In this final article on bullying, I explore how advocacy can thwart bullying and explain how a business is doing just that.
I have witnessed bullying take its toll on the psyche of our youth. The juveniles I have counseled would tell me how “low” they felt when being bullied. Yet I didn’t realize there are long-term health consequences associated with bullying, until I learned these facts:
Though the media have covered childhood peer bullying extensively, adult-on-youth bullying is equally harmful and may be underreported. Youth may heed the code of silence if the adult bully is in an authoritarian position and has the power to retaliate. Adults who care about youth have a responsibility to stop the abuse. Michigan State University has studied this problem and recommends these steps:
Sometimes the strongest advocates are people who have been bullied themselves, like Shannon Rapose, who works in Lake Isabella at The Pizza Factory owned by her family.
Rapose was bullied in her youth by a group of classmates who incessantly taunted her and threw green, spiky tree pods in her hair. Rapose reported the incidents to her mother, who advocated on her daughter’s behalf and worked with school officials to stop the bullying.
Paying this advocacy forward, Rapose channeled this experience into something positive, and subsequently established the Pizza Factory as a safe/no-bully zone — a place that welcomes all regardless of cultural affiliation, age, race or sexual orientation. Rapose recently painted a rainbow, no-bully sign on the window, yet it was defaced within one week.
“I was surprised the sign lasted that long,” Rapose said. “There are always risks involved when you are promoting tolerance.”
Despite these risks, Rapose continues to be an advocate. For instance, a group of men recently visited the restaurant, and a young waiter asked the group if they needed anything else from the kitchen. One of the men looked at the waiter’s rainbow wristband and snarled back, “no we don’t need anything from you [expletive].”
The employee reported the incident a day later and Rapose responded by ordering rainbow bracelets for any employee who wanted to show their solidarity with the waiter. This action effectively showed the employee that harassment is not ok, and people will take a stand to prevent it. I wonder how such nurturing could change the lives of young people who are bullied. Would youth be less apt to develop mental health symptoms because they learned that the world is not all dark? Would it change their lives if they felt compassion during that moment of feeling low?
Taking a stand on bullying is not always a Piz-za cake. Yet it may prevent youth from suffering long-term mental health problems associated with bullying. What is your experience in standing up for youth? What are there barriers that make it difficult to take a stand? Share your comments below.
Note: This is the full article of a condensed version that was first published in the Kern River Courier.