Second Occurrence: Age 12-14

The Preliminary Situation

At 11 1/2 years old, I entered middle school, which in our area combined students from 3 elementary schools into one huge school building of about 1,100 kids. I viewed this as a fresh start of sorts, since two-thirds of the student body would not know me. And it would have been a fresh start, except that several of my old elementary school classmates told wild lies about me to the other kids and prejudiced them against me. (Many of these kids were malicious enough to do this in front of me, as loudly as possible--"See her, the fat girl? That’s Robin, and she does [insert disgusting habit/weird pastime/untrue accusation].") By the second day of sixth grade I was sitting alone at lunch again, ostracized again.

This stuff, however, was merely a taste of what was to come next. A charismatic young girl (I will call her "Nancy") came to join our class on the second day of school, and I attempted to befriend her, to try to help her acclimate to the new school. Instead, within hours Nancy had been turned against me, too, and she had already begun gathering a crew of followers (more like sycophants). Worse, Nancy had sniffed me out as a hapless victim, though I didn’t know that at first.

Soon after Nancy moved to our school, she and her flunkies began torturing me. It was small stuff at first--having her friends look at me under the bathroom stall door, poking me with the sharp points of pencils occasionally during class. But soon, even trying to go to the bathroom during school hours meant that I would endure a rain of used pads and tampons on my head, and I would have to hide my privates from the prying eyes of Nancy’s crew as they stood on each other’s shoulders to look down on me in the bathroom stall. The classroom provided no respite, either; one of Nancy’s buddies made sure to sit behind me in every major class so that she could freely poke me in the back and sides with pencils the entire time.

Only during my elective periods did I get any relief, because Nancy’s crew wasn’t in any of my chosen electives. Well, except for gym class, which was a special hell of its own; Nancy’s constant antics forced me to dress out in a tiny bathroom stall (and even there, her little friends kept trying to jam their faces underneath the stall door so that I had to stuff my gym bag under there). Not to mention that I couldn’t join any of the gym activities without them all running me off or hitting me with various gym equipment.

Nancy’s actions inspired the other students to tease and abuse me as well, because they saw how Nancy got away with things. Soon, all my fellow students were either active bullies or passive bystanders (and more of them were bullies). Once, I was held against the wall by a big guy while his little girlfriend jiggled, pinched, and slapped my thighs; other times, my personal items were stolen and broken/ruined, etc.

My Reaction

I started out by tearfully complaining and reporting this verbal, physical, and emotional abuse to all my teachers, the sixth-grade principal, and the sixth grade counselor several times, but to no avail. Like my elementary school experience, the teachers and administrators refused to believe me, because Nancy and her flunkies were very good at looking angelic and doing their evil behind teachers’ backs. Most of the time, my reports were merely dismissed because I was considered an "imaginative" child...which should have been a good thing, but was actually used against me.

I tried taking matters into my own hands a couple of times, hitting back when I was struck, breaking the pencils that were jabbed into my back, but I ended up being reprimanded and punished while my bullies got no punishment. So I began avoiding bathroom times, much to my bladder’s discomfort; I began missing lots of school due to what I now know as abdominal-centered panic attacks (throwing up, diarrhea, and hard stomach cramping whenever I thought about going to school).

Even though the sixth-grade counselor attempted to appear understanding, my feeling was that she believed I was partially delusional. And I know that the sixth-grade principal believed I was a "troubled student" who was laying out of school basically to go smoke, do drugs, and have sex with boys. (This woman told me, in a private interview, that she “knew what girls like me got up to," and that she knew "exactly how to handle problem students" like me. When I tried to argue back, to tell her she had it all backwards, she replied that I was simply "saying things that weren’t real, and that I was aware I was making up things.") I was given weekly time with a mental health professional from the county system, and even though she came the closest to understanding, I don’t believe she ever took it as seriously as I needed her to.

Depression Creeps In

This emotional and physical stress, combined with the sheer number of malicious things that were said to me on a daily basis, sent me right back down the rabbit hole of depression. Kids at school routinely told me I ought to "go kill myself," and by that time death looked like the best thing that could ever happen to me; I even began to believe that I deserved the treatment I experienced because I was not perfect. I punished myself ror my imperfections with more blows on the back of my head and my thighs, which only served to make me look more delusional and crazy, and I withdrew hard into myself, going into hysterics if someone even spoke to me harshly. My parents tried very hard to argue my case with my teachers, but there wasn’t much they could do when the teachers kept insisting I was making up stuff. I was an "imaginative child," true, but none of the stories I wrote could have matched the reality I suffered.

A fateful three-day trip to a local camp, with all the corny "trust-building exercises," etc., inadvertently proved I had been telling the truth. A teacher finally witnessed some of the cruelty being done to me, and at least ten fellow female students backed up her testimony and added to it with their descriptions of the things that had happened to me in school over the past months. That combined with my parents' reports finally forced the sixth-grade principal to admit she had been wrong, and my teachers had to apologize, but the vicious treatment I received did not slow much despite their efforts to alleviate it.

I thus stayed depressed all through sixth and much of seventh grade, still suffering daily teasing and abuse (though a bit less than before), and still enduring abdominal panic attacks nearly every morning. (I ended up missing 51 days of school in my seventh-grade year, but I still turned in all my work and made As, so the administration pretty much had to pass me on to eighth grade.)

The End of the Second Cycle

It wasn’t until eighth grade that my classmates’ teasing began to slack off, but by that time I had experienced some school-wide acclaim for accomplishments in writing and music, discovering my singing voice and my knack for creative writing during seventh grade. Basically, my classmates had mentally grown up and realized I was an okay person, though there were a few holdouts who were jealous of me and continued a bit of teasing.

With the sharp drop in bullying and accompanying sharp rise in academic success, my mental and emotional stress and anxiety largely dissipated. I began to believe that perhaps I was worth something after all.

Footnote: In the spring of my eighth grade year (1999), the Columbine High School shooting happened, and this drastically changed the tambre of how the teachers and administrators dealt with me. One morning soon after the shooting, I was called into the office, into a meeting with the principal, the individual grade-level principals, the school resource officer, and all three counselors. In smarmy tones, the sixth-grade principal (yes, that SAME woman) asked me: "Is there anybody who’s been bothering you, anybody who you’d like us to get you away from? Is there anybody we can help handle for you?"

It was utterly laughable to me, but I didn’t laugh out loud; I could see the fear on each adult’s face. They were afraid that I was going to go crazy and shoot up their school because I had been bullied like the shooters at Columbine. I let her finish her useless little spiel, and then said, "Well, actually, I'm not being bullied very much anymore--most of the meanest people are not in my daily classes, or they moved away. But I'm very sad that kids had to die for you to pay attention to the issue of school bullying." The silence in the room after I said that was the most triumphant quiet I had ever heard.