I am a 28 year old mother of two beautiful daughters, and to think that they would EVER have to endure what I did, scares me to death.

My story of bullying began in the 5th grade. There were 4 people in the beginning (and much to my amazement, I remember every name and face to this day) by the end of the school year - it was the entire 5th grade.

It started when someone decided that my name would no longer be Debi, it would be "dog." At first, I was just called a dog. Then, I came to school to find dogbones on my desk, in my cubby, and occasionally, when they weren't stealing my lunch, they were putting dog bones in there as well. I guess they got tired of that and moved to flea powder. It was thrown in my face and my hair almost on a daily basis. That was the first fight I was ever in. I was 10 years old - not even a teenager, and I was fist-fighting. So much for "little ladies."

My mother knew, the teachers knew, the principal knew. No one did anything. The principal "counseled" the children, which actually made it worse for me, because then I was a "tattle tale" as well. My mother told me they were all "just jealous." ( How can the ENTIRE 5th grade class be "just jealous?") It's not that she was insensitive to the problem, she did not understand the effect it was having on me. It wasn't until she started going through her 2nd divorce, and I was physically ill every morning before school, that she decided to move. It was only two towns away, but thank god it was a different school. I thought I was free.

I had no idea then - that what happened in Jr. High, was directly related to the bullying. I wanted to be a part of something SO bad, that I started going down the "wrong road." But down that road there was something I never had before, and that was ACCEPTANCE. I craved attention - from all the wrong people. People that wanted me to try smoking, and drugs, and sex. I spent the entire 2 years of Jr. High either drunk or high. (Back then only 7th and 8th grade were considered Jr. High)

At the end of 8th grade, the entire class went on a field trip. I lived in a rather small community, and my town, as well as 4 surrounding towns, went to the same amusement park on the same day. Wouldn't you know - three years later, ALL the kids that had bullied me in 5th grade, were now at the same amusement park I was. Well - once they all found out that I was there, it started AGAIN! I couldn't believe it. These same 4 kids walked up to me, and told me I looked like a slut. One of them said, "I have 5 bucks, you look like you would do just about anything for 5 bucks." I couldn't believe that after three years, they still enjoyed torturing me.

High School was no better. (However I did stop the drinking and drugs, thank god) It seemed that everytime I made some friends, they turned on me for their own strange reasons. The girls were the absolute WORST. I was accused of stealing boyfriends (and I didn't even have one), called a slut and a whore on a daily basis. Most of the things that were said to me, I really cannot type in this story. The verbal abuse was unbearable. I was scared to death to go to the bathroom or walk by myself down the halls. I got slammed into lockers, had my nose broke, had awful things written about me on the bathroom walls. I finally quit school in 11th grade, obtained my G.E.D.

My self esteem was absolutely non-existent. I had been beaten down so much, for so long, I thought I was nothing. It took a long time to realize my past promiscuity was related to my need for acceptance, as is the fact that I don't like to be "in the limelight." To me, any attention was related to negative attention.

I still wonder what kind of people they are now. I know this sounds silly, but I've often thought of contacting one of those talk shows so I can "confront my childhood bullies." There is really no closure to being bullied, and that's the bad part. They feel no remorse, they could care less about how they make you feel, (because to them, YOU have no feelings.)

It has taken a long time to work through all the pain, and feelings of rejection, but I have found true happiness with a wonderful man, and two beautiful daughters. Sometimes I think about how I might react if one of my daughters had to endure bullying. I am now scared for them. Bullying HAS to be taken seriously, it can leave long-term damaging effects.

I guess what I have such a difficult time understanding is: if someone at your place of employment were to - yell out slut, throw things at you, jab you with their pencil or write terrible things about you on a restroom wall.. would that be tolerated? OF COURSE NOT....so... why is it tolerated in our school system? If I had the answer to that question, I could rest a little easier sending my girls to school. What do we do, and how do we begin to make these changes? If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear them.

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