Freshman Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old Rutgers University who jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge and my daughter Ariel Williams educated me on peer victimization or for old schoolers, “Bullying.” As a result, their actions forever changed my perceptions and activism.
“Peer victimization is the consequence of acts of intentional aggression, by a peer (or group of peers) operating from a position of strength or power, and directed at a victim who is viewed as relatively weak.” Stephen E. Brock, Ph.D.,
How Do We Explain This?
Tyler Clementi, committed suicide after realizing his roommate videotaped his personal encounter with a male acquaintance and uploaded it to the web. After hearing the story the first national peer victimized person in America immediately came to mind.
Ryan Wayne White (December 6, 1971 – April 8, 1990). Ryan was expelled from middle school because he contracted the HIV virus from a contaminated blood transfusion. The young boy overnight became the monster unleashed on the villagers. A modern-day Frankenstein, he was mental and psychological hunted by a rabid public consumed with fear and hate. In this case, I never could have anticipated the detestation that consumed the country, not by all, but by many.
Comparatively, Tyler Clementi believed he became a Frankenstein with the click of a mouse. His subsequent thoughts, I can only assume of the public wrath overwhelmed him. I am not aware if he knew of Ryan White, but like Ryan, he altered my history, as I am sure for others as well.
There exist no explanations religious, political, or cultural norms to justify this young man’s death. He should not have taken his life from fear of his sexual identification. Are we not yet civilized?
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My daughter Ariel was involved in another form of peer victimization. Last week, riding home on the school bus filled with high school and middle school cohorts, she intervened to stop a horrendous act of violence.
A group of African-American middle school students pummeled a younger petite African-American female student in her face. The abuse started with verbal barrages thrown at the helpless victim and quickly elevated to a mob attack. Subsequently, not one student intervened, not even the bus driver, only Ariel saw the act as tragic and stopped it. She helped Ryan White and Tyler Clementi.
Children who bullied siblings were likely to bully their peers, while victims at home were likely to also be victimized at school…if children behave in a certain way at home, bullying a sibling for instance, if this behaviour goes unchecked they may take this behaviour into school.” Dr Menesini, (British Psychological Society (2009).
The school officials informed me of Ariel’s heroics. Nevertheless, peer-victimization is a national phenomenon. In particular, hate plays in America, bullying, intimidating is our slice of apple pie. The 24-hour cycle of cynical political opposing views, religious and lifestyle intolerance attacks and constant disharmony provides a peek into our collective souls.
We are the villagers running from the monster that is ourselves.