Posted by: chartroose | April 7, 2009

Hiding In The Bushes

 

I’m reading The Kindly Ones, which is a huge tome of a novel (almost 1000 pages) about a sociopathic Nazi officer during WWII.  The novel is tedious and fascinating at the same time, so even though I want to put it down and read something easier, I can’t.  I might miss something important later on in the novel and not even know I’ve missed it, so I have to keep on keepin’ on.  I’ll critique it when I’m finally finished–if I ever am!

The Kindly Ones has a lot to say about Social Darwinism, (or what the the Nazi’s called National Socialism).  This so-called philosophy gave them a handy excuse for the extermination of the Jews and other “undesirables” during the course of the war.  I’ve done some homework on Social Darwinism, but I’ll post about that later, too.  

Actually, this entry may have a little something to do with Social Darwinism because it deals with discrimination and hate.  The subject is myself, and here’s the story:

I learned how to read way before I started kindergarten. I remember sounding out the words to Dr. Seuss books while I was being potty trained. I would sit on my cute little throne reciting the words to “Green Eggs and Ham” and “Put Me in the Zoo” at the top of my lungs. I wrote poems too. They weren’t any good, but they were mine, and I was proud of them.

When I started school, I was far ahead of the other kids, at least in an intellectual sense. I arrived all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, eager to socialize and learn fun things. Within a week, my enthusiasm morphed into despair. A group of kids in my classroom turned on me, and they even persuaded some of the older kids to pick on me on the playground. These weren’t all just little incidents either. I was kicked, I was pushed down, my belongings were destroyed and I was emotionally battered.

Being something of a coward, I chose flight instead of fight. I hid in the hedges surrounding the back fence during recess, and for some reason, nobody seemed to want to approach me there. I was safe, at least for awhile.

In my second grade year, the school put me in a third grade classroom because of my advanced reading and writing skills. It turned out to be my sickest time ever, and I missed so much school that I was held back the next year. Thus, much to my horror, I was back with the same cruel classmates I’d had to deal with during my early school days.

This was when things went from bad to worse. A group of boys in the class seemed to be gunning for me almost all the time. Their methods of torture were usually physical in nature and often revolved around pinching my nipples and pulling down my pants. One time, the class was preparing for the annual Thanksgiving play. I was going to be an Indian maiden and I was wearing a fringed shirt that had slits up the sides. Several of the boys decided it would be fun to run circles around me and pull up my shirt. They did this over and over again with me standing there like an idiot until our mousy, ineffectual teacher finally put a stop to it.

I made it through the year with most of my psyche intact until late spring. Then the unthinkable (at least in my young mind) happened. One afternoon, when school was dismissed, I went into the cloakroom to gather my things. I had been dawdling that day to avoid any after-school confrontations. When I entered the little room, four of my male tormentors were waiting for me. They descended upon me and pushed me to the floor. This was the one time I really fought, but it was useless. One of them got control of my flailing arms. Another proceeded to pin down my legs. A third one placed his hand over my mouth. The fourth boy pulled down my pants and proceeded to violate me with his fingers. He poked and prodded, sometimes painfully, while his friends laughed and made rude comments. I finally managed to bite the hand that was covering my mouth and the boy screamed and let me go. This must have ruined the party atmosphere, because they all released me and left the room. I remained a quivering mass on the floor for a little while longer before gathering myself and heading for home.

I couldn’t tell my parents, and it wasn’t until years later that I let them know what had occurred. It was too traumatic to mention. I cried buckets in secret and attended school as if nothing had happened. The four tormentors were back to their old tricks, but they never touched me in a sexual way again.

This event changed me dramatically. By the time I started fourth grade, I was a totally different person. I hated my classmates–all of them except for Anna, my friend. I no longer needed to belong to a social group, and I still don’t. I no longer cared about what anyone thought of my eccentricities, and I still don’t. I no longer cried, at least not much, and I still don’t.  (Sad books and movies DON’T count)!  I became, and still am, one tough, and often cold, cookie. I revel in being alone and never sweat the small stuff.

Even now, so many years later, there are times when I wonder why I was chosen to be the victim.  Was it because I was smart? Was it because I was confident or attractive?  Was it just some random thing, or had they planned this in advance?  Whatever it was, it definitely left a huge imprint on my emotional development.

I also wonder what happened to the boys. Do they ever think about what they did and feel remorse?  They probably don’t even remember the incident.  It seems strange to me that 9 and 10 year old boys would even be interested in sexual matters. Perhaps these boys were precocious. Perhaps they were involved in the whole pack mentality thing, like the Nazis. Maybe it was a power trip, or maybe a couple of them were sociopaths. I’ll never be able to figure it out.

There is one thing I’m certain of, though. If I ever see one of them again, I’ll chase him down and pummel him until I pass-out from exhaustion.
——————————————————————————
Facts about bullying:

  • Of second graders identified as bullies, 65 percent had felony convictions by age 24. (Johnson Institute, 1996)
    • Of boys identified as bullies in middle school, 60 percent had at least one conviction and 35-40 percent had three or more convictions by age 23.
      (Limber, National School Safety Center, 1996)

    • Bullies are more likely to abuse their wives, use harsh physical discipline to punish their children, and raise children to be bullies. (Hodges & Perry,
      National School Safety Center, 1996)

    • Thirty to forty percent of children are involved in bullying at some period in their lives, either as bullies or victims. (Johnson Institute, 1996)

    Unfortunately, the patterns for aggressive behavior are already well established by the age of eight.

    Facts about victims:

  • One in five students is at risk for victimization. (Batsche, 1995)
    • Victims frequently suffer depression and severe self-esteem problems well into adulthood. (Hodges & Perry, National School Safety Center, 1996)  
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    Responses

    1. I had tears streaming down my face as I read your post. I’m so sorry this happened to you. It’s so tragic that children have to face such horrendous things. I imagine you were singled out because you were different. I think being different is something to celebrate, but for some reason it intimidates many people. You are so brave to share this story with us.

    2. Thank you, Kathy. Believe it or not, I’m kind of glad it happened. I really did make me stronger. It also made me more independent. On the flip side, it turned me into a misanthropic loner, which is not such a good thing.

    3. Chartroose, I’m so sorry. One of my roommates in college had a similar experience, and I can’t even begin to imagine what to say other than I’m sorry.

      I’ve actually recently decided to become an elementary school teacher, and I promise you that I will remember your story when I’m working.

      I’m sending you positive thoughts, though, and a virtual hug if you want one.

    4. Thanks, Eva! Many of the women I’ve talked to have been molested by a classmate or classmates at one time or another. I wonder how huge the problem really is…

    5. I’m so so sorry you had to go through that, Chartroose 😦 Thank you for sharing your story with us. I was a victim of bullying in elementary and middle school, but nothing as serious as that happened to me. Kids can be absolutely horrible. I wish bullying was taken more seriously. And gah, I don’t know what else to say other than I’m sorry. Sending you a virtual hug too.

    6. I echo all the sentiments here, too and am feeling so shocked and saddened. I can say that the middle school here has a ton of how-to-deal-with-bullies posters, etc that it, too, is almost shocking. I guess I didn’t realize how pervasive an issue it is and I don’t know how effective it is – but at least it’s certainly not ignored. Unless putting up a poster is ‘good enough’. I don’t really know.
      Virtual hugs for everyone! 🙂

    7. Although I was never bullied to the extent that you were at school, I could relate so well to what you wrote and it had me emotionally cowering in my own inner bushes. After I started getting bullied in the first grade, I started putting on weight. I was a size 14 or 16 throughout high school. On my 16th birthday, Mrs. Vesbit asked me to stand up while the rest of the class sang “Feliz Cumpleanos.” I didn’t like to have attention drawn to me and on that day I had a very good reason. Jason Seamon, who sat directly behind me, made a loud creaking sound as I sat back in my seat. I was mortified beyond belief. Yeah, happy 16th birthday alright.

      That was the one time I did anything about it. I called Mrs. Vesbit at home and asked her to change my seat. She was a kind teacher. I don’t recall what she did or didn’t do in the classroom. To be honest, that noise could have gone unnoticed by anyone else who didn’t sit right around me. She put me by another football player, but Mike became my friend, which helped me in not creating stereotypes against groups of people.

      Unlike you, I didn’t grow stronger. I grew more timid and hid my extroverted nature behind my extra body weight and by making myself as invisible as possible (yes, I see the irony in that). I didn’t come out of that shell until my Senior year on a retreat. That retreat really helped me change myself and for that reason alone I cannot denounce organized religion.

      I am so glad that you had the strength and spirit to write this. I had to excuse myself to the bathroom in the middle of writing this comment because I just got so sad for the little girls we were. If only we could visit them and tell them that we are leading member of the Kool Kids Klub it would have been alright. 🙂 Now I know even more why I identify so much with you.

      Hugs and more headed your way.

    8. Well, I’m glad you’re a misanthropic loner who blogs, ‘cos I love your blog. I was bullied at school too – although I didn’t suffer to that extent – and I wonder if that contributed to my self-confidence now (as in, I stopped caring about the opinions of me held by people I did not personally value).

      I think children are frequently very cruel. Partly it’s a power thing: children don’t generally have power themselves, so probably abuse it and exploit it when they do get it. Plus they may not be developed mentally enough to have great empathy for the people they are bullying (I’ve actually just been thinking about this myself, as in England a 10 and 11 year old have each been charged with two counts of attempted murder in what looks like a particularly nasty case).

      I’m glad you’re here, and that you’re you, although I’d rather you’d had a nicer time getting here!

    9. My heart weeps for you. I got picked on a bit in school, but was pretty much so withdrawn the kids all pretty much ignored me. I’m so sorry you went through that. I’ve been a longtime loner, too. I’m glad you’re here, I love your blog!

    10. Well that just sucks. I’m very sorry that happened to you. But I still like you in all your misanthropic aloneness.

    11. I’m so very sorry you had to go through all that … I cannot even imagine. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I, too, often wonder if kids who were bullies remember what they’ve done and realize the scars they’ve left behind. It would be interesting to know if, as adults, if they have daughters ….

    12. Oh, Chartroose, that is so horrible. I have a friend who had a similar experience, only it was rape, not molestation, and she was older. The worst part, I thought, was that her parents didn’t believe her when she said her date brought a friend along to pin her down while he raped her. I will tell you the only thing that helped my friend (she died suddenly, last year). After years of torment and suicidal thoughts, she had only told 2 people in the world about her experience — her husband and me. When she tried to take her life, again, she was sent for group therapy. Talking to others who had been sexually abused really helped her more than anything. She was a bit of a loner, too. I can’t say if that would help you at all, but I just wanted to share that it helped my friend. I just wish she’d discovered that comfort sooner.

      My own experience with bullying took place in junior high and I don’t know what triggered it. I got horrid nickname attached to me and it lasted a year, probably because I was visibly upset whenever anyone called me by that name. The worst that happened, aside from humiliation, was getting chocolate pudding smeared all over my jacket. The next year, someone introduced me by my hideous nickname and I said, “My name is Nancy” and walked away. That was the end, although I was kind of a chicken-legged ugly thing who had to wait till 9th grade to get my braces on, so there was plenty of random teasing.

      Also, I’m with Softdrink. You’re funny and sharp and I love your posts. It took guts to share that story.

    13. what a horrifying story–i’m so sorry for the pain and violation that you endured. i wish that children could treat each other with kindness…but i’ve seen it so often–they behave as they are treated. many jump on the band wagon with the mob mentality.

      what makes this story worse is that you had to suffer all alone. i’m glad that you shared this, and the facts about bullying. it’s a horrible truth and parents need to speak to their children about it.

    14. Wow, that’s just awful. I must have been the most oblivious (and lucky) kid in the world to not have been bullied (or at least not noticed) when I was in school. I’m so sorry that happened to you — it took a lot of guts to share that and I’m glad you did.

    15. My stomach twisted up just reading that. I’m really sorry that for your younger self that had to endure that pain.

      I admire that you are able to see the positive things that came from it. And I admire you for sharing this story that puts all the minor violations I’ve endured into perspective.

    16. Oh Char, I wish I had the words to express how sorry I am that that happened to you. I too was bullied and picked on in school – all the way into high school actually, so I definitely know how you feel, although I was never abused in such a way. And like you, I’ve become somewhat of a misanthrope because of it. I remember deciding in the sixth grade that I would never care what anyone thought of me again and I haven’t looked back since.

      And I can totally see how you could be sorry that you have to live through such an experience, yet be happy because it made you who you are. Much of my school life sucked, but I wouldn’t change it because I love who I am now. I know you love who you are now too. And if you don’t, you should because you’re great. 😀

    17. Holy crap, Chartroose, that is terrible! Where in the world were the teachers while this was going on?? As everyone else has said, I’m so sorry that you had to endure that as a child, but am glad that you are able to appreciate who you are today, all trials and tribulations included.

    18. What an awful thing to have happen ever – but at so young an age that is just horrible. You are very courageous to be able to share it here. I have a girl in highschool, a girl in Jr. High and a little boy in pre-school right now. I cannot begin to imagine the things that they have to put up with during the day. The highschooler was picked on in jr. high to the point that her tormenter was banned from riding her bus and was moved to the other “house” in the grade. Now my current Jr. Higher was chosen for a Team Lead program that just started this year – to try to rid the school of bullying and just bad environment things in general. It is amazing to me how two girls, both raised in the same environment, can have drastically different outcomes. Blessings to you for sharing your story – may it touch the right hearts to help elicite change!

    19. Thank you to everyone. I thought I’d be embarassed by this post, but I’m really not. It was so long ago that it’s a distant memory.

      Jennifer–I’ve sent you an e-mail. I’m really sorry that you went through such hell. Thank God you had a good teacher, that time at least.

      Jack–I read the article. How horrible! Let me know about any follow-ups to the story.

      Nancy–It’s funny how if you act like you don’t really care, bullies tend to leave you alone. It’s hard to act like you don’t care when you do, though!

      nat–Thinking back on that experience, I’m assuming the boy who did the actual molestation was probably abused himself. The others were along for the ride. For some reason, I also feel that a couple of them experienced some remorse, but that might just be wishful thinking on my part.

      Joy–You and I are very similar, then. By sixth grade, I really didn’t care. We had moved, so I chose the least popular girl in my class to be my friend. She was horribly bullied, and while I was too much of a chicken to defend her, I’m hoping that my companionship helped her somewhat.

      Dreamybee–Teachers never know because kids are sneaky.

      Kristi–You’re right about that. Older daughter would fight like a wildcat, so the kids learned to leave her alone. Younger daughter was traumatized by bullying, because she was a sensitive, gentle child. When you hear about all the kids that have committed suicide because of bullying, you’d think that something more would be done to prevent this. Maybe nothing can be done, because kids will always find a way to torment and bully.

    20. I got bullied in 7th grade, especially on the way home, so I would excuse myself to the bathroom at ten till three so I could be well on the way home by the time the bell rang.

    21. I am constantly amazed at the cruelty of children. It makes me wonder what my own children are capable of? I wonder if those boys’ parents had any idea that, at that age, they could be involved in that kind of behaviour. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for you to have to deal with at the young of an age. I’m so sorry for you!

    22. oh, I was always bullied when I was in school too. But now, our oldest son is having some run ins with bullies and it makes me even madder and sadder all at the same time!

    23. Oh sweetie, I am so sorry this happened to you. I know no amount of words can make it go away or make you feel better, but please know that you do have people that are here for you.

      People and especially kids can be so mean and cruel, there is no rhyme or reason sometimes. Call it jealousy, hate, ignorance, no manners, being raised by bad wolves, it doesn’t matter, these types of people bring down society and its morals and values.

      I was teased as a kid, not necessarily bullied, but it still hurt something awful. Luckily I became friends with one of the school bullies, who was a girl, and no one messed with me again. We only became friends because I stood up to her.
      She wanted to beat me up, so I sucked it up, went up to her first, saying “You’re going kick my butt anyway, so lets just get this over with. I’ll do what I can to fight back.”
      She stood there, and said, “That took balls. I’m not going to fight you now.” I got off lucky though, because this chick would hospitalize people. Suicide mission.

      Unfortuantely it’s only when we are older do we become more comfortable with ourselves, and telling people to get bent.
      Hugs and good thoughts to you Chartroose 🙂

    24. A sad, sad story. I’m so sorry for all the pain you endured. Bullying takes many forms, as your readers have noted, so it’s amazing that teachers and others in a position of authority let it happen so oftenn. They’re too cowardly to stop the teasing and jabbing before it escalates. We seem to be finally waking up to the damage bullying can do, but it’s awful that so many people have been hurt already.

    25. Holy Crap!

      Your story was very moving. I wanted to weigh in and say that you aren’t alone in having been singled out for mysterious reasons by sadistic little beasts.

      My own childhood bullying fortunately didn’t include anything overtly sexual (that was left to a passing exhibitionist, among other adults), but it was traumatic and confusing nonetheless. On my first day of school, I entered the classroom crying, “I don’t have any friends!” Up until age 14, I was continually ridiculed and subject to being shoved, pinched, tripped, and having rocks thrown at me. People prank-called my house multiple times a day. A girl snuck up behind me and cut off a chunk of my hair. A boy tore the skirt off my Halloween costume. A group of about two dozen students took turns spitting into a soda can and almost succeeded in tricking me into drinking it – I only found out because another girl took a sip out of it first and “they” felt bad for her. My school bag was stolen and hidden for weeks. People ordered pizzas to be delivered to our apartment. I doubt I could even remember the full spectrum of incidents at this point. Most of the events, taken one by one, would seem pretty trivial to an adult, but en masse they made for one miserable, confused kid.

      It’s a great mystery why certain kids are singled out for bullying, but I think you’re dead on that being smart and interested in books has something to do with it. The only real consolation is that at least we made it to adulthood intact, while some of those kids undoubtedly have had trouble coping with the adult world.


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