Students discuss overcoming childhood tormentors

by Staff Writer Emily Kazungu

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

While this nursery rhyme is told to children to encourage inner strength, the aggressive tendencies of bullying often lead to long-term serious issues in victims.

In recent years people have begun to speak up and work to change the trend of bullying among young people.

Bullying is defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-age children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance, according to StopBullying.gov. About 28 percent of school-age children are bullied, and the effects can follow them into adulthood, according to the site.

Sophomore Katie Mitchell said she was bullied in middle school because of her quiet demeanor, this later turned into attacks on her appearance.

“They would make fun of my size, and at lunch they would pick on me while I was eating,” she said. “They would say ‘she’s just pigging out. She’s going to gain all this weight. She’s so fat, and she’s so ugly.’”

Although she has forgiven her tormentors, Mitchell said there are times when she still has body image issues.

Title IX Coordinator Tammy Jacques said if there are students who were bullied in high school and still have not healed completely, she would advise students to seek help on from a professional.

“I would encourage them to visit student counseling services on campus,” she said. “They also have reporting options depending on the situation.”

Senior Ricky Villarreal said he was verbally abused from seventh grade to 11th grade because of his ethnicity.

Villarreal said he was the only Hispanic at his middle school and high school.

“It was basically name calling and degrading comments like tomato picker, beaner and spick,” he said.

He said he found it hard to stand up for himself because he did not have anyone to lean on.

“I didn’t have Hispanic friends with whom I would have been able to connect with if they had the same experience as me,” he said. “Being able to stand up for myself wasn’t really an option because it was happening all around me.”

Villarreal said he chose to overcome the bullying and insults.

“I decided I was going to laugh at myself and joke about it,” he said. “In the end, it is just words. And it’s only offensive if you take them. When they realized it wasn’t doing anything to me and I was laughing back, I gained respect from them, and they stopped

bothering me.”

Villarreal said bullying bothered him because he did not understand it. He did not know he was different until he went to middle school.

“I don’t regret it happening, because it built me up,” he said. “It built my strength up to be able to face it in the real world.”

Villareal has simple advice to students being bullied.

“Don’t be physical about it,” he said. “That’s the worst you can do because it can go back and forth.”

Senior Sena Shell said she was bullied by a close friend in high school.

“She got upset because I got a better position on the cheerleading squad than she did,” she said. “She started making up rumors that I was a lesbian, and it was really hurtful because she knew that wasn’t true.”

She said she encountered cyberbullying because the negative comments extended to Facebook.

Shell said the bullying experience made it hard for her to trust people.

“(The other students) knew me and they just believed her,” she said.

Shell said her experience did not affect how she treats people, but it merely made her see bullying from a different perspective.

“When I see someone else being bullied, I can say, ‘I’ve been where you are,’” she said. “Don’t let it affect you because they probably have a reason for doing this, and they’re trying to make themselves feel right.”

Shell said she forgave the girl who bullied her in high school.

“I would tell other girls going through this to not let anyone define who you are,” she said.