Kids can be cruel. But so can adults. There are no federal laws against bullying.
How do we protect ourselves from bullies? How do we protect children and future generations from becoming victims? There are no simple answers. There is no one size fits all solution. The best we can do is share stories and offer advice.
I asked two victims of bullying ten questions. Why? To raise awareness, let others know they are not alone, and provide them a safe platform to release and heal.
Rose has cerebral palsy but remains undefeated. After years of being bullied and told she would never accomplish her dreams, Rose found passion and purpose in the Mixed Martial Arts community. She hopes sharing her opinions and story will raise awareness and let other victims know they are not alone.
BJ is a successful medical professional and MMA fighter who is happily married to an African American woman, and she has been competing against bullies her entire life. Being a type 1 diabetic and hearing impaired as a result of spinal meningitis as an infant has made life difficult but has never stopped her. BJ hopes contributing to this blog will help open doors to others and aide her in the self-healing process.
In your words, what defines a bully?
Rose: A bully is someone who is extremely insecure about themselves. People who choose to bully are trying to make themselves look cool.
BJ: A person who thinks they are better or more important than others. Bullies intimidate and try to dominate anyone they see as “less” than themselves through verbal, or internet posts, in an attempt to shame those who are different, or view the world differently.
Do you think people are born bullies or is bullying a learned behavior?
Rose: I don’t think people are born bullies. It’s how they are raised and handle peer pressure. We also have to be aware of the fact that people might have mental health issues, which can make them severely unstable in many social situations.
BJ: I believe bullying is caused by the lack of teaching. Children are raised and taught certain behaviors and learn through observation of their environment. If a child’s role model is a bully, often they will adapt to be like that role model. This behavior resonates through life and into adulthood.
Do bullies target specific people or is anyone a target to bullies?
Rose: I believe bullies target anyone who doesn’t fit into their status quo. I think bullies mainly target people by race, gender, religion, sexuality, and disability.
BJ: I believe a bully targets people of who make them feel threatened or of whom they are jealous.
Please share with us how bullies have affected your life? What have you learned and how have you grown?
Rose: I've been bullied my entire life. I suffer from depression and anxiety. I get nervous in social situations because I don’t know if I’ll be accepted. I’ve learned over the years not everyone is trustworthy. I have also learned the hard life lesson that I cannot please others by changing for them. I can only change for myself.
BJ: Bullies teach me to be stronger and have a thicker spine. My whole life I’ve been told “I can’t” or "I won’t" amount to anything. I love proving people wrong and overcoming obstacles. What bigger obstacle is there than a bully!?! I've grown strong and independent. I'm a fighter, fighting the good fight to help people who are viewed as "less than."
If you come face to face today with someone who bullied you, what (if anything) will you say to them?
Rose: “I’m sorry that you feel this way about me after all the kind things I’ve done for you. I’ve done nothing bad to you, and I don’t appreciate being treated like this.”
BJ: In my most recent encounter, I stood my ground, smiled, limited the interaction and communication, and reached out to my team and coaches for support.
We often hear about children and bullying. Why do we not hear more about adults and bullying?
Rose: Just like many children, adults aren't able to communicate or choose not to speak up.
BJ: At the age of 36, I find myself questioning the word "adult." As an adult, we are expected to be "strong", stand up to bullies, and pretend like bullying doesn't affect us. Not all adults are created equal in handling problems and treating people with respect. The truth is, bullying does affect adults and should be more openly discussed.
What are lessons parents can teach children and adults can share with friends to prevent bullying?
Rose: Parents can sign their kids up for self-defense classes. Young’s/USA and most martial arts studios offers classes to kids. Parents should communicate with kids about having the courage to stand up for themselves and others. Kids have to learn at an early age that bullying isn’t okay.
BJ: We need to teach children and adults to focus on themselves. We have no control over the actions of others. Let's empower people to understand strength, self-worth, and how accepting differences unite us globally.
What is your opinion of social media and cyberbullying?
Rose: Bullying on social media bothers me. It's leading people, even young kids who have a whole life to live, to kill themselves. We live in a disgusting society where people are judgmental. Social media groups lack in preventing bullying. They enable us to "block" people, but it’s not solving the real issue.
BJ: Cyberbullying is the worst. The bullying I recently experienced is happening on social media. There is no way of escaping bullies on social media. Even after "unfriending" or "blocking" them, I still receive screenshots from concerned "mutual friends." Once something is online, it’s there forever. Social media allows us to have evidence of bullying - it’s a blessing and a curse.
Sometimes we find ourselves in uncomfortable situations becoming sidelined and a witness to bullying. People may shy away, ignore, or say nothing to prevent confrontation or not get involved. How can we teach people to be courageous and speak up in defense of bullying victims?
Rose: We need to talk and provide the right tools to help people deal with bullying situations. In the end, it is up to the individuals to choose their actions. I encourage people who have been bullied and are dealing with their insecurities to get the necessary help to make their lives better. I highly suggest signing up for counseling and/or self-defense classes.
BJ: Empowerment and support. Let people know they are not alone. If I didn't have the support of my coaches, team, wife, and gym members, I may never have found the courage to stand up for myself. Being courageous isn't easy. When we teach courage, we can help others become stronger.
Why do you think the United States has a higher rate of bullying than other countries? There is no federal anti-bullying law. Why do you think this is?
Rose: There’s a high rate of bullying around the world. There’s no anti-bullying law because people don’t think it’s a big enough deal.
BJ: I think the USA has a higher rate of bullying because of social media and our desire as a country to be “popular.” We are so wrapped up in beauty, fame, and wealth that if anyone steps in the way of these things, they intimidate us; therefore, let’s bully them. Without getting too political, let’s also look at the current President and the examples he’s setting. He may be the biggest bully of them all.
There is no federal law against bullying because bullying is a tactic used in our current politics and administration. Also, bullying can be viewed differently depending on with whom you’re talking. For example, I can say I was bullied, but the bully may say I took it out of context. Sadly, bullying is a habit in human development making it hard to enact laws around it and implement them correctly.
If you are reading this and are a victim of bullying here's what you should do.
Rose: Tell your principals, teachers, parents, relatives, friends, and coaches. If you have a martial arts gym near you, sign up. Never stay silent and never give up.
BJ: Find a healthy activity and healthy people who will empower you to be the best you can be.
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