Opinion Column

Bullies no longer limited by age, physical presence, to torment others

Daniel Fontaine

(File photo)

(File photo)

As I sat down to write my column last week, little did I know that a young woman named Amanda Todd was preparing to commit suicide. We’ve painfully become aware of her story through a YouTube video she posted last month. Todd revealed how, in real life and online, bullies tortured her to the point that she finally took her life.

Sadly, Todd’s story is not unique. There are thousands of kids going to school today who feel sick to their stomach when they open up their Facebook page. They’re also being punched, spit and laughed at on a daily basis. For these students, going to school is utter torture.

How do I know? I know because in my early teens, I was bullied. I wasn’t good at sports nor was I able to wear the latest designer clothing. To make matters worse, rather than making slap shots at the rink, I spent time debating the merits of Pierre Trudeau’s national energy policy. As you can imagine, I was an easy target for insecure bullies.

I feared most for my safety during recess and lunch breaks. With no classroom teachers around, the bullies would quickly swing into action. They would call me “Danny Fountain,” violently slam me up against lockers and verbally harass me in the change room after gym class. It was relentless.

While I never contemplated suicide, those bullies made my life a living hell. But somehow I always knew if I could just finish high school, things would get better. They did.

What is hard for me to determine is whether I would have felt as optimistic in this era of social media. While the punches and taunts thrown my way were temporary, it’s hard to fathom how victims of today’s cyber-bullies feel knowing there is a permanent online record of their abuse.

Unfortunately, cyber-bullying is not something conducted solely by our younger generation. If you read the vitriol left by anonymous commenters on major newspaper websites, you will understand what I mean. The same goes for bully bloggers who set up shop online and fire away with personal attacks and name calling, rather than engaging in a civil dialogue.

For every Amanda Todd, there are hundreds of other kids in Metro Vancouver living her type of hell. While there are no easy answers, one small step might be for more of us to acknowledge we’ve been the victims of bullies ourselves.


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