I am a victim of bullying — sorta.
Twenty years ago, I had an ‘accident’ while dating a very nice boy. I think we all know how the story ends.
- I was a high school student without much parental support.
- I worked a part-time job during the week.
- I babysat on the weekends.
- I tried to maintain good marks.
It’s actually surprising that I found time to get in trouble.
When news spread about my situation, a boy started to harass me. I am still not 100% sure why this happened. He was poor, chubby, and his parents were dysfunctional. He had his own world of problems. There were other legitimate targets in his life. Unfortunately, I was on his radar screen.
I tried to ignore the situation — because that’s what I do — but one day he showed up at my work and stood in the parking lot while holding a baseball bat. Weird. Scary. I tried to keep calm & carry on.
I didn’t really have an adult in my life who could intervene. In fact, high school friends tried to intervene but the bullying continued throughout the semester. Between morning sickness and trigonometry and life, I was exhausted. I look back on those days and find them to be some of the most exhausting in my entire life.
Thankfully, I was a practical woman even when I was a dumb-ass kid. I was already a year ahead in high school but I enrolled in summer school so I could qualify to graduate at the age of 16 — even earlier than expected.
I was ready to be done with that mess.
Later in the semester [after my situation had ended], I opened my locker and found dozens of hand-drawn pictures of bloody coat hangers. They were folded up like origami triangles and shoved into my locker through the slats. When I opened the door, the pictures fell out into the hallway.
Can you imagine? It was like a scene out of a horror film. I was humiliated and very scared. I picked up the drawings and walked straight to the assistant principle’s office. I choked down my tears and said, “I don’t know what to do about this.”
I spilled the pictures on his desk. Very dramatic. Cue the music. [Season three of Laurie’s High School Years available on DVD this December.]
My assistant principle was horrified. He was a Russian scholar — a brilliant man, actually — with an advanced degree in teen-age shenanigans. This was something new for him.
He asked, “How long has this been happening?”
I said, “All semester.”
The semester was nearly at an end.
He asked why I didn’t come to him sooner. The ever-eloquent girl, I shrugged my shoulders. I am still not sure why I didn’t ask for help. Shame. Fear. Embarrassment. My life was a bit messy.
He said, “You have the right to feel safe at school. You will never have to worry about this again.”
Not much left to say. I walked out.
Two days later, the boy was expelled from my high school. No drama. No lawyers. No hearings. Just action. In fact, nobody told me. I had to hear it from the grapevine. One day the boy was here. The next he was gone. Vanished.
I think about that experience when I hear about adults in my life who are victims of bullying and workplace violence. I just heard another story, last week. My assistant principle still serves as an amazing example of leadership. He promised me that I would feel safe. He promised me he would take action. And he lived up to his word. I was safe in his school — and because of his actions — I was safe outside of school. I had nothing to worry about.
It was such a profound life lesson for me. Listen to victims. Analyze the situation with a cool head. Then take action.
I am very thankful that I was given the gift of zero-tolerance. I was taught that bullying is unacceptable — even when the victim thinks she deserves it.
Nobody deserves to be bullied. Nobody.
It was an exceptional gift at a very difficult time in my life. I am still thankful for it.