October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, and students at Salt Lake Community College are sharing their stories, so that their experiences will raise awareness and give hope to those that may be victims of bullying themselves.
“The best thing you can do is speak up about [bullying],” says Billy Walker, a biology and chemistry major at SLCC.
“A lot of people who are being bullied don’t want to say anything about it because they are afraid it’s going to get worse.”
Walker, who has dealt with bullying on a personal level, knows that speaking out is a key factor in getting the help you need.
“Look for someone who you can speak out to. Talk to your friends, talk to family,” says Walker.
“The more people that know you are suffering, the more people that can help you.”
Walker learned this from the help and support he received from his parents when he was the victim of hate crime when he was in high school.
After some students of the football team found out that he was gay, they followed him home one sunny afternoon. Walker didn’t think much about being followed, but things turned bleak quickly.
After circling Walker, one student took a swing at him. Being trained in martial arts, Walker quickly defended himself, grabbing the student by the wrist and flipping him over on his back.
Unfortunately, this only riled up the other football players, and they started attacking Walker all at once leaving him with three broken ribs, a broken nose, black eyes and missing teeth.
“The worst part about it was because I officially made the first blow by throwing the guy off of me, it wasn’t prosecuted as a hate crime,” says Walker.
“So I had to drop the charges because they were pressing assault charges on me.”
Throughout the six-month recovery period, Walker received a lot of support from his parents and was able to get through the horrible event.
Though Walker’s case of physical abuse caused much pain and suffering, there are also many other types of bullying that can have tragic endings as well.
Such was the case of Rebecca Ann Sedwick from Florida, who was a victim of cyberbullying and committed suicide last month after receiving months of hurtful messages through social media from schoolmates.
Walker is no stranger to cyberbullying either. While playing a multiplayer online computer game with his friends, the opposing team started taunting him and calling him names.
“It really was upsetting,” says Walker. “But the great thing is that my friends online were able to record the whole ordeal and got the other members banned from the game. They were really supportive.”
Even though being beat up caused Walker a lot of physical harm, he knows that words can also have very hurtful consequences.
“We should make sure we make a stand and say that’s not okay,” says Walker. “We as individuals should be able to do that whether it be on blogs, online gaming or whether it’s everyday conversation with people. We need to be aware of what language we use.”
Cherie Beam, a business management major at SLCC, who has also been a bullying victim because of her physical disabilities, knows even a small change can have a big impact.
“We still have a long way to go as a society,” says Beam. “ But I think that even that one person saying, ‘Hey stop’ or ‘Don’t do that’ will make a huge difference.”