I found all kinds of sites with info on the latest statistics of bullying. Verbal abuse, cyber bullying, physical violence, etc. all make the list. It's a sad reality that over half of all kids won't make it to adulthood without at some point feeling ostracized, threatened, insulted, and belittled for being perceived as being different or not normal.
My kids have been given the lectures from very early-on about treating people with respect no matter how they look, talk, act, etc- no matter what they do, say, or believe that might set them apart. Every person should be valued. Without exception- every person.
With great shock, a few years back, my son was a victim of bullying.
He was seen as different for being an Irish dancer. He had already at that point qualified for the World Championships of Irish Dance for the first time. He was seen as a rising star- a talented Irish dancer, but in less than half an hour, his confidence was shattered. It took less than half an hour of being chased, called a "homo", and being pelted with rocks that caused him to run into a barbed-wire fence for him to see his status as an Irish dancer as something to be hidden- something to be ashamed of.
He came home that day with more than a few physical mementos. His spirit was bruised and beaten-down.
I knew the parents of the boys involved. I lost my mind for more than a moment that my son was attacked in this way. I saw red when I saw the welt on the side of his head and his shaking hands. He begged me not to do anything, say anything, bring attention to what had happened. I thought about it in a fidgety and restless way. I gave it some time and just thought about my options and the words I would need to say.
I thought about the kids involved and their parents, and I realized that there was no way I could leave this alone. It had to be addressed and handled sooner rather than later. My son's situation happened between "friends", outside of a school or sports activity. There was no "higher authority", teacher, coach, principal. I was "it". I had to handle this and do things right by my kid.
The boys, including my son, were all between the ages of eleven and thirteen. The main bully was the oldest and biggest kid. The other two involved were brothers and although not directly involved, they did nothing to stop what happened. In fact, as the facts came out, they were a bit shocked by the whole thing and didn't realize how bad it was getting-- how scared my son, their friend, was. They kept thinking it'd end, and that someone would start laughing, and it would go from uncomfortable back to fun and games as usual among friends.
Even though the brothers were not directly involved in the bullying, theirs was the first house I called. Their dad answered. I had a moment where I thought about backing down, but after that nano-second passed, I told him what had happened. He was shocked. He was mortified by what his sons had done by just standing by, by being witnesses and not protectors of their friend. He apologized over and over and said he'd talk to them, and that they'd work on the lesson that needed to be learned from this and on an apology. I said that I appreciated his plan of action and his understanding of the seriousness of the incident. I got off the phone and just rested against the wall with my eyhes closed and breathed.
I talked with my son about that phone call. I felt I had accomplished something with that phone call. He, however, was embarrassed. Let me repeat that-- HE WAS EMBARRASSED!! Can I tell you how ticked that made me!? They were the ones in the wrong, and yet my son, the victim, was embarrassed.
I told him I had to call the parent of the boy who had said the words, called him a homosexual, gay, a girl repeatedly for being an Irish dancer. I explained that this boy who had thrown rocks at him, and chased him into the barbed-wire fence needed to be held accountable for his actions. He looked terrified. He looked so scared, and I tried not to want to hurt this boy who had done this to my talented, amazing son. "Mom, please don't make him come here and apologize to me. Please, Mom," was what he said.
My heart felt crushed.
I felt violent, like a momma bear. I saw red. My son was pleading with me to not make this worse, not make a scene, not make this bully apologize. I calmed myself down and breathed deep. Even still, even after breathing and collecting myself, I was so nervous about calling the family of the boy who had bullied my son. I was so nervous. But I wanted to be the best advocate for my kid, to be a protective force in my son's life. It had to be done.