The 13th annual edition of Bullying Awareness Week is taking place this week. With the theme “Stand Up! (to bullying),” the special week’s focus is to prevent bullying through education and awareness.
In spite of years of awareness efforts, bullying continues to rack up victims throughout the continent. Rather than throw up our hands in defeat, however, it’s important to continue the effort.
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research reports that Canada has the ninth highest rate of bullying in the 13-year-olds category on a scale of 35 countries. It also notes at least one in three adolescent students in Canada have reported being bullied recently.
The impact of bullying can leave emotional scars that follow a person into adulthood. Eric Decker, a wide receiver with the National Football League’s New York Jets, and his wife, country singer Jessie Decker, have used their experiences with bullying to team up with the organization STOMP Out Bullying, a U.S.-based organization working to prevent bullying by educating students, teachers and parents.
A recent Associated Press story profiled the Deckers’ journey to becoming anti-bullying crusaders.
Eric Decker still vividly recalls joining other students hiding in a closet after a shooter prompted a “Code Red” alarm in his high school. Two students were killed in the attack by a shooter whose court testimony later suggested had been a victim of teasing or bullying. One of the shooting victims was the brother of Decker’s friend.
“I still get a little scared in certain situations,” Decker told the Associated Press. “For about two years after that, I was just on edge always, just with people around me and in certain settings.”
His wife, Jessie, was a victim of bullying during her school days. A “military kid” who was always challenged to fit in because her family moved 12 times, she says life was especially difficult from grades seven through 11.
“I was tortured, pretty much, by these kids,” she told the Associated Press. “I think it messed with me so much that I still to this day can’t drive by a school without some anxiety or just feeling sick to my stomach.”
Bullying isn’t something that disappears as kids grow into adulthood. The CIHR reports that 40 per cent of Canadian workers experience bullying on a weekly basis.
That means countless Canadians are either still carrying the scars of childhood bullying, or they’re enduring the stress inflicted by adult bullies – or both. And only someone who has been bullied can really understand the fear and anxiety that victims of bullying feel.
Jessie Decker is a believer that educating people is the way to end bullying.
“I think the message needs to be put across that it feels a lot better to be nice to people than it does to be mean,” she said in the Associated Press story. “Hurting people maybe lasts a few seconds for you, but to do something really great for somebody, that lasts forever.”
Let’s hope that message makes some inroads this week as the issue of bullying is in the spotlight. Ideally, every week should be “Bullying Awareness Week.”