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Why Telling Bullied Children To Toughen Up Is Killing Them

As bullying and it’s resulting consequences ends up on the news with an alarming frequency, I’ve been horrified to see the number of adults who think that bullied children need to just “toughen up.” Back in the day, we just got over being bullied and it made us stronger, right? We don’t jump on social media and name call, stalk, harass, gossip about, and aggressively or passive-aggressively plot ways to ensure someone who has crossed us is outed to the world, do we?

People, YOU are the problem with today’s youth.

I was 12 the first time I planned suicide. The year was 1998. I had recently transitioned from home school to public school. My parents were in the beginning stages of a hellish divorce. I was an awkward tomboy who had braces and didn’t have any knowledge of things like the importance of shaving my legs. I was genuine. I was vulnerable. I was miserable. I wanted to hide at home and be invisible.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends, but it didn’t help. I heard a story in class about a girl who wrote an anonymous suicide note that was read aloud and got her help and love. It resonated with me. Maybe if… The note posted on my teacher’s door was never read aloud. She didn’t even ask me if I was okay. Not even when I asked for it back a few days later. It was a phase. I was just crying out for attention.

I was so lonely. So unwanted. It hurt.

No one ever asked if I was okay. I was just a problem. A freak.

I almost didn’t graduate.

Freshman year wasn’t much better. New school. New town. Everyone knew each other. I tried so many things to fit in. I told my mother I was depressed. She said I was just an angsty teenager and would get over it.

Maybe if I died, they’d see. They’d be sorry.

The pain pills were a joke. I took so many and they did nothing.

I cut myself for the first time that summer. Broke apart a razor blade and used it to score tiger stripes onto my arms.

My father saw the marks. I lied. He never asked again.

My boyfriend told me he would leave me if I did it again. My best friend yelled at me.

I got better at not getting caught.

I tried to hang myself a few times. Wrap a belt or scarf around a doorknob and lean against it, hoping I would just drift away.

I wrote poetry that talked about everything I felt. People read it. They would always make me promise not to hurt myself.

I lied.

I’m alive now, obviously. But not for lack of trying. Even while on active duty, I have continued to battle suicide, depression, and self-harm. Multiple rounds of cutting, almost successful suicide attempts, and hospitalizations later, I’m still here.

You can call me names. You can say it is because I’m weak. Anyone who knows me will laugh you out of the room. I’m a tough as nails motherfucker. That doesn’t mean I don’t have problems and shit to deal with, just like everyone else. Depression is a part of who I am. It doesn’t make me weak. It means I know how to reach out to others and help them through the darkness.

If you’ve never dealt with the daily battle of depression, don’t you dare EVER tell someone how it feels. We hate ourselves. We don’t want to get out of bed. Nothing is fixable because we are broken. Everyone else would be better off without our failure around.

Bullying damages the heart and soul of a child. I remember every comment made to me. All the laughter. It haunts me. I can’t imagine living through that with today’s ability to get everyone on the internet to hate you.

That person on the other side of the computer screen is a human being who is just as fucked up as you, and maybe even more so. Those pictures are funny. Except the person in them would rather die than be mocked any more.

How many more children have to kill themselves before the adults step up and set the example for how NOT to be a bully?

Never tell anyone, especially a child, to get over emotional hurts. Stop invalidating how they feel. Allow them to be hurt and show them healthy ways to keep moving forward. If you can’t figure out how to do that, find someone like me. One in five people battle chronic depression. We can help your child and WE WANT TO.

My nine-years younger than me sister was bullied even worse than I was. She was called every name in the book, stalked, harassed, tormented over the internet and phone, beaten up, threatened. I was deployed and couldn’t help her.

She attempted suicide as a pre-teen. I’m thankful every day that we were able to save her. This beautiful girl felt she was ugly and unlovable because of the things said and done to her. The school and authorities failed to intervene on her behalf multiple times and even blamed her for bringing the bullying on herself.

Bullying is killing our children. Failing to act as adults and intervene is killing our children. This isn’t because they are weak or a generation of victims. This is because they are being raised and cared for by a generation of selfish assholes who don’t know how to have a healthy relationship and don’t seem to want to fix it.

Step up. Ask the hard questions. Be the person you wished had offered a hand to you when you were drowning.

Do you care?

On Disappointment

There’s nothing quite as hard to deal with, being a born pleaser, as disappointing the people who have expectations of you. It’s like a knife to the core. The failure is personal and overwhelming.

Disappointment is the greatest rejection. What you are and what you’ve done isn’t good enough, no matter how hard you’ve tried. It’s like a sickness; once it gets a foothold, it infects and destroys everything.

I can’t argue anymore when I disappoint people. “I’m trying…so hard” feels empty to say. I hate crying. Fuck that shit. I avoid letting anyone see me when I do. Yet, when my mentor sat me down to discuss why I am failing at my job, I couldn’t stop. Fuck you, tear ducts. Damn traitors.

Nothing he had to say surprised me. I know I’ve been slipping. Life is just so fucking hard these days. Getting out of bed is overwhelming. How the hell am I supposed to make all these people happy when all I want to do is hide under the covers until everything isn’t piled up and impossible to catch up on.

Disappointment in relationships is even worse. They turn away; don’t want to touch you. When you need touch to survive, it’s like dying. Time to wall off; make sure no one sees how the rejection hurts. Don’t let anyone get close enough that the feels try to come out.

I’m failing. I know I’m failing. Do you always have to remind me? I’m sick and they don’t know why; losing functionality in my body so fast I wouldn’t be surprised if they came back and said I’m dying. I have lists everywhere of all the things I need to do. I can’t get anything done. It’s so hard. I’m so tried.

I’m broken, okay? Stop trying to save me. You’ll just get frustrated and leave like everyone else does. My hero days are over. That girl died and the shadow that’s left is lucky she manages to get her pants on right in the morning.

Disappointment – has great potential; never quite good enough.

Until Next Time,
~Rose

On How It Feels To Be a Survivor

I have seen some shit in my life. I’ve experienced things – rape, domestic violence, suicide, mental illness – that no one should have to ever deal with. I’ve been through hell and back, with a smile. I am strong. I am powerful. I am inspiring. I’m a survivor.

Dear Well-Intentioned Supporters: Please shut the fuck up.

Being a survivor doesn’t grant us some magical superhuman strength of will, emotion or physical capability. It is exactly as the term says – we survived. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is probably my least favorite cliché thrown at survivors. As if, somehow, the hell we have been through has refined us like when metal is tempered with fire.

Being a survivor means sometimes I can stand in front of a room full of hundreds of people, raise my chin and tell my story without my voice wavering.

Being a survivor means sometimes even alluding to the event will cause me to have a complete emotional and mental meltdown.

Being a survivor means I may not get to choose which of the above reaction I’m going to have, or when.

Being a survivor means that, if my aggressor is in jail, I get to go into hysterics every time he/she/they is up for parole, gets transferred, or has any change in their status.

Being a survivor means that if my aggressor isn’t in jail, I have to very carefully monitor what I say and do around any mutual friends we might have; I have to live with the fear that our paths might cross; and I have to deal with everyone who knows us both and doesn’t believe what happened is real.

Being a survivor means I will eternally judge myself for the things I could have, should have done to change the situation.

Being a survivor means that sometimes I want your comfort and sometimes I want you to leave me the fuck alone to deal with my demons.

Being a survivor means I’m weary of your sympathy. Stop telling me you’re sorry. Just stop.

Being a survivor means there are some things I might never say to anyone who isn’t also a survivor, my counselor or hell, I may just never share them at all.

Being a survivor doesn’t mean I’m going to “get over it”. let go, move on, “forgive and forget”, or go back to being the person I was before. If you don’t like it, you can leave.

Being a survivor means I get to try to explain how small trigger like a scent, a phrase, how someone looks, a bit of “normal” human interaction, etc. can throw me right back to the trauma that happened.

Being a survivor means I’m going to react to situations like what happened to me with overwhelming passion and emotions. I may become an advocate. I may be irrationally angry. I may lock myself in my room and refuse to watch the news until it’s over.

Being a survivor means wondering if people who know you believe you.

Being a survivor means feeling completely alone in your struggles.

Being a survivor is complicated. Some days are better than others. I reserve the right to not be okay and to not want to talk about it.

Loving a survivor means having endless patience. It means not taking it personally when I’m triggered, shut down or shut you out. Some days it means holding me while I cry, while others it means doing things to help me forget. Loving a survivor means a willingness to do or not do things, regardless if you understand why, because it helps me manage my triggers.

Being a survivor comes with a lot of self-doubt. All the endless advocacy, cheering and support in the world doesn’t make what happened and its lasting effects go away. It is an every day battle. It doesn’t mean life can’t be lived well. It does mean that it sometimes takes a little more than average to make things okay.

Until Next Time,
~Rose

On Why I Let My Son Paint His Nails (And You’ll Get The Hell Over It)

My son is five. He’s in kindergarden. He’s a fairly typical little boy who wants to play with cars, guns and pretend to be a Transformer.

My son has a mohawk. It’s a fabulous mohawk that he rocks with pride.

My son told me when he was three years old: “When I get stronger, I want a tattoo just like yours.”

My son has neon green, glittery nails. They were painted at his request at the local nail salon when he went with his aunt and grandmother. Sometimes they get painted at home, depending on how often he wants them done.

The first time I got his nails painted at the salon, the tech I asked to do it and several of the other ladies in the salon made it very clear that they were horrified that I would let my son get his nails painted. “He’s a boy” I remember them saying. “Are you SURE you want his nails done.”

Does it make my son less of a boy to have a fantastic neon green manicure? Does it make him less of an amazingly smart and well-behaved child to have a mohawk? Does it make me a better parent to deny him something that makes him gleefully happy because YOU don’t approve?

My son loves watching “My Little Pony.” Someone in our life tried to tell him at one point that he shouldn’t be watching a “girl” show. My amazing child looked up at me and said “Mom, I don’t care if it’s a girl show or boy show. I like it, so I’m going to watch it.”

My dream is that we all might be able to learn to be as wise as a five-year-old.

I’m never going to be a perfect parent. I may never have an immaculate house. My meals will probably never be all home made. I may never give up my right to put on cartoons for my son to watch so I can get 15 more minutes of sleep. Criticize me for any of these things and I’ll probably roll my eyes and laugh at you. Criticize my son’s nails however and we will go to war.

Hate and judgement of others are not things we are born with, we are taught to do them. I will not have you teaching my son to emulate your hate, your gender stereotypes, your judgement of others or your biased world views. I will violently defend his right to explore his world, his sexuality, his gender definition, his view of himself, his hopes, his dreams and his reality without limitations beyond what is reasonable for his age and legal for him to do. My only requirement for my son’s eventual adulthood is that he know how to be responsible, that he be a functional and contributing member to society and the world, and that he lives with great compassion. All the rest is on him and who he chooses to be. I may not end up agreeing with all of it, but I will love him none the less for it.

Until Next Time,
~Rose

On The Reasons Why I’m Giving Up On SlutWalk

SlutWalk is one of those things that was amazing in concept and a hell of an experience the first year the walks took place. We were loud, we were proud and we took the streets of the city we were in by storm. We were profound and we made a difference.

Unfortunately, a trend began that has been swiftly been killing the SlutWalk events. The challenge to rape culture became a forum for a whole bunch of “other related causes” that rapidly drove away current and potential supporters. I saw it start with Planned Parenthood walking around with petitions to support their organization and related legislation, at one event. I’ve seen it discussed in multiple forums about how the name itself is alienating to many people, specifically women of color. At another event I attended, there was an interesting performance by some sort of “feminist” band that played songs about having abortions and other such ilk, before any of the speakers began sharing their stories. If I hadn’t been one of those speakers, I would have walked away from the event and never looked back once the band started playing.

There are a lot of issues related to being a woman that this country and the world needs to address. Some, like victim blaming and rape culture, are universal. However, the basic concept of SlutWalk: countering victim-blaming, isn’t one that applies only to women! We need to get away from making this a “woman’s issues” event. Stop trying to lump abortion and feminism and all these other issues that are driving people away.

SlutWalk has a lot to overcome with just its name, many people cringe at the idea of claiming “slut”, because of how it has been used against them or people they care about. I am one of those people who will never use the word lightly, nor do I ever want it applied to me ever again. But I choose to participate in this walk because I care very deeply about what it represents. I’ve chosen to speak at this event because my story is one that is shared by too many who are afraid to speak out. I’ve given blood, sweat and tears to support the movement, but I don’t know that I can do it anymore.

After last year’s event in DC, I was left with a very sour taste in my mouth. I met some amazing people, we shared some powerful moments, but I never want to do an event like that again. If I hadn’t been speaking, I most likely would have left when the band started screaming about having had an abortion. One – that’s a crazily polarizing issue that shouldn’t be attached to SlutWalk. Two – for some people, the topic is actually traumatizing. It didn’t belong in what should have been a powerful event for survivors and their supporters to reach out and challenge the fucked up culture that affects this country. It also didn’t help that the event ended in a corner with minimal traffic and essentially turned what should have been public outreach into an insular group meeting.

I love the idea behind SlutWalk. I love the opportunities it has given me to share my story and to confront a disgusting concept. I love the people I’ve met because of it.

I hate what it has become.

Until Next Time,
~Rose

On How It Feels To Be The Stubenville Victim

I’m not going to talk about rape culture because I think the best blog on it can be found here: http://rantagainsttherandom.wordpress.com/2013/03/19/so-youre-tired-of-hearing-about-rape-culture/

I’m not going to talk about not raping people, the media’s appalling coverage of this event, the ridiculous sentencing the boys got or any of the other hot topics you can find with a Google search.

I can’t read the stories anymore, not that they were easy to read to begin with. The pictures, the videos, the jokes are everything sick and disgusting about the human race. Those poor boys, their whole lives ruined because some girl couldn’t handle her alcohol…

It was a great party –  the alcohol was flowing freely and the crowd was great people who could be trusted to stay drama free. There were games and karaoke running long into the night, then as the party died, there were plenty of places to crash out for the night. I ended up on a couch after drinking heavily, ready to sleep off the evening’s fun. I don’t know how long I slept for, all I remember is waking up with the guy who I only recognized as having played bartender for the night on top of me, inside of me. I remember him talking about the things he wanted to do to me in the morning. I remember not being able to push him off, being exhausted and terrified that I could barely move. I remember him crawling off me to go back to sleeping on the other couch, but I don’t remember where he came. I remember running to sleep in my friend’s room and wanting nothing more than to shower and make it go away.

I remember him asking for my number the next morning and knowing that it meant no one would ever believe me if I reported it.

I’ve been a Sexual Assault Victim Advocate for years. Admitting that I never reported my rape because I felt no one would believe it was anything other than morning-after regret fueled by a night of binge drinking makes me feel like I have failed every client and victim who has ever crossed my path. Rape is rape! I know on a fundamental level that the circumstances don’t matter. I teach that. I preach that.

Yet when it was my turn to walk the walk, all the screaming voices of this fucked up society drove me into a corner where I hid my trauma for years before I told anyone.

I see myself in the pictures: drunk, passed out, violated. The commentary cuts me like a knife. Maybe if I had drank less, if I’d been able to fight, if my sexual past had nothing to comment on to make people not believe me. I find myself flashing back to that night, screaming in my head, promising myself that we’d get out of this and no one would hurt us ever again.

I remember figuring out that sleeping next to anyone would give me panic attacks, so I stopped doing it. I remember beginning to strictly regulate who I drank around and where. I remember my rapist contacting me. I remember the rumors and stories that came out months later.

Two days after the Stubenville sentencing hearing, I broke down in my car while I was driving to work. Everything that I’d spent years putting behind me and only busting out for special occasions like SlutWalk was now taking over my life. I was right back to that night – helpless, broken, guilty and completely unable to forgive myself.

Being a victim doesn’t stop when the actual crime is over. Some days, I think it never actually goes away, especially not when we get re-victimized every goddamn day by the culture we live in. If I, someone who is supposed to be fighting the good fight for victims everywhere, am too scared to stand up and tell my story because of the reality that I’m going to get judged as just another drunk girl at a party who did something she regretted… If a 16-year-old girl is going to get death threats for a situation that was even more heinous than what happened to me…

And people still can’t figure out why victims won’t come forward, won’t testify, won’t speak out?

Until Next Time,
~Rose

 

On The Talks We Aren’t Having With Our Children (And Should Be)

When it comes to parenting, the most dreaded “talk” for most parents is about sex. We all go about it different ways, but eventually, it gets done. (And then your kids go look things up on the internet.) But in all our efforts to broach this rather uncomfortable topic, we bypass many more, which are actually more important to our kid’s development into real, functional adults.

Parents, this is a letter from your kids.

Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Guardian, Adult Who Is Raising Me; I wish you would teach me…

…How to win and lose gracefully. I am not always going to be the best, I need you to show me that I can accept defeat without letting it define me or hold me back in the future. I also need you to show me that I can win without lording it over others and without having it be something that defines my worth. I will not and should not always get a prize. I can’t always have the outcome I desire, but only I can choose what I do and become beyond that moment.

…How to have a healthy relationship with money. Seriously, you think I don’t see how you spend? Do you think I don’t know when you’re stressed and trying to figure out which bills to pay? Do you think I don’t hear the comments you make about others and how they handle their money or lack thereof? Teach me how to use it, how to budget, how to live without drowning in debt or depriving myself of the important things in life. Teach me how to be generous, no matter how much or little I have. Teach me that I am not entitled to anything, but am required to earn it. Teach me how to sacrifice without being a martyr. And if you struggle with these things, sit down with me and we can learn them together.

…That all my emotions, good, bad and ugly, are okay and can be expressed in a healthy manner. Don’t tell me that my sadness is a phase and I need to get over it. Don’t tell me that being angry is not okay and I’m not allowed to show it. Let me see you cry, laugh, be upset, be disappointed,  be afraid, love; let me see your emotions and understand the truth for the reasons you feel them. Let me see you show them in healthy ways. Teach me how to take a breath, to walk away, to tackle someone with a hug, to say “this is how I’m feeling and why”. Teach me to be honest and how to communicate. Teach me that being strong doesn’t mean showing no emotions at all. Teach me how to be wrong, how to say “I’m sorry”, how to forgive and how to let go and move on. Teach me to be genuine and honest.

…That relationships require work, don’t always last forever and will grow and change with time; and that all of those things are normal and okay! Let me see you disagree and resolve it. Let me see you engage in romance. Let me see you engage the people you care about in discussion and activity. Tell me the truth about why you don’t get along with some people. If you have a relationship that ends, show me and tell me how you own what you did that wasn’t good for the relationship; tell me why it was better that it ended. Teach me how to recognize when a relationship is unhealthy and I need to let it go. Show me that relationship classes, books, seminars, counseling, etc. are all healthy tools that can make any relationship better, even if it is already a strong relationship to begin with. Teach me how to trust, how to love and how to give without draining myself dry. Teach me how to be a whole and complete person with or without a romantic relationship. Show me that life is enhanced by the people I bring into it.

…How to have a healthy relationship with food. Every diet you go through, I’m right there with you. I want to see you happy with your body, your health. I want to be happy with my body and health. Teach me how to eat well and exercise, or work with someone who can. Show me how to enjoy food and exercise without taking it to extremes. Show me how to address challenges with food, exercise, metabolisms and health, without inflicting them on others or using them as a crutch or weapon. Teach me to be kind and supportive to others who have different health challenges than I do.

…How to balance work and life, and well, life in general. I learn from you how life is supposed to be. Show me that I can work without it taking over my life. Show me when to walk away from work and have a life. Show me that work isn’t more important than family. Show me what your priorities are and that my time is the most precious gift I can give. Teach me how to show what my own priorities are by investing in them in healthy ways and without neglecting other things to do so. Teach me how to work to live instead of living to work.

…How to ask for help. Deep down, I know I’ll always go to you because you’re my parent and you’re supposed to know everything. There’s no shame in admitting you don’t, in fact, I respect you for not lying to me. Show me that it’s okay not to have all the answers and to reach out to people and resources when I can’t do it by myself. Teach me that strength comes from having the courage to depend on others, not from stubbornly trying to do things all by myself. Don’t belittle me when I don’t understand something. Be patient, guide me, let me see you ask someone else for help with something you struggle with and let me see you accept help, wanted or unwanted, graciously.

…That there are good and bad people/moments/places/things in the world, but I have the power to do something about them. Teach me how selflessness can help someone in need. Teach me how to give without expecting anything anything in return. Teach me that a hug can make all the difference in the world. Teach me that my choices matter. Teach me how to learn, how to research, how to act. Teach me that I am never helpless or alone. Show me that I can change the world.

Until Next Time,
~Rose