One in five kids age 12 to 18 will be bullied this year, and the majority of those victims will suffer in silence. Sixty-five percent of all kids who are bullied don’t report it, fearing the taunting and abuse will only get worse if they tell someone. But one young woman who was bullied for years is now leading the charge for change.
Body shape. Sexual identity. Race. Three reasons teens say they’ve been bullied. For Fadumo Osman, it was religion.
“Growing up, I wasn’t bullied until I reached my freshman year in high school. That’s when I started wearing my head scarf.” Osman shared.
Osman went to an ethnically diverse high school. She was totally unprepared for ugly comments about her Muslim faith and what one classmate called her ‘complicated’ name.
“I turned around and said, ‘excuse me?’ and she said, ‘you know what you heard. You guys shouldn’t be here.’” Osman explained.
Twenty-two year old Aija Mayrock has heard that before and more. She’s a New York University social justice student. She’s also a performer.
And a best-selling author. Hard to imagine now, but Mayrock was once a tomboyish kid with a lisp. Taunted because of the way she looked and sounded.
“When I was a freshman in high school a girl I never met who went to my old school in New York dressed up as me for Halloween and she posted it online and it went viral. It was my rock bottom.” Mayrock shared with Ivanhoe.
It was on that day Mayrock decided she was going to use her voice and her words to guide other teens. The result? At age 19, she published the survival guide to bullying. In it, Mayrock advises kids and teens to advocate hard for themselves.
“First off, make a top five list of the adults you trust. Parents, neighbors, teachers, coaches, guidance counselors, whoever it is, go to those people and ask them for help.” Mayrock advised.
Mayrock tells teens they need to be prepared to have multiple conversations. List all the details of the bullying, and provide proof if it’s available: save texts or social media posts. Mayrock tells parents to watch for changes in eating, changes in how their kids dress and behave, especially if they isolate themselves. For Osman, the bullying ended when a friend told Osman’s mother who got school administrators involved.
Osman stressed the point; “If a student comes up to you or an issue arises acknowledge their feeling and know they’re real. And handle them.”
Mayrock self-published the guide, which was picked up and distributed by scholastic publishing, when she was 19. It’s currently published in fifteen foreign languages, and is available worldwide
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.