The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 1, 2011

Anyone can be targeted by a bully

By Kasey Fowler, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID — Everywhere you look, it seems there are news items about bullying. Several high-profile national cases have spotlighted the problems of students committing suicide after being bullied.

Catina Sundvall, who holds a master’s degree in counseling and psychology and is a licensed professional counselor with ATS Counseling, said victims of bullying can be targets for just about any reason.

“It can be anyone, but it seems to be those who don’t speak up for themselves or those who are very outspoken, but, again, it can be anyone,” she said. “It is often someone who is different and stands out from a crowd. They may look different, dress different, have different types of parents, get good grades, have a different home environment, red hair, brown hair, blond hair, blue eyes, anything that sets them apart.

“One of the things that is typically in a lot of schools across the country is bullying on physical appearance, whether they fit into the typical view of what a girl should look like and what a guy should look like,” Sundvall said.

Another reason teens can be teased or bullied is sexual orientation.

“If they are perceived to be gay that can lead to bullying, even if they are not,” she said. “It can cause issues with their self-esteem. If they are gay, it can snowball into depression and self-esteem issue.”

Although Sundvall has not studied about specific reasons for bullying in Enid, she said there are some issues that are hot-button issues.

“There are probably issues regarding socioeconomic classes, those that are in different education levels, those who come from different types of families: Those with one mom or one dad or two moms or two dads rather than the traditional family. It can lead to bullying issues. It doesn’t always, but it can,” Sundvall said.

Bullying has become a prominent issue lately with new campaigns against bullying. One national campaign against bullying and encouraging victims is the “It Gets Better” project.

The campaign is specifically aimed to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual youths who have been bullied. The project encourages them to see how their lives can become more positive.

“It is bringing bullying into the light, not necessarily just the deaths of the gays and lesbians, just in general,” Sundvall said. “Think about the cyberbullying on Myspace. We heard about in little spurts here and there, but because of the recent suicides it is more prominent.

“I think right now it is a very public profile issue because of how public it has become. It has brought bullying to the forefront so bullying can be dealt with. There are websites that kids can go to make a pact to not bully and stand up for the rights of others.”

Bullying can take several forms but is aimed at hurting the victim.

“They are verbally abused. They can be physically abused,” Sundvall said. “It is trying to take power away from the victim. It is repeated acts of trying to take control or take power from the other person. It is meant to hurt the victim.”

Regardless of the reason or type of bullying, the issue needs to be addressed.

“Look the bully in the eye, let them know it is not OK,” Sundvall said. “Tell somebody, tell an adult if it is a child. Letting someone else in and know can help increase the self-esteem and empower the victim. They don’t feel as lonely because there is someone else that can help, also realizing that it is not the victims’ fault they are being bullied. If there is someone you know is being bullied, let them know it is not OK and you notice and help them get help.”

Parents should watch for signs and clues their child or teen is being bullied.

“If their child or teen is withdrawing, trying to stay home from school, pretending to be sick, has lost interest in being around friends, it could be a sign of a bullying issue,” Sundvall said. “The best way to find out is to be involved in your child. Ask open-ended questions, know who your kid’s friends are, have your child’s friends over.”