This week, 15-year-old Felicia Garcia killed herself, just days after tweeting that she could no longer handle the way she was being teased and tormented in the school halls. She was being bullied for making a choice at a party with and shamed mercilessly for it.
Earlier this month, Amanda Todd’s story made the rounds. She, too, made a choice that impacted how other teens treated her. She made a YouTube video discussing in detail the sorts of torture she endured in the school halls – even after switching schools. She ultimately ended her life.
These two teens aren’t part of a “trend,” nor are they exceptions to stories of bullying. According to the recently-released results of an online study conducted by Love is Louder and Harlequin Teen, of the over 1,500 16-21 year old females who responded, 70% had been bullied. Of those surveyed, 78% also believed that adults don’t take their claims of bullying seriously enough. The full results of the survey are eye-opening.
In 2006, PACER began a week-long campaign in October aimed at raising awareness of bullying, and today, it’s moved to a month-long awareness endeavor. The goal of National Bully Prevention Month is to coordinate events, organize educational events, and rally together to raise consciousness of the seriousness of bullying and, ultimately, make it clear that this is a serious problem that deserves honest attention.
While October is rolling to a close, the issue of bullying doesn’t stop when the month ends. It’s a year-long, daily issue. All youth advocates need to remain aware of this issue.
We know teens aren’t always comfortable approaching an adult in a situation where they are vulnerable. But teens are also suggesting that adults aren’t there for them and aren’t paying attention to the signs that they may need help. It’s our responsibility, though, to know what resources are available to those seeking help, and it’s our responsibility to intervene in situations where there is clear bullying occurring. What may seem like harmless name-calling during a library program may be a small part of something bigger, and stepping in to put a stop to it can show a teen who is the subject of bullying that there are adults looking out for them. Small actions on the part of adults can lead to bigger things in the eyes of a teen.
More than that, it’s our responsibility to continue advocating for all teens. Part of advocacy is maintaining a safe space and being a resource for your community of teens. Likewise, it’s important to be a listener. If a teen approaches you, take their concerns seriously. Offer them an ear and offer them help where you can. Being that ear and resource may be more than they could ever ask for.
If you’re looking for places to turn or places to refer your teens to, check out the following resources on bullying:
The last few years have seen an increase in the number of books being published for teens that tackle the topic of bullying. Here’s a selection of titles, with all descriptions coming from WorldCat:
• Dear Bully: 70 Authors Share Their Story, edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones (HarperTeen, 2011): Presents top authors for teens as they share their stories about bullying–as silent observers on the sidelines of high school, as victims, and as perpetrators.
• Leverage by Joshua Cohen (Penguin, 2011):
High school sophomore Danny excels at gymnastics but is bullied, like the rest of the gymnasts, by members of the football team, until an emotionally and physically scarred new student joins the football team and forms an unlikely friendship with Danny.
• Speechless by Hannah Harrington (HarlequinTeen, 2012):
After her behavior causes her to lose her popular friends and results in one person being hospitalized, Chelsea takes a vow of silence.
• Cracked by KM Walton (Simon and Schuster, 2012):
When Bull Mastrick and Victor Konig wind up in the same psychiatric ward at age sixteen, each recalls and relates in group therapy the bullying relationship they have had since kindergarten, but also facts about themselves and their families that reveal they have much in common.
• Playground by 50 Cent (Penguin, 2011):
After beating up Maurice on the playground, Butterball is forced to see the school therapist.
• Cornered: 14 Stories of Bullying and Defiance edited by Rhoda Belleza (Running Press, 2012):
An anthology of fourteen stories illuminates the experiences of being bullied in today’s world, in a volume that includes contributions from such established writers as Kirsten Miller, Jennifer Brown, and James Lecesne.
• Butter by Erin Jade Lange (Bloomsbury, 2012):
Unable to control his binge eating, a morbidly obese teenager nicknamed Butter decides to make live webcast of his last meal as he attempts to eat himself to death.
• Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers (St Martins Press, 2010):
Regina, a high school senior in the popular–and feared–crowd, suddenly falls out of favor and becomes the object of the same sort of vicious bullying that she used to inflict on others, until she finds solace with one of her former victims.
• Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti (Penguin, 2012):
Bullied at school and neglected by her poor, self-absorbed, single mother at home, high school junior Noelle finally reaches the breaking point after a classmate commits suicide.
Spend some time reading through additional titles and resources offered in this blog post at YALSA’s The Hub blog written by Becky O’Neil.
Another worthwhile read on the topic is this blog post written in the last month by YA author Cassandra Clare. She herself has been subject to bullying, particularly in the online world, and her bravery and honesty speak volumes about the topic and how painful it can be to endure – even as an adult.
Bullying doesn’t just happen in October. It’s an everyday struggle for teens. The more we’re conscious of it as youth advocates, the more we can help those who need it most before it is too late.
Posted on behalf of Kelly Jensen.