How would you feel if you were afraid to go to school because of the way you were treated by students? What would be your reaction if a student made fun of your clothes and shoes? Who would you turn to if a student threw food at you in the cafeteria?
These are questions I asked myself almost daily because of how kids treated me at school. From kindergarten to 12th grade, I was physically and verbally bullied by students.
When I was 5, a bully yanked my book bag off my back and threw all my belongings on the floor. At 8, a student threatened to kill my family and me after I told on him for bullying me. When I was 11, a bully bent back my arm and tried to break it because I refused to open the locker room door for her.
In high school, students relentlessly picked on my eyes and said I looked like a frog. I became so depressed that I contemplated suicide when I was 16.
Statistics from the National Center for Educational Statistics show that nearly one of every three students report being bullied at school. Sixty-four percent of students who are bullied do not report it, and students bully other students because of looks, body shape and race.
These instances of bullying contributed to my shyness, and I was fearful to go to school. I shared several stories of how students treated me at school with my parents, and they were my biggest encouragers.
In addition, my brother and sister came to my school on a few occasions to eat lunch with me in the cafeteria. Whenever my siblings were around, I was no longer afraid at school, nor was I terrified of the bullies because I felt safe. When they came to school, no one bothered me. In fact, students sat at my table because they thought my brother and sister were attractive.
The girl who was bullied was now the girl that people wanted to sit with when my siblings ate lunch with me. It felt euphoric to have a reprieve from bullying.
Nonetheless, the next day at school when my siblings were not there, the bullying started again. I wish my siblings and I were closer in age because if we were, I am confident no one would have bullied me. My sister and I are six years apart and my brother and I are 10 years apart, and they were never in the same school as me because of the age gap.
Having a strong support system at home greatly contributed to me finding my voice. Even though I never stood up for myself to bullies, I fought back in the classroom by working even harder to accomplish my goals.
I tried my hardest to block out the negativity from other students, and I studied diligently and stayed focused. Because my parents had my best interest at heart, and kept me on the right track, I accomplished my goals. I graduated from North Carolina State University with a bachelor’s degree in communication, and a minor in psychology in 2009 and received a master’s degree from USC in postsecondary administration and student affairs in 2014.
My advice to other students who are bullied is to tell someone immediately that you are being bullied, to find a support system, to stay focused, and to try your best to ignore the negativity from others. I wish I had stood up to those students who bullied me because if so, they might have left me alone sooner.
Even though I did not stand up for myself back then, today, I stand up to people by “fighting back” with my education, experience and accomplishments. I finally gave myself a voice, and people listen to me.
I wish for the day that our society can become more loving, kind and caring. Then and only then will bullying end.
Until that day comes, I encourage those who are bullied to find your voice, to explore ways to empower yourself, to not give bullies power over you, to ignore the negativity from others and to stay focused on your aspirations and dreams, and I guarantee that you will come out on top.
Tensie Taylor is a Los Angeles-based writer. She is the author of “BULLIED: From Terror to Triumph, My Survival Story,” available online through Amazon, Books-a-Million, or Barnes & Noble. She also is the assistant director of the USC Black Alumni Association. You may follow her on Instagram at @tensietaylor, Twitter @MsTensie, or like her Facebook Fan page, Tensie J. Taylor.