Five hundred and eighty-three

I’m depressed by how it doesn’t seem to be getting any better…

I’m depressed by the fact that a 15 year-old boy was arrested for the string of sexual assaults on women in the Bloor/Christie area of Toronto.  I’m depressed that a 15 year-old girl committed suicide and there are still kids harassing her on social media after she is dead.  I’m upset that I know people whose children threaten to commit suicide or are taken to hospital for eating disorders because they are bullied.

The biggest problem is this is not new.  I was teased and bullied as a child.  I was hit so hard on the back of my head by a girl “friend” of mine in the hallway during middle school that I fell to the ground and couldn’t get up.  This was only because I had a happy childhood and she didn’t, so she picked on me to make herself feel better.  I had boys call me a Nazi because my last name is Schwietz, which is not even german.  I was asked out by a boy as a joke to his friends so they could laugh at me.  I remember writing a letter to my parents telling them how upset and alone I felt because I couldn’t talk about it out loud.  I told them in the letter that if it weren’t for them, I’d probably kill myself.  I was 14 years old.

I recently read a blog entry about “What it’s like being a teenage girl” which tells the story of how this woman writer was bullied as a teen, her body being sexualized, and how important it is to openly speak to boys and girls about sexuality and boundaries, women are not objects, and men are not entitled to our bodies.  Fortunately, in my small middle and high schools, I didn’t have to deal with sexual objectification as a teen, but I know friends who did.  Fortunately my mother and father talked openly about sex and respect to both my brother and I growing up.

Maybe education is the answer.  Maybe parents need to be educated about how to tell their children these things.  Maybe parents need to set an example for their children and stop being bullies themselves.  Maybe we just need to keep talking about it until it is taken seriously.  I was told to just ignore the bullies when I was a teen, but now with social media, how do young people get away from it?

When I got a little older, I found friends who loved me for me, found interests that I focused on and tried to avoid the occasional bully that I was faced with.  I am now 32 years old, stronger for what I went through and I have more compassion for everyone, from the cool kids to those who have a harder time with social interaction.  I try to be kind and inclusive to every person I meet.  There is a campaign started in the LGBT community by Dan Savage, the It Gets Better Project, where older people tell younger people facing harassment that “it gets better” and to try and stay strong.  It does get better as we get older, but it doesn’t seem to be going away as a whole.  Yesterday I watched a video circulating on social media, made by a grown woman news anchor talking about bullying, how she was bullied in an e-mail about her weight, and how she dealt with it.  If adults think it’s acceptable to bully, how do children learn not to?

I was going to talk about how happy I was that I made it over 100,000 views for my blog, but I can’t be happy when this continues to happen.  When I feel unsafe walking in an area of Toronto because a fifteen-year old boy is sexual assaulting women, it makes me sad.  When I fear that if I have children, they will have to go through this, and it worries me whether I want to raise a child in this world.  When I have personally been Facebook bullied by a co-worker a few years ago that made me take down my “wall” so my family wouldn’t see the lies she posted about me, it’s not right.  The co-worker was in her early twenties.

I don’t know what to do.  I feel helpless and depressed.  I feel like it’s not getting better and that although I am stronger for what I went through, not everyone is – some teens don’t make it, no matter how much they reach out for help.  Whether it’s sexual assaults, cyber bullying, or mean e-mails, none of this is acceptable.  If 15-year old teens are sexually assaulting random women on the street, bullying their peers to the point that they kill themselves, and making themselves throw up to the point they need to be taken to hospital just to fit in, what is this world coming to?  Where is the hope that things will get better when it seems to be getting worse?

I am depressed, but I do see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I see young people standing up for bullying in vigils for the girl who was bullied to death.  I worked with a lot of good kids when I worked at a youth theatre for awhile.  I see all the articles being written and the videos being made trying to keep talking about bullying.  I see all these things and I see that many of us are trying to make a difference.  But I want the change to come sooner, because every time I hear about another tragic suicide by a teen it makes me cry and a little more depressed.  It has to get better, right?  I don’t think it can get much worse.