Don't Just Stand There

Childhood is supposed to be a precious time in a person’s life. It’s a time of innocence, playfulness and laughter. Unfortunately, for some children that special time is disrupted by the cruelty of a bully. No child should ever suffer any type of torment and it’s very troubling when the perpetrator is another child.


Jessica Martin
Miss New Mexico USA 2012

Jessica
For about a decade, Jessica was harassed, bullied and intimidated by a classmate. From second grade until high school graduation, it was a constant battle to get away from the girl that made her school years a living nightmare. Her bully did everything from name-calling to taking her friends away and manipulating everyone around her so that no one realized what was going on. The bully targeted Jessica with intentional teasing that was hurtful, unkind and even spread rumors about her.

“Kids are supposed to enjoy school and I didn’t. I was very much intimidated by her and I never had the courage to stand up to her,” admits Jessica. Her concentration was diverted from school and friendships and she regularly came home in tears. Everywhere she went the bully was there, ready with a different tactic to either shun her into isolation or humiliate her in some way. Ripped of the pleasures of a worry free childhood and a productive learning environment, Jessica secluded herself and became someone she didn’t recognize. She withdrew socially, even from her family. “That isn’t me, I’m a happy person. I’m a very friendly person and I love people,” says Jessica.

Ten years is not a very long time, it actually goes by rather quickly. But, when it’s ten years of incessant distress, it can feel like an eternity. Jessica overcame the anguish of being bullied all those years only after she extracted herself in every way–physically and emotionally–from her aggressor. The day she graduated from high school, she felt an immense weight lifted off her shoulders. Truly humbled by the experience, she sees others with a more caring outlook. “You never know what people are going through, so I think going through this made me more sensitive to other’s feeling,” she explains.

Although the effects of bullying can leave devastating emotional scars on a child, Jessica feels that the situation has made her a stronger person. She rose above the situation and was able to overcome it all by surrounding herself with loving people like her parents and good friends. She moved forward and embraced new opportunities. Today, Jessica Martin is justly the reigning Miss New Mexico USA and a true role model for anyone going through the same ordeal. A confident, beautiful person inside and out, she didn’t allow a silly bully to come between her and her desire to succeed as an ambassador of the state.


Jacqueline Cai
Miss New Mexico Teen USA 2012

Jackie
Physical torment, verbal insults and crude remarks regarding a student's race, size or physical appearance are some of the many forms of bullying a student may face at school. Every day, thousands of students dread going to school because of the cruelties they may encounter. Jackie comes from an Asian-American background and was naturally considered different growing up, mainly because of her physical features. She remembers being asked questions like: Why do you look weird? How come your eyes look funny? As a fifth grader who didn't know the meaning of self-esteem or uniqueness, she would take each question to heart and began to believe that she was inferior.

“During recess, I was never picked to race the obstacle course for my team because I couldn't see as well as my teammates, and at lunch it didn't matter if my classmates threw Pizza Rolls at me because I wouldn't be able to see where they were coming from anyway,” says Jackie. Much like millions of children worldwide who are tormented by bullies, she never said anything. Instead, she bottled up the stabs at her self-esteem in an effort to not make matters worse for herself. The fear of retaliation was stronger than the desire to make it stop.

“If you are being bullied do not be afraid to stand up for yourself and notify to your parents, a guidance counselor, or a trusted adult. Together, we can overcome this,” recommends Jackie. For her, the bullying was relentless; it went on and on. She knows now, that it can eventually cause permanent emotional damage if not addressed early on and this has become an issue Jackie holds dear to her heart.

Jacqueline Cai, Miss New Mexico Teen USA 2012, is a true testament that embracing your differences can be very rewarding. She now devotes her efforts to reminding every child that they are not alone and that no one should make them feel like inferior. She adds that it’s important for every child to take charge of their life and encourages them to be confident in who they are and in the wonderful abilities each one has been blessed with.

When you look at these stunning, articulate, confident young ladies, it may be difficult to grasp the idea that they were at one time the victims of bullying. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter what the victim looks like or how smart they are, bullies target kids for a variety of reasons. Whether or not someone stood up for Jessica and Jackie, they are both taking it upon themselves to be advocates by raising awareness about bullying. Young or old, popular or not and whether it affects us or not, it is all of our responsibility to join in and speak up against bullying.

Signs that your child is being bullied

  • Change in attitude or moods
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Is sad, angry, anxious or depressed
  • Fakes illness to avoid school
  • Drop in grades at school
  • Suddenly has fewer friends
  • Has unexplained injuries or bruising
  • Seems withdrawn or wants to be left alone all the time
  • Change in eating habits
  • Has suicidal thoughts
  • Stops taking care of self
  • Avoids particular situation


Signs that your child is a bully

  • Becomes aggressive with others
  • Often gets into physical or verbal altercations
  • Has money or things that do not belong to him
  • Will not accept responsibility for his actions
  • Becomes manipulative and makes up stories
  • Lacks empathy or sympathy towards others
  • Wants to be in charge all the time
  • Poor self-control or impulsive


Kids who are bullied are at risk of:

  • Depression and/or anxiety that may linger into adulthood
  • Increased thoughts of suicide
  • Decreased academic achievement including dropping out of school
  • Retaliation through extreme violence


Kids who bully others are at risk of:

  • Dropping out of school
  • Abusing drugs or alcohol
  • Having criminal convictions
  • Being involved in abusive romantic relationships
  • Becoming an abusive parent


What you can do:

  • Encourage children to resolve problems without aggression
  • Encourage children to stand up for what they believe in
  • Listen to your child and encourage them to tell you about their day
  • Take bullying seriously and stop it at the first sign whether or not your child is involved
  • Encourage children to help others when possible
  • Talk to your child’s teachers
  • Look for signs and take action
  • Encourage children to join extracurricular activities
  • Don’t be a bully – your child will learn what they see
  • Build empathy towards others so your child doesn’t become a bully


Resources
Please visit the following websites to get involved or for more information:
www.communityunitycoalition.org
www.stopbullying.gov
www.ncpc.org
www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention
www.safeyouth.com


Spring 2012
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