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Power of Words This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     I am sure you have heard the saying "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." This little rhyme is cute, but untrue. When words are used as weapons they can hurt. In fact, too often words can "kill" a person's spirit.

Due to my father's occupation, we moved about every four years. As a result I lived in several states and attended various schools. Always having to be the new girl, I learned how to get along well with my fellow students. In fact, until recently, I actually missed being in school during breaks and summer vacations.

When we relocated from a Midwestern city to a small town in Indiana, I was looking forward to the change. My dad had decided to switch to a desk job so I could spend the last of my school years in one place, and after residing in cities, I thought small-town life would be fun. To my surprise, instead of a warm "Hoosier" welcome, I was immediately labeled as different.

Since I began attending school this year, I have been called the "N" word, Oreo and monkey because of my race; freak, nasty and giraffe because of my looks and diva, princess and stuck-up because when nervous I get shy.

For the first few months of attending this school I would wake up hopeful that on this day I would be accepted. By the bus ride home, I had gone from hopeful to sad to hurt to extremely discouraged.

To fit in I nearly erased the core of who I really am. I changed the way I dressed, my hair style, and even my weight. In spite of my efforts, I remained on the outside. I decided to try to be invisible, not speaking to anyone and avoiding my peers as much as possible.

These factors let me slip into a relationship with a boy who didn't attend my school. He was more than happy to listen to my problems with school. His support came with a high price tag, though, because he was verbally and emotionally abusive. A few times he came close to being physically abusive also, but he managed to stop himself.

When he wasn't screaming at me, he was reminding me that he loved me, even if the peers at my school found me unlovable. I was so lonely for a kind word and friendship that I put up with this.

Just before Christmas vacation, all my problems came to a head. I found a copy of a note that had been passed around describing me as Carrie, the girl from the Stephen King movie who is so hated by her classmates that they torment her and pour pig blood on her head at the prom. This pushed me into getting over the embarrassment of what was happening.

I went home that afternoon and talked to my mom about my depression, which had resulted from the bullying. She took me to a physician who showed me that I wasn't overweight. I had already dieted down to where 90% of the girls my age were larger than me. Then she encouraged me to come up with a plan to stop being a doormat.

I started by breaking away from my destructive boyfriend. I then made a list of things I like about myself, including the facts that I am fair, work hard, and usually get along well with people.

I decided to immerse myself in as many activities as I could. This would give me a chance to work on my "insides" for a while and not focus on my accent, looks or height the way the bullies at school were doing.

By surrounding myself with diverse groups of people outside school, and being accepted, I realized what I should have remembered all along: Who I am can not be dismissed because of the texture of my hair or the amount of melatonin in my skin.

Now I have an extremely supportive family, a caring church group, the Boy's and Girl's Club, and many outside interests. But going to school is still a struggle. I endure slurs every day, and most likely will until I leave. The abuse ranges from racist jokes to mean tricks: someone pretending to be friendly, asking for my email address, and then sending me links to a KKK website.

These events brought me to the hardest part of this struggle - acceptance.

I will be attending this school for a year. I can either view this as a pebble in my shoe, or a chance to enlighten those around me as to how they make me feel. I can't control what they say about me, but I can control what I do about it. I have started reporting every remark that is meant to make me feel threatened to my principal. It is no longer my job to protect those who get pleasure from hurting me.

According to a survey by the National Crime Prevention Council, bullying at school increased dramatically last year. The nationwide survey of students ages 12-17 found that 60 percent had witnessed bullying compared to 37 percent in 2001. The survey said that teens "found bullying to be a more realistic and immediate worry than terrorist attacks!" While anti-harassment programs are increasing in elementary schools, there aren't as many in junior and senior high schools.

When kids in a school come forward with complaints of bullying, why aren't they given real support? Why does the administration encourage them to be silent victims? When you feel humiliated, being told to be nicer or tougher isn't a realistic solution. I have been told to "Try harder; laugh it off, it is just a joke; don't take it so seriously; they're just jealous." For me, being reminded things could always get worse, that all schools have problems, or that boys will be boys, is not a positive way to eliminate the reality of daily ridicule.

Obliviousness to bullying must end. When a student is harassed at school, fear replaces learning. The need for sensitivity to those of us being bullied should be apparent after a number of school shootings in recent years. Most of these violent acts were committed by students who had a long history of being bullied. Something needs to be done for them before it gets that far. I truly believe that is the only way to make sure there won't be another Columbine.

Schools are supposed to create and maintain an atmosphere that is peaceful. It should never be intimidating, hostile, or offending. Five days a week for 13 years - a total of 2,340 days - students are in school. That's a long time to be in any one place, but if you're unhappy because of bullies, it can feel endless. When a student dreads school, no one wins.

Yes, sticks hurt, and stones cause pain, but certain words and deeds leave bruises which are invisible, but just as painful. A constant dose of school harassment can leave scars that last a lifetime. Tolerating bullies should never be an accepted part of the curriculum!

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

kksbrnn This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 22, 2013 at 3:19 pm
This is amazing and I'm glad you decided to share your struggles with the world. It astounded and saddened me. Stay strong :)
 
JimFreedom said...
Apr. 16, 2011 at 3:47 pm
We are taught to bully ourselves by our reactions to what people say to us.  It is about control, either others control us with their words or we become masters over ourselves and our reactions to what they say to us.  The choice is ours, the power to choose comes with practice.
 
John98 said...
Jan. 13, 2009 at 1:00 am
Where most kids get bullied is at gym. The problem is that none of the gym teachers do a thing. They are not like the teachers who would send someone to the office. They sometimes ignore bullying.
 
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