Truth Talks Redefines Bullying

Devaughn Patterson, Staff Writer

Attendees of a Truth Talks Anti Bullying presentation define bullying in a broader, and perhaps more accurate, way.

Freshman Zack Johnson attended the event on Tuesday, October, 9. He was shocked to find out that the Center of Disease Control had a specific definition of bullying and the many others who seemed to have their own definition of bullying.

One part of the CDC definition is that bullying occurs when a person is exposed repeatedly over time to negative actions by one or more others.

“We’re looking at it as just as our own definition, meaning that we’re singling these people out and excluding them from activities and friends,” said Johnson.

MU graduate and event panelist Matt Vitale thinks  the word “cyber bullying” is improper English. “You wouldn’t call bullying in the lunchroom, lunchroom bullying, or bullying in the playground, playground bullying. The only difference is this is a new medium for them to use.”

Director of the Counseling Center and panelist Dr. Cindy March feels that the spread of technology makes cyber bullying a serious issue and sometimes that’s the form of bullying used more than any other.

“People think that they can be anonymous to some degree,” said March.

People who attended the discussion learned how bullying is linked to suicide and how a person being bullied uses suicide as a solution.

March said people need to realize that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

“When talking to a friend who might be depressed about bullying or anything else that’s one of the things that you have to remind them. They feel like they’re at the end of the road  in terms of a possibility of a situation getting better, but the thing is there’s always other options.”

Sophomore Dayanara Rodriguez-Munoz said hearing the word “solution” may make a victim feel like it is a way to end the suffering and attacks, even though rationally, most people wouldn’t think that way.

“In the phrase “a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” the word solution is in there so they know that it’s linked to suicide,” said Rodriguez-Munoz.

Vitale feels part of the difficulty that bullying victims face is related to brain development.  The front of the brain is the last to develop–and continues to grow into the mid-20s.

“The frontal lobe focuses your executive function it’s a part of your brain where you make your decisions, so if you’re n a situation where you are harassed and need to think logically how can I get help, this is the part of the brain that accesses this,” said Vitale.

Vitale feels this is a problem because at age 13 the frontal lobe hasn’t fully developed so the person can’t think logically about the problem, he or she can only react to the emotions they are feeling.

March said bullies are people who are insecure about themselves and are trying to feel powerful and usually pick on someone who is shy or maybe has a different style. “They will focus on that. They will say, ‘if I make someone feel that they’re not okay then I’m okay.’”

Vitale said back in the caveman days, the most effective way to increase one’s status amongst a group was to prove that you’re bigger or stronger then everyone.

“Typically the males in the tribe had to prove themselves and bullying is the school system is really just a modern reflection to that.”

Vitale also feels the current research is showi8ng that instead of placing the sole focus on the buylly and the target, the focus should be on others who witness it or are aware of it.

“The function of bullying is to get respect, to get noticed, and to raise yourself up and if there isn’t a social group that will reward you for your actions, there will be no reason for you to do it,” Vitale said.

Bob Kalinowski, writer for The Citizen’s Voice, covered stories about four recent teen suicides in the Wilkes-Barre area and said the families at first weren’t sure if bullying had anything to do with the suicides.

“Some people won’t even tell their families so basically a lot of fellow classmates were saying it was the bullying,” Kalinowski said.

Kalinowski remembers writing about the third tragedy that involved a 14-year-old hanging himself in Hazelton. “Police are investigating if that bullying is related to suicide.”

After the fourth suicide that occurred, Kalinoski said that The Citizen’s Voice made a very bold and controversial decision to dedicate the whole front page of the newspaper to advice to kids. “It’s very rare that a newspaper would use their whole front page for the editorial to highlight the issue of suicide awareness,” said Kalinowski.

He also said the stories will let parents know that they should to talk to their kids and understand how important it is to bring awareness to this subject.

Rodriguez-Munoz said that anyone can help because it’s not just about helping the person going through it. It’s about being advocates for change.

“Calling people out, not in a negative way, but in a positive way saying, ‘Yo, that’s not cool’ that could make someone do something drastic or put them down,” Rodriguez-Munoz said.

Rodriguez-Munoz feels the event brought the university community together as a family.

“It makes us even more of a community, and that’s important, to have a family away from your family, here at MU.”

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