“It’s none of my business—I should just ignore it and walk away—right?”
Put yourself in the target’s place. If you were being pushed around, laughed at, gossiped about, made fun of, ignored on purpose, you’d probably want someone to help you out.
And it doesn’t even take that much to make a difference. The very least you could do is to NOT join in. Your non-support of someone bullying sends a clear message that you don’t agree with what’s happening. If you see someone being laughed at, instead of turning your back, help the target to turn his or her back to the bullying by walking to class with him or her, telling them that they don’t deserve what’s happening to them. Show your support. Kids who are bullied often feel like no one cares—help them feel like they’re not alone.
What else can you do?
If you read cyberbullying, write something nice on the target’s wall or let the person bullying know it’s not cool to make fun of people online, or you can even report in anonymously and many service providers will remove the post.
But if it’s a fight you witness, don’t try to step in the middle. Instead, tell an adult or other authority figure what’s going on so that they can intervene.
You can always let your teachers and parents know so they can help out—bullying is not just about physical fights, words have the power to injure too, both online in and person. Teachers are there to help you out, not just give you homework, and parents care about what happens to you.
What Should You Do? Peer Advocacy | PACERTalks About Bullying Episode 24
Insights and advice from students as they think through how to respond to real life bullying situations. In this video middle school students from a “peer advocacy” group explore how to handle a scenario in which a student with down syndrome is being bullied.
What Should You Do? Ways to Be There | PACERTalks About Bullying, Episode 19
Insights and advice from students as they think through how to respond to real life bullying situations.
What can make an even bigger difference?
Get your friends to help out, too! This is an issue that affects a lot of people and most of them want it to stop too, so get together and start a bullying prevention program at school.
“No one in this world ever deserves to be bullied and brought down by people. And no one deserves to hold in all those situations that have happened to them. If you are being bullied open up and talk about it. I know it is hard to do but you are not alone. Others get bullied and know how you feel. People love you and will listen to you and be there for you. Stand up against bullying today.”
Jessica – 17 – Michigan
“No one deserves to be bullied. It is just not right and fair. You are not alone. I had a friend who was bullied and I came to help and stopped it. When you see someone being bullied please tell an adult or try to stop it yourself.”
Bob – 19 – North Carolina
“When I went into middle school there was a boy who everyone just “decided” to pick on. He would always sit alone at lunch and never once had a friend to call his own. But I never said a word. I was too scared to lose my friends… I was too selfish to help someone in need. A few years later I remembered how many times this boy had tried to talk to me… it made me cry thinking of how alone he must of felt. Never again will I EVER let anyone decide who is ” worthy” enough to be happy and have friends. And I want others to learn from my mistake. When you see someone down on the ground, have the courage to be the hand that picks them up.”
Angela – 16 – Des Moines IA
“If you’ve been a bully you don’t have to admit it you just have to realize how you made them feel and change your ways because we are the future generation, we are the ones that is going to make a change in the world. Otherwise be the change in the world you wish to see or take a walk in someone else’s shoes realize how much of a tough time they are going through. Someday we will make a change in the world together. Take a stand lend a hand.”
“Growing up, in elementary I was never bullied, because at that time, no one understands how “different you are”. The young minds in their purest form. Where they will play with a boy who wears pink and a girl who climbs trees. It is not until puberty hits, and our elders put thoughts of wrong and right into our head that life changes. For me, it changed a lot. I realized I was gay, and although I was happy with who I was. Others around me were not. I went through junior high thinking why a person like me. A boy without judgment. A boy who defends people “different” and put down, was treated with such disrespect. Are we not taught to treat people the way we wanted treated? I spent all my time trying to help others with stories like me that I did not have someone to help me. In high school I joined acting, choir, and the musicals and plays. I had an outlet and a source for happiness. I found friends who loved me for me. I am in a place where my life is on track and I have future full of a bright light of hope and love. I believe life is a beauty and even though I am in a better place than the state of depression I was in before, I do nott feel satisfactory when I hear stories, and see people get bullied for being someone that is not a specific way. The human race has gone so far in the past 50 years, but until people are accepted for being themselves. I will not quite to be a better person. To speak up. A life without judgment is what I stride to accomplish. The world can be better, but it will take all of us. I stand for Human Rights. I am Sethaniel and I matter, and so do you. When its hard to be you. Never give up.”
Think about what it means to feel all alone, to believe that no one cares, to think that there is no way to change what is happening.
Imagine how all that can be different. Imagine during those times when you feel broken, that someone is there for you.
Consider how simple it is to tell someone that you care, that they matter, that they are not alone. The support is meaningful. It can take someone from feeling hopeless to feeling valued and respected.
Read what other students are doing in their communities.
Together We Can Be a Sign of Hope
When Jacob Law’s mom, Tina, heard that he wanted to get involved with Unity Day, she thought all she was going to do was buy him a t-shirt. But Jacob had a much bigger plan in mind. Jacob gathered a group of students at his high school in Delaware who were all passionate about bullying prevention and set about creating a community-wide Unity Day event.
Not a Story about a Bullying Victim Not a Story about a Bullying Advocate Just a Story about Me
Written by: Jacob Law
I would start my story with where it began but honestly I don’t remember. I don’t remember the first time I was laughed at, the first time I was called a name, the first time I was thrown against a locker or hit. I can’t tell you any of this, because when it first started I didn’t know that my own friends were bullying me.
The first time I can remember being bullied, was during grade school and I had recently moved. It was a couple months into the school year and it first dawned on me that I was being bullied, because we had the first bullying prevention seminar at my school. I then thought back to that very morning on the bus when I sat down in my seat, and at the next stop was pulled out of it, thrown on the floor, and laughed at. I thought that it was just some minor horseplay and that what was happening was just fun between classmates. I believed this wholeheartedly because I was never taught any different.
I was told what bullying was and how if you see it you are supposed to tell a teacher. So when I got out of my seat to tell a teacher, I was yelled at to sit back down. I tried and tried to tell the teacher but she just got more and more annoyed. Eventually, I stopped trying to tell people and just sat down. To this day, I still look back at that moment and think, what if that teacher had listened, what if I had kept trying instead of sitting down, what if life as I know it now could have changed because one moment would have changed the course of my history, and all it was, was me listening to what I had always been taught to do.
After the moment I decided to sit back and listen, I believe was the moment I decided I wasn’t important enough for people to care about. My case couldn’t be that bad if the adults I was supposed to talk to didn’t care about it. So I let the harassment continue.
After a short time it progressed rapidly. The bullying went from being bullied on the bus by a kid I didn’t know to having kids in my class bullying me. And it didn’t stop. Every day from start to finish I was being bullied. From the time I stepped on the bus to the time I got off it at the end of the day.
It became so bad that I started telling my mom that I was sick so I wouldn’t have to go to school. The worst part was I never told my mom. I felt like she was going to treat me the same way my teacher did. Not because she didn’t care about me but because I was taught to treat my parents and teachers the same, with respect. Eventually my mom said that I had to stop faking sick, that I had to go to school or I would be held back. So I went to school, day after day after miserable day. I sat trying to pay attention to the teacher while being hit by crude jokes, and
called names I didn’t understand. These names didn’t bother me it was the fact that when I looked confused they would make fun of me for being stupid.
Then middle school came along…
You wouldn’t think middle school would change much, at least I didn’t. I mean the classes weren’t any harder, and it was all the same people, but now hormones had started to take shape in our personalities. People’s attitudes had become more emotional and chaotic, and what would people do to calm them down, aim for the easiest target, the one that was too afraid to tell anyone about what was going on. So it got worse, days started off by playing a game of who could shoot the most spitballs at me, and then moved to who could fit me into a locker better, and finally moved into what embarrassing thing we can say I did. Everyone loved playing these games during the first 30 minutes of the school day before homeroom. This seemed to calm them down most days until lunch. However, some days, not everyone got their share of the games in before homeroom, and on those days, I would be kicked under the desk, or have water dumped on me, money stolen from me, some days all of this before the lunch bell even rang.
Lunch was a unique set of experiences for me. You see for me lunch wasn’t about eating; it was about how do I avoid everyone I can. I would get in line and not make eye contact with anyone because that seemed to egg them on, buy my lunch if I still had the money, go sit down at an empty table and wait for something bad to happen. Now something bad didn’t always happen you see, some days I could eat my lunch in peace and wait until next period to get bullied. However, most days I was harassed at lunch. From people throwing my perfectly good lunch away, to people dumping theirs on me and the worst part was everyone watched, like they knew that it was going to happen before it happened.
After lunch I enjoyed the calm before the storm. The bus ride home was exceptionally cruel. It seemed all the people on my bus had to get in their last hits before the end of the day, so that’s what they did; hit me, pushed me, threw me from seat to seat, stole my backpack, took my homework and ripped it to shreds. Why should I tell anyone, I was used to it by now? To me it was all part of a daily routine, something I was supposed to just let happen, I mean it couldn’t get any worse. I was wrong because what came next was high school.
High school… I sit here thinking what could be the best way to describe how it appears to me. The time of loneliness, the torture from the second you step through the door, a roller coaster of despair that seems to just keep going down, or my personal favorite, the place where you find out who you truly are. Are you a jock who is popular and the star of the team, are you a nerd and the bottom of the totem pole, or an outsider who is just so well rounded they could do anything while doing nothing because they aren’t exceptional enough at any one thing, the last one is like me. I am a little bit of everything but not enough to fit into one area or another.
I guess the best place to start would be the beginning. Freshman year, so many promises that were doomed to fail right from the start. My failure actually starts before the school year even started. It started with soccer tryouts. I had been playing soccer for many years as a goalie and I had gotten really good. However, for me it was more about helping other people to get them better so next year they could tryout again. During one of the tryout days, I had overheard one of the coaches saying how a kid was a strong striker if only he could learn to pass the ball. So thinking I could help him, I ran up and said that to him, little did I know I just painted a big red target on myself. From that point on he made it his goal to make me look as bad as he could. And he made the point clear by telling me so. The only sanctuary I got was when we split up for goalie tryouts. During this we were tested on many things and I counted that me and my friend were two of the best goalies there. After tryouts I found out that I hadn’t made the team, so my mom emailed the coach. The coach told her that I had the skills to be a great goalie; however I was just too short to play on the high school team. I found out later in the year that my friend was told he wasn’t skinny enough. The kid who I had tried to help had a target marked on me and wouldn’t let me forget how I hadn’t made the team. There wasn’t a single day where it wasn’t mentioned, even after the season was over.
The season for bullying never seemed to end. I felt so worthless and I hated myself for being the way I was, I mean it was all my fault. I was asking to be laughed at and made fun of. At least this was how I felt when my freshman year went on. Throughout my freshman year there was a feeling inside me that kept telling me not to join a club or tryout for anything else, because I wasn’t good enough. A foolish part of me thought that this was as bad as my life could get, and yet again I was wrong, it could get worse.
Sophomore year, the next step in my life of torture… It is supposed to be the year you know what you want to do and you start going in that direction. For me it was still another year of misery in the form of harassment. This year I got a little braver and I tried out for the school play. That year our school performed “Little Women”. I did get a role in which I played a character by the name of “Theodore (Laurie) Laurence”. Now obviously being called Laurie in a play called “Little Women” was going to be called for some cheap shots. However they started from the day the cast list was posted to the end of the year. However something happened during my sophomore year that has changed my life forever.
During my sophomore year people just never seemed to run out of hurtful things to say or do to me. In fact they had started to resort to physical violence again, picking me up and throwing me to the ground, stepping on me and kicking me. It finally came to be too much for me and I started to plan my own suicide. I was at a point so low that it is difficult to even put it into words. You feel worthless; like you don’t deserve to stay where you are. I felt like the only way to escape was to end my own life. The thought of death actually brought me joy. I would sit in the corner of my room curled into a ball crying and thinking when a good time to execute it was and what to write in the letter for my parents to read after I’m gone. To think that I might not be writing this essay scares me, but if I hadn’t gone that low then I wouldn’t be writing this at all. It was the fact of how awful being that depressed made me show signs and it saved my life.
One day I walked into my science class and the night before I had been up writing a letter to my parents saying how I was sorry for taking my life. I had already planned on taking my life when I got home. The sleeplessness must have shown on my face because a girl asked me if I was okay, and I told her no, and in response she said that it will get better. And I sat thinking for a second on why she cared and I realized that not everyone was out to get me. I realized that there was a point to my life and that was to help other people. I knew and know that there are people out there that feel the way I felt and people that need help to realize that they are not alone. That the loneliness they feel isn’t the best they can feel, and that they have a reason to live. All in that one brief moment I realized that I wanted to help the others that are too alone to fight for themselves.
So this is where my next chapter begins. The chapter in my life where I am no longer a victim, the chapter where the downhill roller coaster finally turns up and it never goes back down.
That is why I did the Unity Day 2013 Campaign for PACERs. At the beginning, I just wanted to help people in my school, but then I realized that there are people all over that need to know that they are not alone. So after getting Unity Day approved in my school, I knew that there was going to be a campaign there, and I decided to spread out. I then started to email principals from other schools and districts in the state, bringing bullying prevention across the state. I received a proclamation by the mayor of Middletown saying that Unity Day was to be celebrated by the town of Middletown. I set up a table at different events and places across the state and even had my entire school go orange. I received a few awards for my efforts but that was never what it was about for me. For me it was about how someone, somewhere now knew that they were not alone, that someone was out there fighting for them. In a few years I hope to be studying public relations in college, and when I graduate, to work for PACERs because I hope to help the victims of bullying to realize that they can fight, that they are not alone and that they too can stand up and fight for themselves because they are out there, everywhere and they need help. They are alone right now, suffering to a crime that has unforeseen consequences. There are people who need my help to know that they are worth something no matter how worthless they feel.
I don’t know if this is what you were expecting to read when you began this story. As I think back to what I have written, I’m sorry I couldn’t give more specific examples, I just don’t remember them that way and part of me does not want to. I mentioned a few that I do remember. However, that’s the thing about bullying, so much of it happens that it all just seems so usual to us. We remember special cases when it gets more physically severe or emotionally more demeaning, but as a whole it’s just one never ending event.
All I want to do is whatever I can to help others like me, because if I don’t, someone might take that final step I didn’t, and take their own life, and this is something that should never happen.
Sarah Busch has been connected with PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center for almost ten years, but her experience with bullying goes back much farther. Bullied physically and emotionally in grade school, she knows what it’s like to feel alone.
I don’t remember clearly when I started getting bullied. What I do remember in vivid detail is the few months of winter when I was in third grade, when one of my friends would line a couple of us up on the snow in front of a brick wall and, one by one, shove us in the chest so that our heads hit the wall. This went on almost every day for several months. I never told anyone, because I thought that’s just what friends did to each other. I had such low self‐esteem that I thought that I had to put up with this kind of treatment in order to have friends at all.
As I got older, the bullying grew more subtle but no less harmful. I endured exclusion, condescension, and ridicule from my closest friends, and felt grateful that they had allowed me into their circle. I felt like I had to earn their friendship every single day, and if I did something wrong, I would be alone. I appeared happy, and in many ways I was. But I was worn down with the strain of being made to feel inadequate, as though I didn’t deserve to have people like me.
I changed schools for middle school, and it was the best thing that I could have done. At a new school I learned that pain wasn’t the price of friendship, and by experiencing real friendship, I learned that I was worthy of it. I finally told my parents about the bullying I had experienced in elementary school, and in retrospect I wish I had told them when it was happening. Who knows what they could have done, but what I do know is that I never gave them the chance to help.
While I was in middle school, I had the opportunity to work with PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center on their Kids Against Bullying website. My school’s theater company provided the voiceover talent for the animated characters on the website. This was not only a great theatrical experience, but it introduced me at an early age to the philosophy and resources of PACER. Before that, I had never really thought of what I’d gone through as bullying. To be honest, I had fairly successfully blocked most of it from my memory. But this project opened my eyes to the fact that there were other kids who had had similar experiences. I wasn’t alone. That realization was incredibly comforting.
My high school years were a balm for what I experienced as a child. In a supportive environment, with friends who treated me well, I was able to grow and thrive. So when the opportunity to work with PACER again presented itself, I felt as though I could participate as a survivor, not a victim. My classmates and I wrote and performed skits about bullying for PACER’s Teens Against Bullying website. The production process was both educational and therapeutic, because it gave me the opportunity to demonstrate that I was not the same person that I was in elementary school. I’d grown strong and self‐ assured with the help of supportive friends and teachers.
Several years later, when I was looking for an internship to fill the summer between my junior and senior years in college, I knew exactly where to look. Because PACER had such a powerful influence on me in middle and high school, even more than I’d realized at the time, I wanted to give back to the organization. I spent a summer working at PACER, learning the ropes of both the bullying prevention field and the nonprofit world. I had amazing opportunities to work with companies, organizations, and individuals who cared deeply about bullying prevention. I walked away from that experience more knowledgeable and more inspired about bullying prevention than I could have anticipated.
I graduated from Saint Olaf College in 2013, with my degree in Social Work. As I was looking for a job, I kept thinking that my work at PACER wasn’t done. I wanted to learn more, do more, and be more for a cause that was so close to my heart. I wanted to make sure that my future children, and indeed any children, wouldn’t have to go through what I and many others did. So I applied for a position at PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center and I was happily employed there for over a year. The position felt like the best possible culmination of my previous experiences. I now have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of students facing the same kind of challenges I did. I could be there for them in a way that I didn’t feel like anyone was there for me. And I had the opportunity to help create real social change around the issue of bullying. I know what it’s like to feel alone, to feel that no one cares what’s happening to you, and that you deserve to be treated badly. But PACER is working to change the culture so that bullying is no longer considered an acceptable part of childhood, and every child feels safe and knows that he or she is not alone. Getting to be a part of that, and to channel the hurt and fear I faced as a child into helping children, has been an amazing experience.