Five years ago, a father and son who lived on my quiet, dead-end street launched a campaign against their neighbours: slashed tires, keyed cars, broken windows, sleepless nights. You may have heard about it while it was going on.
I’ve often sat down to write about my surreal experience with these bullies, the neighbourhood, the media, but I always hesitate. It was a very negative time in my life that a large part of me would rather forget.
Recently, however, there has been a perfect storm of misogynistic bullying and its astounding repercussions: 15-year-old Amanda Todd’s tragic story, 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai’s attempted assassination, and the chilling antics and outing of Reddit moderator Violentacrez.
My writer’s block with my own story, I think, stems from being a parent: I don’t have a solution to this epidemic and that bothers me when I look at my 5-year-old son.
I now find myself on a quest to understand bullying from a perspective other than the victim. (I’ve got the victim part down and it’s actually supremely unhelpful.) Bullies superimpose their world view on their targets. Their torment leaves the victim unable to think about anything else, unable to do anything but get through another day, and it skews the victim’s perspective of real-life events, often with unthinkable consequences.
But why do bullies do it? What step got missed in their early childhood development? What part of real life is skewed for them and how did it get that way?
Bullies are everywhere, from kindergarten to the workplace. I wasn’t brutally bullied as a child, though there are a handful of memories that I’m still smarting from. I encountered the worst bullies of my life as an adult.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
- Escalating to violence improves nothing about the situation.
- Self-empowerment and patience are key. (Neither is as easy as a bullet point suggests.)
- There is no shame in asking for help.
As I work on my book, I hope to blog about my progress and breakthroughs, as well as gather information on bullying to inform my work. My happy ending may or may not arrive by the time I finish the book, and the odds seem stacked against finding any real solutions to the epidemic, but it’s important to have the conversation, whatever the outcome of real-life events.
Because life goes on, and that’s the most beautiful part. Recognize and embrace joy when it presents itself. That is the step to take.