as you can. If you’re a child, tell someone. Tell us here. Tell someone. There are people who can and will help you. And remember…

This does not define who you are.

You are more than this. You can climb out of this deep, dark hole and reach sunlight. But you need help. There are good people who will build you up and support you. We’re out there. You will get past this. You will survive. It’s tough. I know. But I believe in you. I know you can do it. You can survive this. You will. You must. Or they win. Don’t let them win. The world needs you and your light.

Now: Take control. Document everything. Gather the evidence. Take screen shots. Make a timeline of the abuse. Talk to your parents. The school. HR. Get a lawyer. Get a therapist. File a police report. Document, document, document. It can and does work. You will feel more in control. You need this.  And you can slowly start to take back your life.

You can do it. You must. But whatever you do – don’t give up.

Dear Everyone Who Bears Witness:
If you see or even sense bullying going on, step up. Say something. Yes, we live in an age of sensitivity and uber-tolerance and yes, we live in scary times where if you do step up, you or someone else can get hurt. Or killed. I know this. I am not calling for extremism. I am adamantly opposed to violence or putting yourself or others in harm or escalating dangerous situations.

I am only calling for caring. And common sense.

Remember common sense? We need to get back to a time when we protected those who cannot protect themselves. When we acted like a community who looked out for one another instead of scared bystanders who were too afraid to get involved.

It can be a small action. Deflating a cyberbully on Facebook who attacks a friend on a status update. Refusing to participate in ugly gossip or rumors. A phone call about abuse that you have witnessed. Not defending a bully or helping them. Asking the victim for the real story instead of jumping to conclusions and condemning or believing the rumors and gossip. It can be as simple as telling someone their racist joke was not funny and to knock that shit off.

Shut. It. Down.

Whatever you do, don’t laugh. Don’t go along. Don’t pretend like it’s okay. Don’t look away. Don’t tell yourself that it’s not your problem. It’s OUR problem. We all own it.

And we can be the solution.

I realize it’s complicated. No one wants to overstep. No one wants to get hurt. I don’t want that, either. The bully who sends a hateful message through Instagram does not deserve the same treatment as the mom or dad who is working as hard as they can to calm an ADHD or autistic child in a crowded store. A bully needs to be deflated. The mom or dad needs help and support. This requires common sense, compassion and the ability to know which situation requires what.

I realize this is far more effort than most people are willing or able to take on. And this, sadly, is one more factor that makes it easier for bullying behavior to thrive.

It doesn’t have to be a huge deal. It doesn’t have to get ugly. It can be as simple as saying, in a calm voice: “Is everything okay? Do you need help?” And trusting your instincts from there. Or alerting store personnel. Or calling police. It requires good judgement and common sense. Sadly, not everyone has that. There are people who jump to conclusions. There are people who are afraid to overstep. There are people who just don’t know what to say or do. So they do nothing.

And that’s where the problem lies.

Rule of thumb: If you feel icky and uncomfortable, something is wrong. 

We have to stop standing by and letting bullying happen. We have to work together to let pathetic, cowardly bullies know that we will no longer tolerate this behavior. We need to let the light shine brightly on these horrible, ugly spots of humanity. We need to work together to help each other. Not blame. Not hurt back. Not engage or escalate or loot and riot because we’re angry. This is equal to the bully’s behavior and accomplishes nothing.

I know it’s not this simple.

But isn’t it? If we come together as a community and unite against the wrongs we see in our everyday lives, we can make a difference. I truly believe that even small gestures matter. That is why I write. If I can help even one person think differently, it’s worth the effort to organize my words and thoughts in this forum. It starts with each one of us and the actions we take, large or small, to defend the victims and shut this nasty, ugly, pathetic behavior down.

I repeat – this does not include violence or anything that would put you or your loved ones in danger. Take legal action. Contact the police. Be smart and safe but don’t, please don’t, stay silent or you are just as guilty. Call it out when you see it. Hug the victim. Tell them you love them. Stand up for them. But please – do not never, ever just turn away and say it’s not your problem. We all own this one. Each and every last one of us. And if we work together, we can turn this around.

 

You will never know what a difference you can make in someone’s life by just speaking up.

Be the difference.

 

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