Another year, another bullying story. “Fat-shaming”, “mocking”, “I was pushed into a locker”, “My lunch money was stolen”. There’s way more words and phrase than these that come along with bullying. And while we’ve gotten used to calling it “bullying”, the truth is that it is still abuse at its very core.
It’s not something difficult to argue for. The very same things are at play here. Making someone feel less of their worth over time, through repeated psychological, verbal or physical means is abuse.
And bullying ticks all those boxes, even if we use a different word for it.
This story is that of Liam Fell-O’Brien, a then-7th grader at Gordon City middle school. This is no elementary school-level bullying, with the lunch money and childishness. Liam was a year away from high school, and at 7th grade, kids tend to find much nastier ways to pick on other people.
Like many of us, Liam was a typical young boy who was discovering his passions. Those happened to be soccer and eating.
Being a schoolboy, this meant he could try out for teams. According to his mom, Liam was quite the fan of Deli Sandwiches and Dunkin Donuts.
However, times changed and so did Liam.
The donut-loving, soccer-playing boy that his mother knew was soon replaced by a confusingly shy, quiet and skinny boy. The food that he once loved so much hardly put a smile on his face anymore, and he outright refused to play soccer anymore – the thing he’d been so passionate about just before.
Here’s a little secret about young boys : When they have something they’re adamantly passionate about, nearly to the point of obsession, they don’t just give up on it and drop it like an old toy. It may be basketball, guitar, art, soccer, or performing.
Whatever it might be, it’d take quite some force on Earth to make them just stop pursuing it.
Though this is just what his mom, Deirdre Fell-O’Brien, noticed. In addition to his loss of interest in things he used to love to death, he also lost weight. A lot of it.
It takes a while to notice if someone has lost a few pounds. Weight loss isn’t instant. But when you see someone pretty much everyday, every little detail about them is cemented into your memory. Plus, it’s hard not to notice when someone has dramatically gone from average weight to dangerously skinny. Liam had done just that.
The evidence of bullying was there, and though his mother knew deep down what was going on, she needed confirmation.
For the whole school year, Liam was indeed receiving traumatizing bullying. And it took its toll in the worst way possible. His bone structure was clear as day, he looked hardly strong enough to run – much less play soccer, and his personality had drastically changed.
The once fun-loving, determined boy slowly turned into a severely hurt, unwilling and depressed shell of his former self. And it only took relentless mocking and torment from his schoolmates on the soccer team, and repetition of that same torment when he was in the school halls and locker rooms.
Liam spilled some painful, but crucial details about what he went through at school. The perpetrators put in extra effort to make Liam feel ashamed of every little thing.
When they weren’t tormenting him about his freckles or socks or eyebrows, they’d instead shame him for joining the soccer team. He sucked and shouldn’t have bothered joining the team, they said.
Shocking is hardly the word here. His parents were absolutely heartbroken, especially his mother Deirdre. Their intention of pursuing more details from Liam was cut short when she realized how weak and sickly he’d become. That, and a nasty bruise on the side of his face really sounded alarms.
He looked like he could barely stand up, and that’s when the realization came crashing down on her like a bed of nails.
Her son was slowly dying, and she needed to act now to save him. Liam was rushed to the hospital. Laying in the hospital hooked up to a breathing tube, the list of things affecting Liam included malnutrition, a very low heart rate, and depression.
Tomorrow 11 a.m. here, on this Facebook page – we present a live discussion on #Bullying. Our own Cohen Children's…
Gordon City middle school is said to be pro-actively against bullying, which makes Liam’s case that much more disturbing. Hopefully, they’ll improve at this after the publicity that Liam’s case garnered.
The residents of Gordon city certainly hope so.
They hung up #IStandWithLiam posters and pink ribbons around the city. Solidarity and empathy go a long way when you’ve been through the kind of stuff Liam has.
While the news-worthy story surrounding Liam’s experience ends right there, it shouldn’t take another viral bullying story to get us (and especially schools) to recognize the real threat and pain inherent in bullying behavior.
You can share Liam’s story with a simple click of a button. Unchecked, repeated bullying can do the worst to people, and it’s good to spread the word.
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Source: [CBS New York]