In July, 2006 the Malden Observer printed an article I wrote called “Tireless Voices Can Defeat Bullies" which was my attempt to get kids and adults alike to get involved and help the victims of bullying; to talk to young people and find out what's going on in and out of school, to report any violent or degrading behavior and to hold the offenders accountable.
Well, here it is almost two years later, and I have to say, although reports of bullying seem to have risen, I think that what has occurred is that curiosity about the outrageousness of these acts has finally made it into the daily media (thanks to television and the internet). Most people have now (at last!) seen it with their own eyes, considered and debated the impact bullying has on our young people, and are now sickened by it and fed up with it.
In the recent case of a Florida cheerleader who was lured to another's house (and prevented from leaving) while six other girls pummeled her, not only were parents incensed by the planned, savage beating, but young people from all over the world have been publicly voicing their indignation.
What put this case in front of mainstream America was the fact that it was all caught on tape and put on Youtube.com by one of the participants in an effort to brag and shock viewers. But thanks to the little genius who did that, police have charged the girls with several felonies, including kidnapping, false imprisonment, and battery. It's about time!
Finally, the law is stepping up to hold accountable the vicious perpetrators of such physically and mentally disabling acts. The scars of the victims, which may heal on the outside, last a lifetime on the inside. For this reason, we must build on this foundation and send a message that we will no longer accept the abuse of and/or indifference to the rights of our young citizens.
As I did nearly two years ago, once again I suggest that as we investigate such occurrences and trace the link from the perpetrators to their parents, if those parents are not willing to or capable of educating their children in a dedicated and deliberate effort to stop bullying, then the responsibility should fall on law enforcement to take over and see that justice is done.
I ask the state to take seriously the silent cry from our children and follow the example set in the Florida case. I still believe that, if teachers, parents, police and, ultimately, courts get involved in the exposure, amendment of law, and punishment of those guilty of bullying, only then will we see a decline in such behavior and a renewed sense of safety and justice for our children.
As I see it, no good can come from violence playing a part in the formative years of our young people. And whether they find themselves as the recipients of humiliation and pain or those who are actually getting away with committing such offenses, keep in mind that these are the leaders of tomorrow - people who will be making decisions for the benefit or detriment of us all.
Audrey Valeriani is an author, freelance writer, coach, columnist for The Malden Observer (MA), Consultant for eHarmony Advice, creator/host of http://www.bootcampforthebrokenhearted.com and relationship expert for Womensweb. ca. She is also board chair of Self Esteem Boston Educational Institute, Inc. Her book is Boot Camp for the Broken-Hearted: How to Survive in the Jungle of Love, (New Horizon Press, December 2007). You may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .