Monday, November 09, 2009

Feeling Harassed

My daughter has been coming home from middle school with tales of being the target of unpleasant attention by a particular boy who boasts about hurting people, threatens to hurt her, makes comments about her physical appearance, and pushes her. Is he just a socially awkward kid who only needs a stern talking-to or is he a pre-teen creep heading towards a lifetime of harassment of women?

When my daughter first told us about the situation, she said that she wanted to try to deal with the problem herself first. She spent a lot of time thinking about the best way to calmly tell him what the major problems were and how things needed to change. She talked to him but the problems continued.

The next step was for my daughter to apprise the teacher of the problem. The class in which the problems were occurring involved some unsupervised time during which my daughter was sent off with her 'team' (the problem boy, who is actually 2 grades ahead of her, and another kid, who is frequently absent owing to illness) on various excursions around the school. There were many opportunities for the boy to display a wide array of unpleasant behavior out of range of the teacher. The teacher therefore had no idea what was going on.

So she told the teacher, but she didn't want to make a big deal out of it and she only mentioned vaguely that she was having a problem with one of her teammates, and the teacher said something vague in reply and took no action. In the next class, my daughter was again sent off alone with this boy on various excursions around the school. The problems recurred.

She wanted to try again to talk to the teacher, being more specific this time, but at this point my husband and I decided it was time for parental intervention. The types of things this boy was saying and doing had us worried, as was the relentless nature of his unpleasant behavior. We were unable to arrange a meeting with the relevant teacher, but we talked to two other teachers.

They were great. They leaped into (administrative) action and told her that they respected her for speaking up. They told her that the school has zero tolerance for this type of behavior, which they consider sexual harassment because some of the incidents were specifically related to gender. They told her she was brave and mature for how she had handled the situation.

I know that the school will also try to help the boy, rather than just punish him.

This situation has apparently been resolved, but the fact that it happened at all is sad.

Something that is interesting about this, though, is that my daughter's primary reaction has been anger. She has been to dozens of "bully awareness" workshops over the years, and apparently these focus on kids who blame themselves for being bullied and who feel anxious about complaining. These kids may become withdrawn and fearful. My daughter says that this didn't describe at all how she felt; she felt extremely angry and she didn't know how to deal with this anger.

One possibility is that her anger stemmed from her feeling powerless to stop the harassment on her own. She appreciates that the teachers supported her and took actions that solved the major problem, but she hated not being able to deal with the situation herself. She likes to talk and debate and argue about things, and it was frustrating for her that she could not convince this boy to treat her with respect.

One of the great things that the teachers did, once apprised of the problem, is to make her feel that she solved the problem by speaking out. I think that was very important and gave my daughter a good perspective on how a supportive community can try to solve problems like this.

44 comments:

Quill2006 said...

Thank you for posting this! I'm studying to be a school librarian, and as most of my memories of bullying incidents in school were of the staff ignoring the problem, it's good to hear that the teachers responded in a way that helped your daughter. If you have any thoughts about what they did that worked, I'd love to hear them.

Anonymous said...

This is yet another wonderful example of feminazism. Feminazism is the presumption that men are naturally predisposed to be evil and mean. At the school level, it boils down the idea that little boys have something inherently wrong with them. Just look at the strong language you use to describe a PRE-TEEN kid! He's less than 13 years old and he is already suspected of being headed "towards a lifetime of harassment of women".

If the kid threw a stone at a bird, would you say he is headed "towards a lifetime of being an illegal hunter"? If he threw a stone into a neighbour's pool, would you say he is headed towards a lifteime of vandalism? If you wanted your daughter to turn off the music and she didn't, would you say she was headed "towards a lifetime of disrespect for the law"?

If the little boy had gotten into a fight with another boy, would you have wondered if he is headed towards a lifetime of gang violence? What is so special then if he got aggressive at a girl? The boy just needs to be warned about his behaviour and a tough talk is enough....no need to let the imagination run wild about what he is going to become.

Note that I do understand you did not imply that this little boy was necessarily headed towards being a sexual predator, but I am discomfited that you would even use such language about a LITTLE KID! I wonder if the little boy can even spell "sexual harassment".

Yes, there are school bullies and teachers need to deal with them and discipline them, but suggesting that each time a little boy gets aggressive at any other person, he should be suspected of growing up to be a serious offender is crazy... and Nazi....that rhymes!

quasarpulse said...

"the fact that it happened at all is sad"

I understand where this feeling comes from, but I'm not sure I agree. I don't subscribe to the "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" philosophy, but on the other hand, I don't think it's possible to eradicate unpleasantness, social awkwardness and/or general adolescent acting-out from all of humanity. As long as this behaviour is experienced in a supportive context and handled well without leaving emotional scars, I don't necessarily think it's sad - it's just part of life amongst humans. In the long term, your daughter will be more likely to remember the support she received from you and the school than the harassment she endured from the bully.

And it can be a learning experience. It took me a long time to learn to handle jerks properly (I didn't have your daughter's assertiveness in middle school) but I did eventually learn from experience.

Anonymous said...

I was bullied a lot as a younger child, so I am mostly just speaking from my own experiences here.

I think it's great that she spoke up. It speaks to her own self-confidence, and her strong relationship with you and others. I wonder if a major part of the powerlessness is because it happened when authority wasn't around. The fact that authority had to solve the problem may in fact make her feel more powerless and angry. If she could have solved the problem, she might feel that she is safe even when no one is around.

I do believe it takes communities to solve these problems, but communities can help in a variety of ways. It sounds like your daughter approached you and teachers, not for action, but for counsel. In the end, not only was the bully taking away feelings of safety and security, she may feel like the adult-world has taken away her autonomy.

I am by no means saying that action was wrong-- I'm just pointing out how such actions can have negative consequences for victims in unanticipated ways.

Anonymous said...

your daughter sounds awesome - I know some adults who wouldn't deal with this as well as she did.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad it all got worked out for your daughter, that the school has a anti-bullying policy, and that the teachers were willing to intervene....

But seriously, this should never have happened. Putting kids together who are two grades apart in relatively unsupervised situations is a RECIPE FOR DISASTER. What the f^&* are they thinking?!!

Anonymous said...

They told her that the school has zero tolerance for this type of behavior, which they consider sexual harassment because some of the incidents were specifically related to gender.

I am sure you did not mean to imply otherwise, but hopefully the school has zero tolerance for this kind of behavior, whether or not it is related to gender. It is a certainty that this bully also harasses other boys, which is equally unacceptable even if it cannot be classified as sexual harassment. The school's policy should be such that the behavior itself is enough to trigger action from the school, without requiring that the student first prove a certain intent behind the behavior.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry this happened to your daughter and it's great how she handled it! Also, it's wonderful, although somewhat surprising that the school took action. We have a problem like this right now, but I have no idea how to solve it. As a kid, I also felt anger, like your daughter and usually I will "solve" the problem myself by giving a good beating to the "bad guy" (although sometimes I had war wounds myself ). I wasn't afraid to fight with anyone, no matter how much bigger, which was dangereous, but solved the problems usually. This doesn't work in these times and in this country, so I have no clue how to solve the bullying problem, especially since my son is not a fighter.

My son is younger, second grade, and has some issues with another boy, but he is, like they say in those workshop, anxious and fearful. The other one is threatening to use "magic" on my son and for example kill his parents and have my son sent to an orphanage. Or other things like this. I am not sure what to do, no amount of convincing my son that the boy is lying, he doesn't have magic powers, worked. Eventually, I gave him an object in his backpack and told him that that object will protect him against magic, because he started to refuse to take the bus to school.I guess that's not a good idea, since it's only alimenting the idea that that little bully has magic powers, but don't have anything better. Usually talking to the parents is useless and they are not in the same class, so talking to the school..I am not sure what can it do.

female Science Professor said...

Anon 1: The "little boy" is a teenager; my daughter is a pre-teen.

And I'm not sure what you find so complicated about this question: "Is he just a socially awkward kid who only needs a stern talking-to or is he a pre-teen creep heading towards a lifetime of harassment of women?"

You assume it's the former; I raise it as a question.

The school has zero tolerance for bullying.

This blog is more tolerant. Hence, you get to call me a feminazi and make bizarre analogies.

Amy said...

Anon 1: Way out of line there, buddy. And way to jump to conclusions. This kid has issues, that is for sure. I don't think it is unreasonable to assume, therefore, that these issues are going to follow him into adulthood. If he has a disrespect for women (or others in general) at this age, it's got to be coming from somewhere; perhaps he's seen it modeled at home. Is that such a stretch? At any rate, why should we assume that, just because he is a "little boy" (and he doesn't sound that "little" to me; I don't think you should underestimate what atrocities such children are capable of) he will grow out of such behaviors? He might, sure, but that doesn't solve the current issue, does it?

Tilting at windmills: Ur doing it right.

Who, me? said...

Anon @ 11/09/2009 02:46:00 AM: Wow. Just wow. Were you never 11? Or 13? Or 15? I was, and my peers and I were perfectly cognisant of sexual harassment. By the pre-teen years kids are plenty savvy enough to understand what they're saying and the impact their words will have on another. You're giving this "little kid" an awful lot of ill-deserved leniency. This is one reason why bullying is tolerated and perpetuated: the "kids will be kids" mentality. These may be young people, but they need to take responsibility for their actions.
@FSP: good for your daughter, good for you, and even gooder for the school administration. Sounds like she got excellent support.

hkukbilingualidiot said...

From my experiences as a teenager...well not too long ago, boys and girls picked on me quite a bit. In terms of ferociousness girls are more brutal than guys and they were often physically threatening. Boys on the other hand were strong but they were a little more protective of the, let's say, weaker girls. However, it didn't change the fact that boys were more scared of the girls than the guys.

To be fair, teenage boys at that stage are only just starting to become aware of the differences between the two sexes. I had a guy pick on me for a while back at high school and I really hated him. What he said was really sexists, encouraged mainly from the response he was getting from me. I later found out that he was basically seeking my attention but just didn't know how to do it nicely as he was generally ignored. It was the only way he knew. (There is also the change in hormones that can affect a teenager's behaviour)

What I've learnt was just to basically laugh it away or ignore him completely. He will either get bored or understand that it's bad and he'll stop doing it. It worked for me up until now...even during the sexual harrassment period that I had (though, teenage boys are better at understanding the importance of equality between the sexes).

So, to make sure that he doesn't do it again, once his punishments were over, if your daughter is brave enough she should say hi and be friends. You'll never know what a wonderful guy he may be underneath the fascade.

Mrs. Chemist said...

Your daughter must be very brave! I was a very small and terribly shy and awkward kid at that age. I encountered many similar situations and did not handle them nearly as well. You should be (as I'm sure you are) very proud of her, it takes many people (such as myself) years to learn how to stand up for ourselves.

Clemetine said...

I'm glad to hear that it has worked out alright and you had such good support from the school. Your daughter sounds very thoughtful, brave, and independent.

Alyssa said...

Kudos to your daughter, and to the strength of your relationship with her. I never would have been able to handle a situation like that as well as she did. I was more the type to come home, cry in my room, and head back into it the next day. I still have issues with confrontation, but I'm getting better.

@Anon#1 - I think that's a bit of an overreaction. In FSPs first paragraph she said this kid might be a "socially awkward kid who only needs a stern talking-to" - meaning she's not just assuming he's "heading towards a lifetime of harassment of women."

I agree with a previous commenter that said we can't just use the "boys will be boys" mantra, and hope he grows out of this behavior...especially since he's a teenager.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad your daughter is able to talk to you about these things and that the school was responsive. Similar things happened to me when I was small, including what someone else mentioned about lying and magical powers, combined with the fact that the boy was in karate class and apparently encountered a lot of inappropriate material at home, and since I didn't know how to stop things at the age of seven I became the victim of sexual abuse. This boy ended up coercing me into re-enacting things he'd read in his father's Playboy magazines (and yes, he was only a bit older).

Men are not naturally predisposed to be evil and mean, but childhood bullying can be very serious and can be sexual in nature. I wonder if this boy from my youth grew up to be an abusive partner, or a good man despite his upbringing. You have to ask these questions when a nine-year-old is forcing sex acts on a little girl, and it is in no way crazy or irrational.

Kate said...

Bravo to everyone all around. You, your daughter and her teachers all seem to have handled this really well. I sympathize with your daughter's angry and think her teachers are totally right in reminding her that she DID solve the problem, by going to the right people for help.

another junior FSP said...

Wow, just wow, on the anonymous poster.

FSP posts about a complex situation in which her daughter felt harassed and threatened at school, and the steps they took to try to solve the problem. She discusses the complexity of the situation in the context of the school and for her daughter.

And (as usual, within 5 comments), someone immediately posts about how unfair it is to the harasser to question the bully's motives in how he treats girls, and how only a feminazi could do such a thing????

Wow.

Anonymous said...

I hate to do it, but I do agree with some of Anon's (2:46am) post. This is an issue to which people (like me) are very sensitive (beyond other comparable problems). Amy clearly shows this -- she accuses Anon of jumping to conclusions and then does the exact same herself. And I am doing it too -- I am presenting a counter example as an argument when I normally deplore anecdotes.

I was a bully and I grew out of it. Yes, it did come from somewhere -- I skipped a couple of grades and so for awhile was really small for my age. GIRLS (yes, seriously) picked on me because of that and my funny accent. Eventually I had a crazy growth spurt and towered over my elders and, well, abused that imbalance.

Yes, it did come from somewhere but it would be a real stretch to suggest it might have come from home. The school I went to had very different policies from your daughter's and I was not nearly as brave or mature as she.

I also spent a summer vandalizing school buses and yet now I am, by all normal societal measures, a model citizen (husband, father, soccer coach, professor, mentor).

Children need to be taught respect and how to behave respectfully but after years as a parent and volunteer with 'disadvantaged' kids I really have no idea how to do that in general. Instead, I am sometimes amazed that we are civil to each other at all.

Anonymous said...

"If the kid threw a stone at a bird, would you say he is headed "towards a lifetime of being an illegal hunter"?"

Sadly, if a child had a history of cruelty to animals, it does mean he is in danger of expanding that behavior to the detriment of he and his community. One-off episodes are one thing and repeated anti-social behavior another.

He is a child and this behavior likely has root causes out of his control. getting him help now is critical for him as well as those around him.

Mark P

amy said...

Excellent post. I'm sorry your daughter had to go through this, but I'm really amazed at the mature way she handled it. I totally sympathize with her anger. I don't know if this could be part of the source of the anger, but I remember feeling similar anger as a kid when I was first faced with real, personal racism and sexism. My parents had always told me everyone's equal, I could be anything I wanted to be in life, etc., and all their friends were similarly progressive. It wasn't till I was a preteen that I was first exposed to a larger range of people, and heard the first nasty comments directed toward my ethnic background and gender (accompanied by physical shoving and kicking a couple of times). I remember a feeling of shock, and then pure rage. Not just at the perpetrators, but at the world. "How can these horrible attitudes still exist? This is the 1970's! We're supposed to be over this by now!" Also: "why didn't my parents warn me?" So, yeah, I felt a little angry at my parents, too, for sheltering me. Never, though, did I feel like I deserved any of it, and I do thank my parents for that.

thm said...

With dozens of "bully awareness" sessions over the years, the situation still required parental involvement. An optimist would say that the "awareness training" got your daughter to the point where she recognized the bullying behavior as bullying and as wrong, but it also feeds my suspicion that "X awareness" programs are ineffective to the point of being scams, for most values of X. They give cover to administrators who need to prove that they're "doing something" about a problem, they give employment to awareness trainers, but there's no accountability on effectiveness.

n. said...

As a social scientist specializing in the study of interpersonal violence, I think it's important to acknowledge that bullying behavior is demonstrated by both boys and girls. As it pertains to future partner violence, recent research has found that the norms and attitudes endorsed by a teen and their peer group is more indicative of future aggressive behavior than family of origin aggression.

While FSP posted about one incident and response to aggression, I am curious what the responses of the readership might have been had the bully been another female. I am also curious about the responses of FSP's daughter and the resiliency factors in her life that helped her know that the bullying wasn't OK and that she had a right to seek help.

Anonymous said...

As the Anon @2:46 who generated some interest, I think I owe it to FSP and other readers to explain my comments.

1. My main point was that FSP used extremely strong language towards a young boy. I also pointed out through multiple analogies that such strong language would never have been invoked had the boy been guilty of something else, like throwing a stone into a pool, or even smuggling a bottle of beer.

2. And FSP replies:

"You assume it's the former; I raise it as a question."

"It was just a question" is such a weak cop out. What if your students asked you after class hours.. Professor... are you a terrorist, a drug smuggler, a serial murderer? I suppose FSP would excuse them for just asking "questions".

Even as I wrote my comment, I included the sentence "Note that I do understand you did not imply that this little boy was necessarily headed towards being a sexual predator" to make it clear that I did acknowledge her technical point that she had not made an assumption, just asked a "question".

3. My whole point is this: why would the idea of the child becoming a sexual predator jump into your mind the moment he bullies a girl? When you hear of a teenager smuggling in a bottle of beer, do you wonder if the teen is headed towards becoming a smuggler or a money launderer?

That is why I used the word "Feminazi". These are people for whom every male is potentially sexist, a predator and what not. Their assumption is that boys are predisposed to be sexist. That is why, the moment they see a boy doing something wrong that is related to gender, their first thought is that this kid might be a sexual predator of the future.

4. Now my suggestion: This kid (2 grades ahead of your preteen) is around 14. Expecting him to exhibit responsible, mature sexual behaviour is an excess. Chances are, he has never been with a girl (I hadn't at 14 ...but maybe he is not a science geek) He is only just beginning to discover an interest in women. Different people cope with early adolescence in different ways.

5. Finally, FSP says:

"This blog is more tolerant. Hence, you get to call me a feminazi and make bizarre analogies."

Sorry... both of us are anonymous. The word "feminazi" that I used for you has not damaged your reputation or publicly defamed you in any way. Saying "You insulted me" in this context is ridiculous because both "I" and "you" are ill defined. As such, the question of you being tolerant does not arise. This is an important point and I hope you appreciate it.

Emma Garst said...

Oh middle school. A time period I wish dearly to forget.
I find it interesting to compare bullying stories, though. I think for me most of the bullying came from other girls. I didn't run into real sexual harassment until high school.

Anonymous said...

"If the kid threw a stone at a bird, would you say he is headed "towards a lifetime of being an illegal hunter"?"

Studies have shown that children who are cruel to animals often DO grow up to be violent adults (both to animals as well as to people) if left unchecked. That's why, as an animal welfare advocate I devote a lot of my free time volunteering in educational outreach programs for humane societies, to educate children about animals and foster compassion and respect for all living things.

aceon said...

Well, anonymous 2:46, I think the problem with what you are saying is that FSP did not say or imply that the boy was on his way to being a sexual predator. She pointed out that he has been harassing a girl, and might continue to harass women in the future. In each of your analogies, you take a somewhat mild negative behavior and ask if we would think the boy capable of a much more serious and somewhat related offense. In this case, FSP has asked if he might not continue the exact same behavior if it goes unchecked. Will the boy who throws rocks at birds continue to throw rocks at birds? Probably, unless he has some reason to stop.

Of course we all did stupid crap when we were 14 and we don't expect 14 year old of either sex to behave perfectly, but they should get feedback and experience consequences when they behave badly, or well for that matter.

Finally, the idea that you can't insult someone in an anonymous exchange doesn't make any sense to me. I don't see why the rules of civility should be any different whether names are attached or not.

Comrade Physioprof said...

I am a bit concerned about the assumption that anger is by definition a "problem" for your daughter to "deal with". If some fucking douchebag misogynist-in-training is harrassing your daughter, it is healthy and appropriate that she be angry at the fucking douchebag misogynist-in-training. There is no reason for her not to embrance this anger, and use it as an emotional force for positive good, like ensuring that the fucking douchebag misogynist-in-training gets taken to task for his actions.

female Science Professor said...

I agree. It was nevertheless interesting because she was surprised about being angry, as it wasn't covered as a possible emotion in the bully awareness workshops she has attended over the years. I think she did a great job channeling her anger into appropriate action.

Anonymous said...

FSP, you said, "It was nevertheless interesting because she was surprised about being angry, as it wasn't covered as a possible emotion in the bully awareness workshops she has attended over the years"

what I find surprising is that anger as a possible reaction from the victim was NOT covered in the workshops. To me it seems to be expected.

I have been bullied as an adult, in the workplace, yes some of it was overt sexual harrassment. The bullies were grown and supposedly professional men. The bullying came in the form of verbal sexual harassment and attempts to sabotage me in my job. From the very start my predominant emotional reaction has always been anger, and as the harrassment continued on despite my attempts to diplomatically deal with it and go through proper channels but to no avail, my anger turned into rage. I am surprised that the bully-awareness programs your daughter had attended (I've personally never been to one or even knew they existed) didn't mention this as something to be expected in the victim. Why do they not think it usual for the victim to feel anger??? How do the bully-awareness-program-facilitators view the victims? I remember feeling so outraged and personally offended, like how dare you do this, just who do you think you are??

The fact that your daughter felt angry shows that she has a healthy self-esteem. She viewed his harassment not with fear and anxiety but as personal insult. I don't think her angry reaction is anything that is a problem to be worked on, at all!

Kevin said...

I went to school before educrats has formalized systems for dealing with bullying. I was certainly on the receiving end of more than my share of bullying, as the smallest, skinniest, youngest, and smartest in whatever group I was in. I was not socially very adept either. I was fortunate enough to have an older brother who was socially skilled and bigger who looked out for me.

There are anti-bullying programs in schools that work (and many that don't). "Bullying awareness" does not sound like much of a program, as the key to reducing bullying is to get teachers, principals, and students to all take it seriously, and to work out ways that bullying victims can get prompt and fair redress. Being "aware" is only about 10% of the solution.

If the school had a really effective program, then the daughter would have resolved the problem with the aid of the teacher on the first attempt, without needing the parents to step in. Still, it was not the worst possible response from the school, and it sounds like the situation has improved.

I did not understand anonymous@2:46 at all. There is plenty of evidence that bullies often continue to be bullies until someone stops them. There is nothing in FSP's original post that presumes "that men are naturally predisposed to be evil and mean."

lost academic said...

I have been nearly in your daughter's exact same position, at a similar age with not one, but two males who treated me similarly in worse. While it doesn't extrapolate to all similar situations, the situations with both males escalated past the point at which your daughter safely handled her situation and to be honest, would have continued with more sexual harassment and physical violence had circumstances not simply moved them away. Both were later expelled from the system after repeated physical attacks on women, including sexual ones.

I am sorry, but an older, larger, physically aggressive male isn't the assumption that men are predisposed to be evil. Terming a specific individual as such is calling a spade a spade.

FSP, I am very glad your daughter came to you and to her teachers and that all of you handled this appropriately and in a timely manner. I am especially relieved to know she has not been injured (I assume) and I hope she can defend herself if it comes to that.

Genomic Repairman said...

Congrats to the two teachers for helping out. You should be proud of your daughter for advocating for herself and feeling righteous. I saw something like this on my sister's facebook profile and pretty much called up home and asked whose ass I needed to kick. I solely credit my father for this response. The man has an on/off switch and when its on run, dear God, run.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

[Anger] wasn't covered as a possible emotion in the bully awareness workshops she has attended over the years.

Are you fucking kidding me? What kind of blithering dumbfucks designed these workshops?

The Bear Maiden said...

I'm glad that there were enough rational people to deal with Anon#1--who repeatedly refers to the aggressor as "a little boy".

Sexual harassment starts early these days, unfortunately. To blame it on "porn" or the internet is way too easy; I'm not exactly sure what all the contributing causes are but there are several. And I've seen inappropriate sexually-suggestive and bullying behaviour begin in grade school. It happened to my niece in middle-school.

I'm proud of your daughter, as she tried to resolve it on her own, and when she couldn't was brave enough to go to an adult. Her anger is natural, and shouldn't have been unexpected. But I did notice that when "sexual harrassment and bulying" was a seminar in my kid's elementary school last year (he was in 4th grade) you're right... anger wasn't mentioned. Strange. I know anger would have been ( has been) my first reaction....

Hope said...

Something that is interesting about this, though, is that my daughter's primary reaction has been anger. She has been to dozens of "bully awareness" workshops over the years, and apparently these focus on kids who blame themselves for being bullied and who feel anxious about complaining.

I’ve never been to a “bully awareness” workshop, having passed through this stage back when the predominant attitude was “kids will be kids.” I was also not the target of extensive bullying, but I did occasionally run into kids who picked on me for various reasons. (Is this a different animal?) My way of dealing with it was to: (1) try to talk to them (seldom); (2) ignore them (most often); (3) get physical (pushing, shoving – just once). I was always angry at my tormentors for mistreating me.

One thing that I didn’t do was go to teachers for help because, often the teacher’s pet, I thought that this would escalate things rather than resolve them. Besides, there was a certain sense of pride involved (whether misplaced or not) in being able to handle this stuff myself. Perhaps the bully workshops haven’t done that much to change the way that kids view these situations (as in, “I should be able to handle this on my own”). Perhaps they have been most effective in changing the way that school officials treat these cases – at least in some schools.

Anonymous said...

I believe that all of our daughters (and maybe many of our sons) will find themselves in the same position as FSP's daughter at some point - it is not an issue of whether they will, just of when they will. Hopefully it will be when they are old enough and have the self-confidence to carry themselves as FSP described. FSP, it sounds like your daughter knows how to deal with this the next time someone talks to her in this way. And thank you for providing me with a story with which I can broach the topic with my even younger daughter.

Anonymous said...

I was bullied all the way through middle school, and no-one took steps to stop it. I did not do the right thing, and did not talk to my parents or teachers. Knowing what I know now, I wish I had acted differently or that one of my teachers had recognized what was going on. Though the bully apologized at the very end of high school, the incidents left lots of scars. I really respect you for speaking up for your daughter and for putting an end to damaging behavior.

Bagelsan said...

So, to make sure that he doesn't do it again, once his punishments were over, if your daughter is brave enough she should say hi and be friends. You'll never know what a wonderful guy he may be underneath the fascade.

NO. Seriously, that's a terrible idea. No way she should be expected to sacrifice her safety/happiness to get to know a kid who's proven to be untrustworthy and a harasser. Sorry if that's not giving him a "fair break" or whatever but fuck him. He's clearly not a good person (maybe he will be someday, but not now!) and the daughter should ignore him unless he gives her more crap, in which case she should rain hell down on him (or, at least, rain school administrators down on him.)

And I would like to second the surprise that bullying workshops don't talk about anger as a response. If you're not angry... why would you ever stand up for yourself in the first place? If you think you deserve it you won't get angry, and you'll just put up with the abuse. It's only when you know you *don't* deserve to be mistreated and you *know* it's unfair that you get angry and that's when you can push back.

Righteous rage is very useful, and it can keep your daughter safe. I had a creepy landlord a while ago who kept giving me crap (insulting me, somewhat subtly, and coming into my room and refusing to leave, going into my room while I was out of the house and turning on/off lights...telling me I was weird, and telling me no one in the house liked me, all that kind of stuff) and the only reason I didn't just keep my head down and put up with it is that I got REALLY fucking pissed off! Who was he to talk to me that way? So I told him to stay the hell out of my room or I'd call the cops, and I moved out within 2 weeks.

And I had gotten fucking pissed off and moved out before I even realized that everything he was doing was an absolutely *classic* setup for abuse. And also before he was able to do anything further to me.

So you tell your daughter to keep being angry when she has to be! It'll keep her safe (it's why I'm away from my creepy landlord now, instead of tiptoeing around trying to keep my door locked all the time) and it's a good expression of her love for herself -- if she'd get angry about that guy treating a loved one that way, shouldn't she get angry about him treating *her* that way? It is *correct* to get angry at bad things and I hope she never stops.

Sarah said...

Three cheers for your daughter!

I remember that age and my own anger at similar incidents. She certainly handled it better than I!

Kevin said...

"Perhaps the bully workshops haven’t done that much to change the way that kids view these situations (as in, “I should be able to handle this on my own”). Perhaps they have been most effective in changing the way that school officials treat these cases – at least in some schools."

Some of the most effective bullying prevention programs involve giving the kids tools to resolve the bullying issues as a community of kids, without needing always to invoke adult help. They also include all the adults in the school community, so that the kids do know where to go for help when it is not possible to handle the situation with the tools they've been taught. (The methods I've heard described work best in playground situations, where there are many witnesses---not so well for one-on-one with no witnesses.)

Googling antibulling programs will get a lot of information about what schools are currently being told are the most effective methods for reducing bullying.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

o, to make sure that he doesn't do it again, once his punishments were over, if your daughter is brave enough she should say hi and be friends. You'll never know what a wonderful guy he may be underneath the fascade.

Fuck that garbage! It is not FSP's daughter's job to reward this fucking douchebag misogynist-in-training for being successfully coerced into adopting a minimal level of civility.

I am sure there are plenty of nice kids in her school who do not hide what wonderful people they are behind a facade of douchebag misogyny. Those are the ones she should befriend.

Frankly, this advice smells grossly like blaming the victim: "If only you were nicer, you wouldn't have been abused/harrassed/etc." FUCK THAT!

Doctor Pion said...

What I think we should all take from this incident is to be aware of what might be behind a seemingly innocuous statement. If the teacher had delved a bit deeper into the nature of the problem based on the first comment, it might have been resolved a lot earlier.

I had to deal with a problem in one of my college classes that had simmered below the surface for some time until the victim brought it to my attention. It was then that I learned how women often blame themselves for unwanted attention, and hesitate to bring it to someone who could deal effectively with it if the problem was known.

I hope your daughter learned that the teacher and others were always on her side, and that the teacher also learned to listen more closely to what is not being said. I know I did.

Anonymous said...

this guy "comrade physio prof" seems to have some serious anger management issues himself (herself? is it sexist of me to presume that such puerility can only manifest itself in men?)