The High Cost of Bullying
This is a consumer law blog, where I write about bankruptcy, debt collection and personal finance. It’s not really a place to air my views about things like the environment, same-sex marriage or celebrities, unless I can relate them back to my primary subject matter, consumer law. For that reason, I hadn’t thought of writing about bullying. Until I read this.
Rachel was a few years ahead of me in school. And by school, I mean one campus for preschool through 12th grade, where everyone knows everyone in our town of under 1,000 people. I was a nerdy nobody who thought Rachel was beyond awesome, and I never imagined she was bullied. Reading her blog post, which she shared on Facebook and asked others to share, it struck me that if someone like Rachel was tormented so badly, then far too many people have far too many stories of being treated like crap by way too many other people.
The push back on the anti-bullying movement is that kids need to learn how to stand up to adversity, lest they become sissies. I say to hell with that. Overcoming obstacles builds character, sure, but the cost of bullying is just too high. Suicide is the highest price of all. It cuts short one life and forever impacts that person’s loved ones and community. I’ve seen the damage suicide does to others, and it’s beyond heartbreaking.
The “It Gets Better” movement encourages kids (LGBT kids in particular) to think long-term, looking for that light at the end of the tunnel. But the way out often involves stumbling through a variety of unhealthy coping skills like using drugs and alcohol, physical self-abuse, and perpetuating the cycle by bullying other kids. And it involves long-term consequences like poor school (and work) performance and dysfunctional relationships, which lead to missed opportunities. Working through all of that takes time and money, and more missed chances. Therapy and medications can take years, even decades, to work. Some people’s wounds run too deep to ever heal, no matter how big of an investment they make in moving beyond their past.
I don’t have kids yet, and I don’t know the answers. But if your kids are dealing with bullying now, addressing it head-on has to help more than just telling them “it gets better.” This is an imperfect analogy, but it’s better to get a suspicious mole checked out than to ignore the problem until Junior has late-stage skin cancer that has spread to other parts of his body. Or to use a consumer law comparison, it’s better to respond to a potentially bogus lawsuit than to ignore it and wind up with a garnishment you can’t stop because you can’t afford to hire a lawyer to vacate the default judgment. I guess that analogy works better if you understand how debt collection cases work, but maybe that’s the point. You don’t know how bullying will play out, so it’s better to just deal with it upfront.