• author
    • Gary Huerta

    • October 18, 2013 in Columnists

    This just in… self esteem is the best weapon

    In local news: Polk County, Florida Sheriff Grady Judd went to extraordinary measures this week to protect his community from two teenage females, whose taunting and bullying allegedly drove another teenager, Rebecca Ann Sedwick, to commit suicide.

    Rather than protect their identities, Judd publicly displayed images and names of the two minors and moved swiftly to arrest both girls after one of them allegedly used Facebook to post a message that read, “Yes ik (I know) I bullied Rebecca nd she killed her self but IDGAF.” For those unfamiliar with texting acronyms, IDGAF stands for: I Don’t Give A Fuck.

    In Judd’s opinion, the remarkably careless and cruel text above, combined with the denial of the girl’s parents facilitated the need to quickly arrest the girls to ensure they could be of no further harm to the community.

    In another unique move, Judd contacted the District Attorney to inquire as to whether charges could be filed against the parents of the girls as aiding and abetting the delinquency of a minor.

    The attempt to hold parents accountable is something I vigorously approve of and likewise something I suggested in a July of 2012 column I wrote on the topic of bullying.

    In that column, I wrote: Bullies may be acting out a behavior they learned elsewhere – either at home or in a place where an imbalance of power, or state of bullying, is forced upon them by an authority figure – like a parent, guardian or other group where their identity is defined.

    There’s an old saying: People who hurt people are hurt people. Think about it. When is the last time you heard of a happy person causing someone else pain? I never have. I think bullies are hurting inside and one way to get relief from their pain or find normalcy in that dysfunctional state of mind is by projecting that hurt onto others.

    So how do we remedy this problem, which seems to be growing steadily in schools and even more in cyberspace, where it can become a relentless, 24 hour a day assault on a victim? I think Sheriff Judd is on the right path. Make sure parents know they are responsible for the actions of their minor children and can be prosecuted. You want to raise a bully and condone their behavior by pretending you don’t see it? You get to address it in a court of law.

    To address bullying as an epidemic — and I believe we have one on our hands — perhaps we ought to start digging a little deeper into the value system instilled in the bully. I believe we’d see more effective results if we carefully examined why the bully feels the need to hurt someone else. Where are they learning this behavior? Are they being bullied by relatives? Are the parents creating an environment where this kind of treatment towards others is acceptable? Or are they learning from the community leaders they follow that it’s OK to show no tolerance or respect for people whose beliefs and lifestyles are different?

    In my home town of Glendale, California, Reverend Bryan Griem of the Montrose Community Church leads his congregation by telling them atheists are not deserving of respect, homosexuality is a sin worthy of eternal damnation and anyone who does not follow their religious beliefs is a lower form of life. This is a person who has gone on record to say things like, “Homosexuality is the sin flavor of our time,” and “The Christian floats gently into the hands of the creator and the angry atheists and indifferent agnostics keeps falling indefinitely.” Every day this kind of disrespect for others is being repeated in every community across the country.

    What do we as a society expect will happen when children are led by their parents into these kinds of environments where they are being taught by figures of authority that intolerance is righteous? Do we actually think we are going to get a generation of kids who exercise compassion and understanding on social media sites? Or is it more logical to expect our kids are going to exhibit behavior more like the bullies in the pulpit?

    With my own daughter almost the exact same age as Sedwick, my heart aches for her family. But my heart also aches for the bullies, whose attitudes and behaviors were learned and not genetically transmitted. Those types of people have a whole lot of unresolved hurt and inner turmoil to work out. If they were at peace within, they wouldn’t be validating their own self-worth by degrading others.

    Sheriff Judd is looking for answers in the right place. Unfortunately, the District Attorney has already said that bad parenting isn’t a punishable crime and proving such a case would be virtually impossible. And I think we can all agree, bad parenting is not something we can completely eliminate.

    So what defenses do we have?

    The most important thing we can teach kids is self-esteem. This is the one weapon that defeats the bully. If they refuse to acknowledge the rhetoric of hate and intolerance directed at them and instead trusts what they know as an inner truth about themselves, they will remain intact. After that, let’s hope that Sheriff Judd’s example will lead to changes that give law enforcement more authority to act preemptively against cyber bullying.

    If bad parenting isn’t an enforceable crime, maybe cyber bullying ought to be, much like texting and driving is a misdemeanor punishable by a stiff fine because we finally admitted that type of activity is a danger to others. It’s time to begin the dialogue of creating misdemeanor fines for cyber bullies while the crime is happening… and not look for justice and accountability after another victim has paid the ultimate price.

    • Also can file a civil suit against the parents as a means to get their attention. All the bullying as escalated because of social media. Maybe also try and control your kids usage and monitor their sites and comments.

    • I agree, social media is a big culprit. And so to is the non-accountability of parents.

      Filing a civil suit is an option, but it’s going to cost a lot of time and money upfront and with the courts as backed up as they are, it could take a year or more before there is any action. I’d like to see some laws that allow for faster enforcement without the victim having to incur costs.

      • Terri Connett

      • October 19, 2013 at 9:20 am
      • Reply

      Great column! I was crazy when I read about the kid’s FB post. She might give a fuck now.

      • Maya North

      • October 19, 2013 at 6:21 pm
      • Reply

      I was tortured from age 7 to age 56 and nobody cared. My daughter was tortured from age 7 until the end of middle school — and nobody cared — but I let her skip high school, so she escaped early and as a stay at home mom, she’s not been within the reach of workplace bullies as I’ve been. My granddaughter was being tortured — and nobody cared — but she was whisked to safety at age 8. We call that home schooling. Bullying called by any other name would bring prison sentences. It’s like calling genocide “ethnic cleansing.” Give it a name we consider less important than, say, assault or stalking and it’s diminished into a problem only for the victim — and nobody cares. Thank you, Sheriff. Damned sure was time somebody cared.

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