Bullying is imagined as a childish behavior, albeit quite harmful, often occurring on the playground or while riding home on the school bus. Bullying is generally perceived as a predictable event of adolescent development that we, as adults, are expected to discourage.
I can clearly remember a few times when I had been bullied as a child, by kids who were either bigger than me or just more aggressive. The majority of my experiences with bullying, however, have taken place in adulthood, in my various workplaces while under the supervision of a bully – both male and female. The broad leeway we give to managers in how they can use their powers over others less capable of fighting back is a bit more sanctioned – out of reach of the kind of criticism we use to judge children who bully.
I recall working as a child abuse investigator. I received a call from a person who reported that a seven-year-old boy was observed with bruises on his back. He’s covered with black and blue bruises. His back looks like a Dalmatian.
How do you know this?
That morning I went to the school to interview the child. I asked the secretary to contact the child’s mother and see if she could join us.
Can you bring the child out so I can meet him?
It was all very reflexive.
I’d done it a million times before.
I busied myself, sitting on a mini chair, trying to figure out how to get to my next investigation across town and still make lunch with a friend. I looked up from my notes to see a child standing silently in the doorway, hands by his sides, slightly slumped. He seemed frail, thin and withdrawn. I greeted him by offering my hand, which he accepted. He did not grasp my fingers; only placed his hand in mine and complied. Staring at the floor, he whispered good to my question, How are we today? He was dark-haired with wide brown eyes and very pale skin. He was scruffy, somewhat stale looking – in need of some sprucing. His hair was apparently cut at home. He was a bit underweight, but not exceedingly so. He was just small. He wore pants that were too short for him, tattered sneakers and a girls’ pink, quilted coat with a white, fur-lined hood. Somewhat confused by the coat, I continued with my standard introduction. My job is to help kids who need help. I’m here to make sure you are doing okay. Are you doing okay?
He didn’t answer; only looked at his sneakers.
I explained to him that I was told he had a problem with his back and I was there to help him, if he needed my help. Can I have a look? I just want to make sure you’re okay.
Mechanically, without saying a word, the boy complied. He unzipped his pink coat and laid it across the seat of the chair. He removed his shirt and turned around, revealing his back covered in various sized bruises. My experience told me the child had been both punched and pinched. He had apparently been choked recently, as well. I contained my surprise and, instead, asked the child to put on his shirt and his coat. Goodness. Looks like something happened to your back; and your neck. Can you tell me about it? The child looked at me, tears brimming in his eyes, but didn’t speak. His eyes, however, said, Help me. I don’t know what to do.
My eyes said, I know you.
The boy’s mother arrived soon after and took a seat in the mini chair across from me. She was quite unremarkable, thin, with long brown hair and sunken cheeks. She wore a black, cloth jacket and jeans. She didn’t have her dentures with her that morning. A distant chime announced that the school-supply cart was making its rounds, selling novelty erasers, rulers, notebooks and stickers to the children who could afford to pay. I reached for my wallet and handed the child a crisps five-dollar bill. Almost immediately the child’s mother reached and took it from the boy’s hand and pushed it into her coat pocket. I sat in amazement, not sure how to react.
He needs to go back to class, the mother said. You go on and get back to class.
The boy in the pink coat turned and left the room, ostensibly to return to his classroom.
Sorry we don’t have better chairs for you, I said.
The child’s mother folded her hands on her lap and looked at her knees. I introduced myself and explained why I was there. I asked if she had noticed the bruises on her son’s back and neck. Does he complain about pain in his back?
She leaned forward and folded her fingers into one another, as if praying. She looked up at me, Kids do that. They punch him in the back. They are forever punching him and choking him. His daddy is working with him – trying to make him tough. He ain’t tough. He’s more like a girl when it comes to things like that. We are doing our best to make him into a boy. It’s gonna take time. The woman went on to tell me that her son was a sissy. Her eyes told me she believed I would understand and not judge her for her son’s condition. Her eyes said, You understand; don’t you?
The woman told me her husband, the boy’s father, was concerned that the boy would grow up to be a queer and was doing everything he could to force the boy to fight back and stand up for himself. That’s where that coat he has on comes from, she said. His daddy makes him wear it. Things are just getting worse. Them boys just punch him more. Call him a queer. His daddy told him when he starts standing up for hisself, he could take it off. Don’t let him cry or nothing. Makes him wear it all the time. Day and night. He even has to wear it to bed.
The door suddenly swung open and the school secretary, with her hand still gripping the doorknob, said, He’s up to it, again!
The woman and I entered the hallway, only to the see the boy in the pink coat sitting on the back of a much smaller child, pounding his fists into his back. Stop! the school secretary shouted. I moved forward and lifted the boy off the smaller child and attempted to calm him. Leave me alone, faggot! the boy shouted. I looked at his mother. Watch your mouth! she shouted. You wait until we get home.
I left that day, imagining what the discussion would be like at the boy’s home that evening, when they all got home and sat down to point out, as they apparently were accustomed to doing, the flaws in the child’s language and behavior. Maybe the child had finally won the right to put away his pink coat and replace it with a coat more fitting a boy, one worn with the stipulation that he would have to earn the right to wear it, every day.
- stuff to tell kids: hate crimes suck hard and “queer” isn’t a dirty word (rainbowgenderpunk.wordpress.com)
- Masculinity (ctrlaltsexblog.wordpress.com)
- Transgender Dating in Flint (transgenderflint.com)
- Gender Identity: Sexual Reassignment Surgery (renetaxian.wordpress.com)
- Imagine it is your child (bluemilk.wordpress.com)
- TRANSfiguration: Coming Out (queerd.com)
- Mothers Are Not the Only Parents! (whuffling.wordpress.com)
- FINAL TRANSfiguration: Dating (queerd.com)
- Why do men tell me things? (eriktrips.com)
- LGBT Activist John Aravosis Is Ignorant About Cisgender People Like Himself (queerty.com)
- Their Spirits are Torn (indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com)
- Mom Arrested For Gluing Toddler’s Hands To Wall (dreamindemon.com)
- Two Women Charged After Child Allegedly Forced To Eat Feces (dreamindemon.com)
- Jahessye Shockley sister says missing girl kept in closet, had cuts, bruises (examiner.com)
- 2 to be tried in tot’s murder (philly.com)
- Fort Pierce man charged with child abuse (tcpalm.com)
- Kids and Broken Bones (everydayhealth.com)
- What to Do When There is a Bully (socyberty.com)
- You Do Not Need A Bruise To Be Abused (tonij.wordpress.com)
- Effective Strategies to Stop Bullying (neboautism.wordpress.com)
- What to do? What to do? (grammieknows.wordpress.com)
- Md. Mother Charged With Child Abuse In 2010 (baltimore.cbslocal.com)
- Bully for You!!! (bornon911.wordpress.com)
- Not My Kid: What to Do if Your Child is a Bully (education.com)
- I Think My Child Is A Bully – What Should I Do? (education.com)
- Bully-Proofing Your Child (education.com)
- When Your Teen is Bullied: How to Tell and What to Do (education.com)
- Mother claims fraudulent Facebook page is being used to bully daughter (charlotte.news14.com)
- My child is being bullied at school (kleenexmums.com.au)
- Guideline #5: CONTROL (onewaveblog.org)
- Ignoring Bullies Really Does Work (itsmythoughts11.wordpress.com)
- Stand Up to Bullying – Or Just Stand There and Do Nothing (viewsfromthecouch.com)
- You’re Never Too Young to Start Being Bullied (psychologytoday.com)
- What Makes a Bully? (education.com)
- What is bullying and how does it differ in boys and girls? (education.com)
- Five Actions Parents Can Take If Their Child Has Been Involved in Bullying (education.com)
- Bullying should be prevented! (hseketa8.wordpress.com)
- Why Do Bullies Bully? (pullingitupbythebootstraps.wordpress.com)
- What are the signs that a child is bullying others? (education.com)
- The Use of Force (eitheory.com)
- Bullying: Get to the root cause instead (marinalovemovement.wordpress.com)
- Bullying and your child (silverchealth.com)
- Video Of Autistic Kid’s Attack Posted On Facebook (baltimore.cbslocal.com)
- Helping Kids Deal With Bullying (tfollowers.com)
- Fighting Bullies with Plastic Surgery (myfoxny.com)
- What Parents Need to Know to Protect Their Kids From Bullying (dswalkerauthor.com)
- What is Bullying? (socyberty.com)
- Media powerpoint (slideshare.net)