Why One Victim Believes Bullying Starts at Home

Posted by on September 28, 2010

An adult male caller had frustration, and later anger, in his voice.  He described on my voicemail how he was “bullied” from grades 3 through 10.  He went on to note he had been beaten repeatedly by this bully until 10th grade, at which time he (the caller/victim) left home.

A Caller’s Personal Story

The bully the caller described was reportedly his father.  The male stated his father, a police officer, beat him and his mother.  He said he wanted to kill his father with his father’s gun, but he didn’t do it because the “bully” was still his father.

The caller went on to say he never got help because when he called the police, they didn’t do anything because his father was one of them.

The caller’s reason for calling me:  He is upset that my recent letter to the editor to Cleveland’s Plain Dealer newspaper about bullying did not address his belief that bullying starts at home, not at school.

Is the story true? I have no way of knowing.  I have no reason to believe it is not true, though.

And it is my typical policy not to write or respond when people do not identify themselves.  I’m open to criticism and I encourage debate.  It makes me wiser, the blog stronger, and all of us better if we have thoughtful dialogue, discussion, and debate.  But I think it’s only proper for the participants to identify themselves, their positions (if they’re affiliated with an organization or advocacy group, in particular), and/or some relevant identifier.

Bullying at Home

But this caller’s point was worth an exception to my policy.  His story was convincing and his points had validity:  There are many cases where bullying does start at home.  Even if this particular call had been a complete hoax, we have not heard a lot of conversation from this perspective.

How we treat our children, how we allow them to treat each other, and how we allow them to treat their parents and other adults is very relevant to the discussion on bullying.  Behavior is learned.  And bullied children often grow up to be adult bullies.

I am pleased to hear the caller say he did not raise his children in this manner.  I am concerned, however, with the emotion and anger in the caller’s voice.  It is clear that his concern that no one is talking about bullying at home is a sore spot for him and, his tone and increasing anger in his voice communicated to me a lot of pent up anger and the need to resolve some issues.

Reinforced Points on Mental Health and the School’s Role with Bullying

The caller’s story also reinforced a number of other points I have made in discussions on bullying including:

  1. What many describe as “bullying” may constitute bullying on one level, but in the bigger picture the behaviors may also constitute a crime.  In the caller’s case, the “bullying” today would be called the crime of “domestic violence.”  It is possible, from the details shared by the caller, that “domestic violence” was not actually a crime on the books at the time it happened in the caller’s family. Certainly the crime of assault was on the books, though?  Of course, in the caller’s story, this crime was not going to be pursued because of who the alleged offender was professionally.
  2. Mental health issues must be the focus.  I am concerned about the mental health of the caller.  Has anyone given this person a chance to talk through his personal experiences?  The anger is clearly still there.  Maybe he has dealt with it and is simply passionate in conveying his point.  But maybe there is more.  And the call (actually two separate messages) reinforced to me how we have to deal with the broader mental health aspects associated with the many complex issues being broadly labeled today as “bullying.”
  3. Many of these issues of “bullying” and related mental health concerns go far beyond the schoolhouse door.  The caller himself indicated this is not an issue that starts at school, it starts at home.  While we know bullying certainly occurs at school, his comments and perspective reinforce that contrary to what some special interest groups, legislators, and others on the bullying bandwagon are advocating, schools do not solely “own” the bullying issue. In this caller’s case, the behaviors centered around the home. As the caller alluded to, this was a home issue.  What can we reasonably expect our schools to do?  Right now, our legislators and special interest groups appear to want schools to take the bulk, if not the entire, responsibility for solving bullying throughout our society.

A Final Thought on the Caller

I don’t know the answer to whether this caller has fully addressed his anger and pent up frustrations.   He didn’t leave a name and number, or send an email.  I hope he’s reading and realizes people do recognize the bullying goes on at home.  And I hope if he hasn’t already done so, he takes advantage of the opportunity to have conversations with the right professionals to navigate through the understandable anger and frustration he carries.  It sounds like this is the least he deserves.

Ken Trump

Visit School Security Blog at:  http://www.schoolsecurityblog.com

3 thoughts on “Why One Victim Believes Bullying Starts at Home

  1. S.S. says:

    I looked this topic up on purpose. Just to ease your curious mind, I’ve had ample support/help to deal with any MH issues related to problems in the past. I do want to share, that bullying is not a mental health issue-initially… no more than if you were walking down the street and a bandit assaulted you, took your possessions, and left you to die. When a person who becomes a victim wakes up in the morning with happy thoughts of the coming day, and gets off to a skipping start, and then finds one, or two, or even a group of nasty individuals ridiculing his/her clothes, punching at him/her, nagging, calling names that you would not label your garbage with, and that event leads to inner pain, confusion, a sense of violation, the person is an innocent victim of an assault. Does it matter if it is a relative-a father or mother-an Aunt-whether it is verbal, or physical-as long as it is so painful, and un-deserved? I think not. I watched children get beaten in a school bullying situation, and learned shortly afterwards the victim was expelled. When his parents went to the school the word was the bullies said he started it because he could not take a little joking. I knew the person, and what they were doing to him for months. I was also a bullied teen-so I also knew it could be my fate. And when I went to the school, to parents, to anyone, I was advised to stand up for myself, fight back, get a backbone, and maybe I was doing something to provoke this abuse. Funny.. the bullies usually attack the weak-so yes–I was the weaker one. I had acne-my fault too-I suppose. And my parents were too busy fighting with each other, cheating on each other, and just out to lunch. When they showed up at school they were looking so good-dressed to the 9’s, articulate… and there was no way anyone there could point out too many issues. I loved school, and dreamed of going to one that accepted me, so I could just learn, rather than shake in fear.
    I agree in some way about the “bullying starts at home” but it lives in institutions-church-sunday school-church school-public, catholic, other schools, and in the workplace. I heard about my Mom, and her siblings, and how they taunted each other, for years, always belittling, and airing their worst flaws-dirty secrets. Our family was normal on the outside-as are many families. We had our secrets-and that created this endless inner friction. There is always someone who they talk about in inept ways. I heard a parent the other day saying to another parent-“I think my daughter is going to end up with a black baby.” The child was there hearing this! There is nothing wrong with white-black. There is something wrong with a parent talking like that around a 7 year old who is listening! I think that is bullying. It is some sort of jealousy-or anger-supressed. Why would a loving parent say that around her child–and not feel horrible about her own conversation? It is abusive! I grew up hearing this junk! My Mom, her two sisters would taunt each other like this, even towards the children..as we learned to do it to each other. Our role models were being put into action. It took me years to learn that this sort of talk-and badgering is not about me. It is the person who is attacking that is ill minded. For years the bullied have been sent to Mental Health for help. If the bullies never make it there, which so often they don’t, and society defends them, with righteous excuses for their behavior-we’ll always have losses. It only gets noticed when it hits home. So it can come from home, be cultivated in groups, and will return there-at some point-if you aren’t so lucky.

  2. S.S. says:

    I just want to add that I respect all people. I grew up with the racial, and homophobic jokes, hated them, and felt inside even at the age of 7, that people were just people. Not sure why my approach to others was different. I am happy that I don’t have such a narrow view of life.

    1. Ken Trump says:

      Thanks for sharing your experiences! Ken

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