I'm taking a break from promoting Locked Within today to join the Twitter campaign #AuthorsAgainstBullying.
I have spoken before about how I was a victim of bullying through almost all of my school days. It left its mark on me and made it difficult for me to break out of my insecurities. I wasn't beaten or subjected to violence. At least, not constantly. Violence was a part of it, but it was one tool among many in the emotional abuse I suffered from a small number of fellow students. I was skinny, not good at sports and I enjoyed reading. I was targetted for these reasons, and for everything else about myself from having different hair to the ranks of identically slicked-forward hairstyles, speaking differently to the standard accept in my town, to the tv shows I watched or the fact I used proper grammar.
Bullying takes so many forms, it's often difficult to identify, even when you're subjected to it. And it affects people in a range of different ways. Some become violent or withdraw into themselves. Others break down right there, while some wait until they're alone to let the pain out.
The one thing common to all cases is that the victim needs someone to turn to. Someone they can trust. Someone who'll listen, won't judge, and can do something to help. Maybe it's just the act of offering comfort. Maybe it's reporting the incident to a teacher or parent. Maybe it's standing between the bully and the victim and saying "no." Or maybe it's as simple as being a friend when no-one else will.
I was lucky enough to find friends like that, who helped bring me out of the protective shell I had constructed to deflect the things those few tormentors would say. It look a long time. Years before I was able to comfortably say "these people do want me around." Please, if you see someone suffering, do something. It doesn't have to be much. The victim doesn't even need to know you did anything.
There are all sorts of opinions on how to prevent bullying or how to even define what bullying is. If someone is suffering, the target of behaviour intended to belittle, humiliate, and intimidate them, they're being bullied. And it needs to stop.
The first step is for those of us who can speak out to make out voices heard. To let bullies know that their behaviour is not acceptable, and it only serves to make them look bad.
To anyone who has been, or is being, bullied, stay strong. There are people who love you. Go to them. Talk to them. The few fools who think they're big and clever by picking on you have no idea what the real world holds for them. In this day and age, where almost anything they say or do can be recorded forever online, they are the ones who'll come out the worse in the end. You just need to remember that no-one has the right to make you feel like you're anything less than incredible. And anyone who would try doesn't deserve to know you.
So turn your back on them and leave them behind, because you are one in a million.