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BACK DOOR BOY IN A FRONT DOOR WORLD
OUTSIDE OF SOCIETY - THAT'S WHERE I WANT TO BE
On Bullying, Teen Suicide, Homophobia, & Who Is Responsible For Having Blood On Their Hands 
12th-Apr-2009 11:48 pm
Candle In Hand
NOTE BEFORE READING:
This is a really difficult post to write on a good day. I think what I'm writing about needs to be talked about and picked apart by as many people as possible, so when you're finished reading this, please - by all means - farm the link to it out, email it, share it with as many people as possible please.


One week ago, on a Monday much like any other Monday, Sirdeaner L. Walker, a breast cancer survivor, found her son hanging by an extension cord on the second floor of their Springfield , MA home. He had endured another day of taunting at New Leadership Charter School, where he was a sixth-grader, she said, and just couldn't take it anymore.

She phoned the school repeatedly since Carl began attending in September but the bullying continued, she said.

Other students made him a target, daily calling him gay, making fun of how he dressed and threatening him, she said.

Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover was 11 years old.

I'll repeat that, so that it might sink in a little bit better - Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover was 11 years old. He is only one of many, many others. Sadly, this isn't the first time I've written about this, and it will not be the last. That is his picture to the left - he could be your child or a child you know. How would you feel if I were writing this story about YOUR child, what then? Look at him, burn that sweet face into your memory. We owe him at least that.

Some of you may recall last Fall when my then 15 year old nephew, Jake, had been bullied by a kid at his school for almost 2 years, leading up to that kid bringing guns to my nephew's school one day. Guns that he had stolen from someone else's house, no less. Many people reading this are personal friends of mine, many of whom have school aged children, and this is a reality happening everywhere - one I hope none of you ever have to go through - but it is happening and we cannot afford to ignore it anymore when 11 year old children are driven by torment to kill themselves. We dodged a major tragedy that day, but I can barely even think about it in retrospect without being in tears and conversely being caught up in anger I cannot put into perspective. In a way, that is why I'm writing this.

According to the National Youth Violence Prevention Center, nearly one in three youth nationwide reported either being bullied, having bullied someone, or have done both .

According to the center, one recent study of grades 6-10, showed as many as 13 percent reported bullying others, and 11 percent said they were victims of bullies.

Victims of bullies become anxious, insecure and cautious, suffer low self-esteem and rarely defend themselves or retaliate. Often they feel isolated and withdrawn.

The most common reason cited by youth for why someone is targeted for bullying is because the person does not fit in.

The Center also notes there can be long-term effects for both the victim and perpetrator of bullying.

Victims as adults suffer from depression and poor self-esteem, while 60 percent of bullies in grades 6-9 had at least one criminal conviction by age 24.

The National School Safety Center defines bullying as physical confrontations and direct threats of violence, but also indirect forms such as rejection and exclusion, humiliation and name calling, manipulating friends, and more recently, hurtful messages sent by e-mail or posted on web sites.

Carl was taunted by other children for the way he dressed and because they suspected he was gay. My guess is that his tormenters come from homes where their morals, values, and ethics are such that any discussion of homosexuality, any mention of it winds up being painted with the broad brush of disapproval and in some cases abject disgust. Still worse, some of them may come from "good God-fearing, traditional values parents" who see news reports about same sex marriages and equal rights and make cavalier statements in the presence of their children about how wrong such things are, about how evil and wrong homosexuals are. Some will posit that this is just a means of communicating a belief, and that it is harmless as it isn't tantamount to inciting hatred or violence against any particular group. I say that they couldn't be more wrong - because that is where this begins. Homophobia, much like racism, is learned behavior - and parents infect their children with it all the time. When they make disparaging statements about others, it gives their children license to put people in their crosshairs as some sort of enemy opposition to their own way of life. The crowd that seeks to 'protect marriage' is in fact recruiting their own children, the same ones they make egregious claims about protecting, into thinking that the gay people whom they'll likely never know or ever meet are intent on destroying their families. That's all it takes for them to legitimize bullying another child in a lot of cases, and then there's peer pressure. That's another huge factor.

Bullying among our youth is a significant problem--and it is steadily increasing. Many experts fear bullying has become so widespread and common, adults are blinded to its extensive harm. Here are some facts:
  • It is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students. (Source: National Education Association)
  • A survey conducted by the American Association of University Women reported that 85% of girls and 76% of boys have been sexually harassed in some form and only 18% of those incidents were perpetrated by an adults. Young bullies carry a one-in-four chance of having a criminal record by age 30. (Study by Leonard Eron and Rowell Huesman)
  • American schools harbor approximately 2.1 million bullies and 2.7 million of their victims. (Dan Olweus, National School Safety Center)
  • One in seven students is either a bully or victim.
  • 56% of students have personally witnessed some type of bullying at school.
  • 15% of all school absenteeism is directly related to fears of being bullied at school.
  • 71% of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school.
  • One out of 20 students has seen a student with a gun at school.
  • Mean behavior among kids is a universal problem. In a poll of 232 kids in kindergarten through 8th grade at a Connecticut elementary school, every child claimed to have been the victim of at least one schoolmate’s or sibling’s meanness in the previous month.


Someone, somewhere in the world attempts to take their own life every 3 seconds. One person successfully takes their own life every 40 seconds. In the time it took me to write this (right at 2 hours), approximately 180 people killed themselves and another 2400 tried to kill themselves. Maybe one of those people is someone you love.

Again, please share this with as many people as you can and begin talking about it. Thank you for reading.

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Comments 
(Deleted comment)
13th-Apr-2009 06:30 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for taking the time to write and share this. I will pass it along.
13th-Apr-2009 10:02 am (UTC)
This story has already made its way into the "gay zone" of the Bulgarian blogosphere, together with this other story http://abcnews.go.com/Health/MindMoodNews/story?id=7228335&page=1
I saw a translation/summary here (not that you can read Bulgarian, but I'm posting the link anyway):
http://tsvetno.blogspot.com/2009/04/blog-post_12.html That blog is "something like a LGBT magazine", as his owner defines it, and he translates such things for the Bulgarian audience just because he wants to. I don't even know his name.

There is a discussion going on in the comments to his entry, with Bulgarian gay boys or young men sharing their own experiences. Two of them say independently of each other that their classmates bullied them for being gay before they knew that themselves. And I live in a very secular culture, mind you.
13th-Apr-2009 12:18 pm (UTC)
Before I start, a) please know I'm under a unisom hangover, and b) this is not meant to be disgraceful in any way, so please just take whatever I say with a grain of salt and if it should offend you, just brush it off as "he's an idiot".

I was bullied in middle and high school. Nothing really severe, but it was constant enough that I tried to take my own life a few times; once taking 8,500mg of Prozac (good thing the toxicity is super low). I ended up in a mental hospital for a few weeks for clinical depression. And oddly enough, before I started writing that and just after reading this, I thought "what's with all the suicidal kids after being bullied?"

Because, in my head, I pulled through. We all pulled through. In my head, reading this post, it clicked as just something kids go through, a part of growing up. That bullying just makes us stronger and able to resist the "real world" when we leave the educational system.

But, even I fell victim to it during my developmental years. And I had it easy! Not much physical abuse, no abusive or bully-supporting adults in my life. Everyone took it seriously.

So, now, I wonder how many of us in the world read the above story and fail to recall just exactly it affected them when they went through it.
13th-Apr-2009 05:41 pm (UTC)
I was bullied for a short time as well, but I'm not the kind to take shit off anyone for any reason and fought back.

Two things to consider. First, the amount of kids who are resilient enough to not really take this sort of thing to heart (like we were) isn't the same thing as those who don't have the coping mechanisms, faculties, or skills to overcome some of it. Also bear in mind that these severe instances involve groups against one individual, and they can be merciless - and some people can only take so much.

The second thing is the amount of pressure these kids are under versus the kind we were. When I was in school, the reality that a kid would bring a gun or a knife was nonexistent, that never would have even happened. That's a lot of stress to have to live with as a norm, combined with all of the other difficulties they face now that older generations didn't. It is a very different world.
13th-Apr-2009 06:21 pm (UTC) - what a loss
Anonymous
This child is beautiful. He has a sweet face. I was bullied as a child, and my daughter who is also beautiful was bullied. It is a very difficult thing to deal with, and more schools need to recognize the need. I would like to see group circles that are mandatory in every school in America discussing bullying. The kids will not go on their own because of peer pressure. Kids really need to see how devastating it can be. I used to teach a class called simply diversity at the college level. It was required for all social work students. I approached it a bit differently. I used high school text from the Southern Law and Poverty center which tracks racism around the country. In their little booklet there were stories about people who had been discriminated ( or bullied) against that most people wouldn't think about, like the Irish when they first settled here, or a Catholic family, a Mormon family etc. It isn't just about blacks, or gays. It is about being different from whatever is the norm in that area, and how that unnecessarily scares people. So they attempt to diminish them by dehumanizing them. I made each student write a paper from their viewpoint- some had to be the aggressor, others had to be the victim, next paper they switched. Then we discussed how it made them feel to be the victim or the aggressor. I wanted them to experience it. I took them to the local Holocaust museum. These children need to understand that words have power, and done in a group repeatedly can really destroy someone who is particularly sensitive. This story is a testament to that. My prayers go out to this family.
13th-Apr-2009 08:34 pm (UTC)
I linked to this on Facebook. I have a fairly active readership there, unlike here, where most of my friendslist is asleep.
24th-Apr-2009 11:57 am (UTC)
I didn't comment before, because this subject brings up a lot of bad memories for me. I'll be making a post in a few on my journal, I'd love to have your thoughts on it.
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