Standing Up To A Bully

I wasn’t planning to write today. But something happened last night. I stood up to a bully.

At the moment when my mouth opened, I was having flashbacks of all the stories, pictures and quotes people have shared with me over the years about how the silence of other people had been just as wounding as the abuse they were not speaking out against…the primary relevant message being that when we do nothing, we are saying that bullying is okay with us.

Last night I decided it wasn’t okay with me and that I couldn’t just stand back and say nothing. It was one of the scariest confrontations of my entire life, one which raised my blood pressure to the point where we thought I might be actually be at risk. I barely slept all night, fearing reprisal, and wondering if I did the right thing speaking out.

The bully was the father of a young girl in our neighbourhood. For months now, the entire neighbourhood has been witness to a constant barrage of foul language and horrific name-calling directed at this little 10-year old girl. It usually happens at dusk when she’s still at the park and he has to come out of the house to search for her. He begins with whistles, and when that doesn’t work, he starts hollering out her name. It’s the nights when he has to go searching for her that he becomes clearly agitated and enraged and starts calling her every ugly name in the book.

I don’t know why we’ve all turned a blind ear (and eye) to this bullying all summer. Maybe we were giving him some benefit of the doubt, perhaps hoping that his rage was coming out of a place of fear for his daughter’s safety. But really, in the end, there never has been = and never will be – an excuse for the cruel ugly words he constantly flings at her.

Last night was the worst night yet. Everyone in the neighbourhood could hear, and many of us stood out on our doorsteps, watching, cringing at the ugly names he was calling her, flinching at what sounded like slaps, though none of us in my immediate area could see for sure that there was any physical contact.

Still, I could not stop the words from pouring out of my mouth when he got close enough to hear me. I told him that if I ever saw him hit his daughter, I would call the police. I reminded him that it was against the law to hit a child, and that his daughter didn’t deserve to be hit nor the verbal abuse.

Well, he was enraged, and I’m sure that everyone for blocks could hear him hollering at me to mind my own business. I countered that by telling him that his child’s safety WAS everyone’s business, and that he himself made it our business by bullying her in public in front of us all. He raged back, but I just kept reminding him that he was not allowed to hit his daughter and that if I ever saw him hit or abuse her in any way, I would have to report him.

I don’t know how long this confrontation lasted. It felt to me like time stood still. I wanted to run back into the house, but something just kept me rooted there, standing my ground against this huge, cursing, foul-mouthed man who kept getting closer and closer to where I was standing, though oddly enough, I felt safe, and didn’t feel threatened in any way. There were lots of other neighbours standing outside by this time, some of them actually recording the entire tirade, though I didn’t know that at the time.

When it was over and he went into his house, I crumpled, in fear and shock, in disbelief that I had actually stood up to him, but also in shame that I had allowed myself to react in anger instead of being the calm voice of solidarity I had wanted to be for his daughter (who was defending her father by repeating over and over, saying “but he’s my Dad”, as if that made it okay for him to be treating her like this – which speaks volumes in itself, doesn’t it, sadly.)

Several other women gathered around me, hugging me, expressing their fears for their own safety, which opened my eyes to why they had had to stay silent…they all had their own children to protect and had apparently been sufficiently terrorized and threatened in the past that they could not risk speaking out.

I came back into my house, my blood pressure soaring to heights it’s never been before. We were scared for my health for awhile, but I remembered the blog I did recently on the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, and didn’t really have enough of them to feel like we had to call the paramedics. It took about 2 hours to get the BP back to an acceptable level. I’m still a bit shaky, but okay.

In the light of dawn, the neighbourhood is conspicuously quiet on this beautiful holiday Monday morning. There are no children playing outside which is unusual for a weekend morning. I don’t honestly know how I feel. I wish I had been able to speak more calmly. I wish I had perhaps chosen other not-so-confrontational words of my own. I wish I knew if I did the right thing. I wish I knew if I’m doing the right thing even blogging about it!

And yet, despite all the second-guessing, I do believe, with heartfelt certainty, that I could no longer stay silent about one little girl who matters.

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Copyright © Sharon C. Matthies, Meanderings (blog), 2012. All rights reserved.

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About Sharon

I love to write. I love to write myself into being right here right now. Writing releases something in me that needs wings, writing opens doors and windows that I often don't even realize are possible, writing helps me breathe out the dusty old, and to breathe in the new and possible. My hope is that maybe writing here in this blog will bring new light into these dusty old hallways and help me to clear out the thinking processes and mindsets that just don't work for me anymore. I seek to breathe new light and life into the nooks and crannies of a soul that has been feeling somewhat lost and frayed because of the last few patches of road I've had to travel.
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8 Responses to Standing Up To A Bully

  1. Dee says:

    I’m proud of you…I understand being frightened because these days we never know what a bully will do…but, this child cannot defend herself and I’m glad you said something. I would take this a bit further…call child protective services…call the police, or better yet visit the station and talk to someone in person.
    A bully wants us to be afraid…that’s his weapon of control…and when he’s allowed to do this with you, then he wins. If you can document his outbursts on video/audio that gives the authorities ammunition. Someone needs to be this child’s voice because the bully is counting on people being afraid of him to continue doing this. If this village of neighbor’s come together to rescue this child’s plight it will be worth being afraid for a time. It will end, hopefully, this little girls hopelessness for the rest of her life if she can get away from the man who is doing these horrible things to her.
    Please, keep me posted on how this goes.

    Like

  2. Good for you for standing up for that child! And yes, it is scary. But as the MLK quote says, silence is complicity. I wish more people would stand up to bullies as you did.

    Like

  3. Jen says:

    I’m SO proud of you Auntie Sharon!

    Like

  4. Really enjoyed reading this! Bullies have no right to do what they do, they squash people’s dreams, they make the lives of good people hell. Very much a blog I will be following.

    I wrote a post on hate earlier today http://grinddaily247.wordpress.com/2012/09/04/hate/

    Based on a throw away comment from somebody today and how people hate/bully for various reasons but none of them the fault of the person being bullied.

    Rob @grinddaily247

    Like

    • Sharon says:

      Hi Grinddaily! Thanks so much for reading my blog, and for your comments. I agree that the bully’s actions are all about the bully, not the person being bullied. Sometimes it comes more out of fear than hate, sometimes the person bullying has been bullied in the past. There’s a part of me that wants to know the bully’s background and history, because everyone has a story that tells the “why” of who they are now.

      Like

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