When the Bully’s in Your House
LONG-TIME BOXING COACH, CHUCK HORTON, HAS SEEN THE ILL-EFFECTS OF BULLYING FIRSTHAND. HE HAS BEEN WORKING FOR YEARS TO EMPOWER TROUBLED CHILDREN AND TEENS WHO ARE THE VICTIMS OF BULLYING. HE COMBATS BULLYING BY TEACHING THE KIDS OF DULUTH THE ART OF BOXING. CHUCK BELIEVES THAT BOXING, WHICH HELPS IMPROVE CONFIDENCE AND INSTILL DISCIPLINE, CAN SERVE AS AN ANTIDOTE TO THE TOXIC EFFECTS OF BULLYING. THIS IS THE FIRST INSTALLMENT OF A 7-PART SERIES, AUTHORED BY ROXANNE WILMES, ABOUT THE PHENOMENON OF BULLYING, AND HOW IT NEGATIVELY EFFECTS BOTH ITS PERPETRATORS AND VICTIMS.
Most people have fond memories of their childhood. When they get together with their siblings they may recall fun family trips or instances of how they helped each other get through something. But what about those households that are not like that? What happens when there’s a bully in your house?
When I was growing up, most of the parents were a little more… firm, for lack of a kinder word. There may not have been the display of warm fuzzies we see nowadays from Disneyland Dads and Helicopter Moms. That’s just not how things went. But most people were friendly enough and helped each other when it was needed. It wasn’t like that for my friend.
My friend was the youngest in the family and had some older brothers. It was pretty normal when I was around, they picked on each other and sometimes the kids were played against each other. But her dad was a pretty bad alcoholic. When he was around things got stepped up to another level. He never showed anyone any affection, and seemed to like it when the kids picked at one another.
She had one brother who fought with their dad the most. For some reason, when her dad was really drunk, he liked to side with that brother against my friend. They tormented her mercilessly about everything from her weight and early development to their perception of her insufficient amount of friends. Their constant bullying drove her to attempt running away several times and even contemplate suicide. She battled an eating disorder and had serious relationship/trust issues for decades.
Where should she have turned? Her mother? No, she was dealing with her own abuse and clearly wasn’t strong enough to get out of the bad situation. One of her brothers? They were dealing with the same stuff, and maybe they would’ve just told her to toughen up. Should she have confided in someone at school, a counselor, perhaps? She didn’t want to risk them contacting her parents and escalating the already dreadful environment. In her mind, it was a battle only she could fight.
This is a common misconception among many youth who are bullied. They feel almost as if they need to protect their family members because, after all, they are family. Instead of telling someone, they withdraw further into themselves, internalizing the blame for what is happening, until they convince themselves that they truly are at fault.
In my friend’s case she was certain that every bad thing that happened to her was somehow related to her weight. She kept the details of her family life to herself; even when she was admitted to the hospital when she was eighteen, weighing less than 90 pounds. She suffered through Anorexia alone, sharing her disease with neither friends nor family.
Could this instance of bullying have been prevented? Maybe, no one could be certain. But healthy conversations sure could’ve helped. Conversations between the siblings and their mother could have brought out the issues, talking about what was and was not okay. The siblings could have stood together to face their father and perhaps encourage their mother to get help, too. I’m glad she’s still around, but I wish she could have trusted someone enough to talk about it when it was happening and not just years later.