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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

When the chain of bullying continues ...

Deutsche Version dieses Blogs hier.
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During my research for my video "It is okay if you're gay ... Stop bullying now", I collected news and mentions of cases of gay teens losing their lives, and I set the range to the years 2008, 2009 and 2010. And going through this time, I remembered vividly how much certain news I had stumbled upon during those days had shaken me ... as they reported about things that should never happen to anyone - but still, they do, and have dreadful results.

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The death of 15 year old openly gay Lawrence "Larry" King came to my attention back in 2008, as I am a fan of Ellen de Generes. She had made an announcement on her show, stating that "when the message out there is so horrible, that to be gay you can get killed for, we need to change that message."

Larry had been shot by a fellow 8th grader named Brandon, because Larry had asked Brandon to be his Valentine.

This case hit the media hard, and was reported upon nationwide and even beyond the US. The video of Ellen's announcement got loads of views and came to my attention on YouTube, by the back then still active site function "Related Videos".

I shared the video with quite a few people, and the reaction was always the same: Shock and dismay, and genuine sadness about what had happened there - that a young life had been lost, and for the tragedy that had hit Larry's family. And there was also compassion for the boy who had killed Larry, and for his family, because their lives would never be the same, too.

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So, in 2008, it was one story that came to my attention, and that had taken me aback. Because this is not something you hear about every day. Still, it was a singular event I heard about, and as I did not research for similar news back then, it was the only story of that kind that came to my attention. By Ellen's statement, a wave of compassion and awareness had been triggered, and it was to be hoped that things might be influenced a little bit to the better.

They might have been so - influenced to the better, I mean. But change does not come from statements alone, as intense, heartfelt and true they may be ... Change comes from what people who hear them take from such stirring messages, and what they decide to change in their lives, and how they react to matters, in order to really make things become different.

In 2009, though, and again without searching, I came across not one, but two cases of kids losing their lives due to them being harassed for their sexual orientation - or what others chose to see in them, and call them, and did not approve of. This time, the nature of the violence inflicted was a different one, although the result in the end was the same.

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11 year old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover killed himself, after being bullied for months, accused of being gay and picked on for that every day at school.

Carl took the abuse as long as he could; he told his Mom about it finally, and she went to the school officials immediately. The principal asked Carl to reveal the names of those kids who taunted him - but as being a "snitch" or a "tattle tail" obviously is an even worse stigma still than being accused of being gay, Carl did not want to report the bullies at first; instead he tried to somehow cope with what was thrown at him every day. He was afraid that any reprimand from the principals office would not stop the bullies in what they were doing to him, but they then would come even harder on him, for Carl having reported them.

But in the end, he simply could not take it any more ... and so, he hanged himself upstairs, while his mother was cooking dinner; when she came to call him for the meal, she would find him dead.

The news about Carl's tragic death came to me by accident, when I was checking an article on an online news website for something else. It was not the leading headline, but it caught my eye anyhow. And when I saw the "Share with Facebook" button embedded with this message, I decided that this was what I needed to do.

By posting this news there, I actually started to use my Facebook on a regular basis ... until then, I had hardly been there, as I had established it only on request of a friend of mine, Portuguese-Scottish writer Ricardo Pinto, who needed a first few friends to add him there, to get his own Facebook started a year before.

Since that day, my Facebook has become fairly active.

And only later, I found out that Ellen had responded to the death of Carl, by inviting his Mom Sirdeaner L. Walker to the show, and had been talking with her about what had happened and also what Mrs Walker's way of dealing with the loss of her son was: To go out and try to help other bullying victims, as well as working and campaigning to help establish real, systemic, effective responses to the endemic problem of bullying and harassment - in her own words:


"If anything can come of this, it's that another child doesn't have to suffer like this and there can be some justice for some other child. I don't want any other parent to go through this."

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A second suicide of an 11 year old kid made the news in 2009, too: Jaheem Herrera was bullied at school for being gay; kids made fun of his accent, his looks, and him liking dance and the arts, which made him "different" in their eyes.

And to sum all of that up, the label "gay" was good enough for those kids to cover that, and to make Jaheem something that, a little bit longer than a year before, Ellen had stated she was not and Larry King was not ...

In the eyes of those bullies, Jaheem had indeed become a second class citizen, on who to pick and who to taunt was "okay" - and obviously no one of the other kids thought it necessary to stand up against this, and to help Jaheem.

If at all, the school reacted to the complaints of Jaheem's mother with the usual reprimands to the bully - but an hour or two of detention has never changed anyone for the better, and made him stop doing what brought him into this temporary predicament. The bullying continued, and finally, Jaheem, just as Carl, could not take it any more.

It was the second anti-gay induced suicide of an 11 year old kid I heard about in 2009. In retrospect, I remember being stunned and saddened by what had happened, and the fact that this was the second case of a similar nature made things even heavier ...

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But only when, in early fall 2010, a series of not less than four suicides within only weeks, of three gay teens and one 18 year old gay young man brought Ellen to make a new statement on her show ...



... I suddenly saw a line that was there - but it was not the sheer connection of all those cases by having similar circumstances.

First of all: What I had read and heard about, and quoted here, is only a tiny fraction of the terrible damage bullying causes every day, in schools all around the world. And bullying does not only afflict gay kids and teens. Basically everyone can become a victim.

But still - if I am taking those above mentioned cases as empiric examples, two things show up for me:

For one, it was the fact that the numbers of those cases that came to my eye, even without me searching, had doubled from year to year ... 1 - 2 - 4 ... And had a case of manslaughter been the beginning of this row of events, the cause for gay kids to die then turned to those kids ending their own lives.

And this latter tragic turn, in my view, is co-caused by the fact that the intensity and brutality of bullying rises steadily. Bullies have less and less inhibitions to torture victims in more and more brutal ways. Apart from physical and mental harassment, cyberbullying in various forms adds to the picture. The pressure on victims rises, gets more and more intense and refined - and hearts and souls break.

The second reason I realized was there, is the fact that victims have to face more and more brutal abuse, but still stand alone in their distress and daily struggles.

Although everybody knows such things happen ... although everybody knows of cases at his own school ... although everybody can imagine how terrible it must be, to be trapped in that situation ... and although so many are genuinely moved and shaken by emotional and intense appeals like Ellen made them three years in a row ...

... there are still all of those out there who turn the blind eye, who do not come to help when they see others being treated in unfair and brutal ways. So many say that it is terrible what's going on, but obviously so many out there still don't realize that change does not come by itself!

Change comes ...
when victims are no longer left alone.

Change comes ...
when the bully's strategy of separating his victim by a reign of terror from every possible source of help and support (friends, teachers, parents) does not work any more.

Change comes ...
when the victim does not have to seek for help themselves (and do not dare to, because the bully's scheme works!), but have allies on their side who are simply there because they are needed, because things are going on that are not right, and that no one has the right to do to another person.

Change comes ...
when the silent majority finally makes that leap of faith, and stands up for others - not by fighting back, but

- by simply being there
- by not looking away
- by being a witness (and not only a bystander)
- by being in the way
- by saying No
- by getting more help if necessary ...
from friends, teachers, the principal, parents, the police, or whoever else is needed.

No one has to become a warrior here. Super heroes are not needed ... and, let's face it: Most of us won't look good in these flashy costumes!

But: There are rules, regulations and laws against basically all of the things that bullies do. Why are we afraid to call them in?

Victims are alone ...
Bullies are many ...
But the number of all the others is legion!

If all of us finally get to realizing this, change will come. If all of us start acting on what we all know is right, change will come.

And then, there will be no more cases like the one of Jaheem's sister, who not only lost her beloved brother, because he cold not stand living any more, but one year later still also got bullied herself on Jaheem's death.

When all of us start doing those simple things that are necessary, the chain of bullying can be broken. But: All of us are needed. It is a only a small leap of faith for every single one of us, if we all are in on this.




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9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Michael, your blog is a real eye-opener. It is indeed heart-rending that such young children have to resort to the ultimate step of taking their own lives, just because of the cruelty and thoughtlessness of other children. Thank you for this article which I hope will make parents and teachers sit up and take notice and try to prevent such things from happening again.

Truedantalion said...

Prochy,

thank your for your comment. I indeed hope that a few people will read this. So I'd be happy if you share my blog with who you think might be interested.

donsden93 said...

Michael,it's distressing that so much of this is happening.I see it @my school&stop it when I can.Then the bullies try 2 turn it on me but it doesn't work when u stand up 2 them. Parents have 2 be more involved but who knows what's being said @home? this has got 2 stop or at least exposed more& I'm glad ur giving it more scrutiny.hard 2 believe that @ this day&age it seems 2 be getting worse! we got 2 make it better.Bullies try 2 say others r diffrent but we all bleed the same color&have hearts that beat inside us that shouldn't be broken by stupid acts of cruelty. tnx 4 bringing attention 2 this.-DONNIE

Truedantalion said...

Donnie,
thanks so much for reading, and for your comment! What you do is great, to intervene when you see that others are being abused and bullied. This is all that needs to be done, and we all can (and need to!) do this.

Raising awareness is one thing that is needed, yes, and I try to do what I can on that. Only during the last two days, something new and outrageous has happened ... I just made a new blog on this, including fresh video re-uploads, embeded in a playlist.

But from this awareness, action must result: Coming from parents, teachers, friends, and even from someone who possibly neither knows the victim nor the bully, but cares anyhow - like you do.

This is how it works.

And yes, "we all bleed the same" - and every single one of us is "different" ... which, in return, makes us all alike :-)!

Stevie M. Talley said...

I saw the video on youtube that you posted earlier tonight, and i feel it appopriate the post exactly what i posted on there.

As a bisexual teenager of 16 years, it was really difficult to come to terms with not only myself, but also being faced with the fear of" what will people think if they knew im bisexual?" When i heard of the it gets better project, it gave me hope, some new meaning. Im not just some so called faggot that needs to be put down, im a human being who has a lot of potential, and a bright future. I cry for those who were killed, or committed suicide, and i pray for those struggling.it really does get better, i promise you on that. I know there are those out there who think that it won't, i was the same way. But You have people who will stand beside you, through the storm, every step of the way.

Whether you believe it or not, there people out there who care. It does get better... just believe.

Truedantalion said...

Stevie,

thank you for also reading my blog, after watching my video "It is okay if you are gay - Stop Bullying Now!".

It is good to know that people your age stand up and speak out, so what you have to say can be heard by your peers.

Things need to change - and as I said in the blog, it needs people who do something to to make this change happen.

Thank you for being one of those people!

~Michael

Dominic Domy said...

hei,My name is Ethan & i'm 16... I am a Christian-catholic and I support gay's in every way! I love your blog & everything on it:) I have my own radio show & i'm trying to do the show about gay&lesbian people. I'm not gay but I want to do something to try to stop it or just change it... I've got a lots of e-mails to do that show - to talk about it... And I would like to (if u agree) use what you wrote here on this blog :) I will do this live -All around the World- show next Friday... So I just want to read something from this blog if you agree... Thank you! :)

Michael Eckstorm said...

Hello, Dominic!

Thanks a lot for your feedback and your kind words.

If my blog entries can be of help in your upcoming radio show, I gladly agree to you reading from whichever entry you feel appropriate.

I will be at the Film-Messe in Cologne for three days next week, but back on Friday indeed, so if you'd send me the link to whereever I can listen to your show via live online stream, I will try to catch up with you.

If there is anything else I can contribute, please let me know. You can also reach me via e-mail:

truedantalion@gmail.com

Best wishes from Germany,

~Michael

Ethan Dominic said...

Thank you so much! I'll send you a link on e-mail next Friday. i would try to do the best in 30mins of my Live show... Again, - thank you for help&support! :))