By Jennifer Robertson
After I survived my youth and the most severe forms of bullying imaginable, I thought the days of being tormented were long behind me.
It started as simple teasing, taunting and rumors being started about me at school. The bullies then resorted to spray-painting profanities on the sidewalks in front of my home. Next, a brick was flung through my bedroom window, landing on my bed in the middle of the night as I lay there, terrorized. The bullying eventually escalated into physical attacks on me at school by individuals and groups of mean girls. I was forced to move and change schools for my own safety.
I have come to realize that bullying does not end in the halls of school. It can follow you home, online and even into the work place.
It rears its ugly head in the form of name-calling, insults, belittling opinions, personal jokes, rumors and offensive language which can be direct or indirect.
A group of bullies may take turns at making jabs at the victim. They seem to bond with each other, feed off of each other and take some kind of sick pleasure and enjoyment in the unprovoked demeaning and humiliation of others.
An estimated 54 million Americans have been bullied in the work place but may not realize it.
A co-worker or boss may sabotage your work or assign you work that is demeaning in nature or sets you up to fail. A boss could even target you with verbal character assassinations, sexual innuendos and intimidation tactics, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute.
Bullies likely will target workers who are competent, self-assured or seen as a threat to their standing in the work place.
Cyber-bullies have the ability to reach their victims 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Predators will stalk social media profiles, make vicious comments, make fake profiles or post personal photos and videos to terrorize individuals.
Bullying is not just a prank or a joke. It can have life-changing or devastating effects on the targeted victims and others.
“Bullying causes long-term effects on the victims’ self-esteem,” said Jonna Allen Byars, a counseling psychologist and a professor at Lubbock Christian University. She said there is a direct correlation between bullying and psychiatric issues. “Victims are at five times higher risk for depression, anxiety and significantly more likely to attempt suicide well into adulthood,” she said.
Other victims may lash out into physical violence or worse.
New research by heyugly.org has concluded that three-quarters of 37 school shootings, which included Columbine, were a result of bullying.
No federal law directly addresses bullying unless it meets the criteria for a civil rights discrimination case or a hate crime.
Alternatively, a civil case can be brought if an individual is forced to drop out of school or resign from a job to escape severe emotional distress or injury because of bullying.
In most cases, victims choose not to report incidents in the work place due to fear of lost income, professional opportunity or fear of retaliation.
Contacting your employer’s human resources department may be required for any disciplinary action to be taken against work place bullies unless you are ready and willing to lawyer up.
Are kindness, decency, civility and professionalism completely out of the question?
Once you have experienced being bullied, it is something that stays with you like a scar. You eventually will heal and overcome but never forget the way it made you feel. To be unjustifiably hated is a lonely and dark place.
If you have to leave your job or change schools to find peace or respect, it is worth it. A paycheck or title is not worth feeling miserable.
You are responsible for your own happiness, and there always are other options and more fulfilling opportunities that could be awaiting you. I found mine.