BLOOMFIELD, Iowa — Jodee Blanco knows what it’s like to be bullied. Her advice on how to confront the growing social problem is to be direct: Stand up and tell them to stop, then reach out to friends for support.
The best-selling New York Times author told middle-school students in a southeast Iowa community that bullying isn’t a temporary or isolated incident, but something that can follow a young boy or girl throughout his or her life.
Someone who’s bullied, she said, is likely to think “ 'What’s wrong with me?’ and carry that damage for the rest of their lives."
Blanco related a personal story about an experience in a science class that haunted her. She was expected to dissect a pig in class and explained her reluctance to her teacher, who informed her it was a class requirement. Quickly, her tormentors were laughing at her. One day a student tossed part of the pig carcass at her, some of which got in her mouth. “And what were the [other] kids doing? Laughing at me,” Blanco said.
Some were snickering because they were nervous, she felt. Others laughed because they feared if they didn’t, others would laugh at them.
No one came to her defense.
There are ways to stand up for someone without physically attacking a bully or even without having to say, hey, cut it out, though that’s a possibility, Blanco said. First, get the victim out of there. "I need help with my locker, Jodee, let’s go. Or just saying Jodee, let’s go, let’s get out of here."
The opposite of a bystander is a rescuer, she said.
But the second stage of a rescuing someone is even more important, she said.
“You must include them. Because the worst part of being bullied is the loneliness. That’s why victims do crazy things. Bullying isn’t just the mean things you do. It’s all the nice things you don’t do.”
For example, Blanco said, let them hang out with you and your friends. Ask them to sit with you at lunch. Invite them to a party.
“Include them. Because that’s the real rescue,” Blanco said.
Learning to cope with disappointment is a valuable lesson that will help one throughout life, she said.
“Your whole life, people are going to break your heart. Not once, not twice. Your whole life,” she said.
It's important to learn how to accept the inevitable and move on, she said.
“Your dreams are not impractical. Take risks. Work your butt off. Don’t be afraid,” she said. “In those moments you get rewarded, it will be sweeter.”
In the end, she said, draw upon your courage and learn to live and accept the results.
Details for this story were provided by the Ottumwa (Iowa) Courier.