Compass articles inspires victim of bullying in Harbour Grace to speak out

Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

I write in reponse to an article published in the Feb. 18, 2014 edition of The Compass headlined "Bullying problem in Harbour Grace, and a second article headlined "School no better, or worse, says Coombs," which appeared in the Feb. 25 edition.

letter to editor

As a former resident of Harbour Grace who went through the entire system, from kindergarten to Grade 12, nuns to brothers, girls then no-girls, I was not in the least surprised to hear the bullying problem continues.

Saddened, yes. But not surprised.

I endured the full 13 years as a victim, from Day 1 in kindergarten, when I was stabbed in the arm with a pencil by another five-year-old, until the final days of Grade 12, when another student decided to practice his WWF wrestling moves on me against my will.

And I wasn’t the only one. Everyday, victims marched into the doors to the slaughter: thrown into lockers, pushed down stairs, pounded in the hallways, belongings stolen or simply broken, jabs in class, obscene things written on their clothing, attacks in the bathroom. Ever present was the jailhouse-snitch rule: rat on someone and get beat worse.

Then there were the teachers who made things worse. The ones who participated, by singling out the victims for sarcastic or derisive comments in class. The ones who, while patrolling the hall, joined in the bullying — the most common way is this: victim is thrown into a bank of lockers by the bully; the teacher then punishes the victim for making noise in the hall. There’s the teachers who won’t act against the bully because the bully is an athlete and has a game/event coming up; and besides, athletes are just goofing around and the victim is a weirdo who deserves to be a target and, anyway, needs to toughen up.

Other teachers, I believe, simply chose not to see the bullying because, like the victims, they feel helpless to stop it.

And the bullying continues outside of the school walls: on the buses, on the walk home, during vacations. Once a victim gets marked they are labelled for life. The adults in the community follow the same rules as the teachers. The now-adult bullies who still live in the area still make snide comments to or about victims, and think everyone needs to lighten up or toughen up.

Don Coombs' response sums up what has always been the reaction in the area: There is no bullying problem.

As if denial makes it disappear.

Don, if a single person says they are bullied, then you have an incident. If many people say it, you have a problem. Period. It doesn’t matter how you compare to other schools. What matters is how St. Francis compares to a proper, just society. And the residents in your schools don’t feel they live in a proper, just society. They feel like they are living in a prison, with prison rules of survival. So, Don, your job is to fix it, not to deny it.

But there’s an even bigger problem here, that of community. What devastates victims is not the individual acts of bullies (the violent attacks, verbal assaults, constant abuse), it is the apathy of those around them. The lack of reaction by witnesses. The denial of the problem. The refusal of people to get involved, either by intervening at the time or by speaking out afterwards. Those who are bullied are re-victimized by all those who refuse to stand up for them. The victims do not feel part of any community: not at school, not on the street, not in the town. They are alienated by a society which doesn’t care if they are beaten and humiliated on a regular basis.

Apathy fosters the bullies. It teaches them that they can victimize others without real consequence. THEY are not shamed, punished, or cast out. They do not endure the humiliation of having no one to stand by them. Quite the opposite. They gain respect from their peers, social standing from having a tough reputation, and increased attention from teachers and others through the intervention process. They get to keep their standing as sports heroes, as popular kids, or as "normal." Victims creep down backstreets in fear, abandoned to their fates, while the bullies are accepted into society.

No wonder then that many victims cannot wait for the final day of high school, when parole has finally come through. They cannot wait to flee to a new home, away from the bullies, their collaborators, and their enablers. Away from the community that rejected them for people who thrive on humiliation. The victims leave, never to return. The bullies remain. Such has been the case for at least 40 years, based on the comments these articles have received and on my own experiences.

So ask yourself this:

If for 40 years — nearly three generations — the Harbour Grace/Carbonear area has driven out the victims while sustaining the bullies, what then is the foundation of your towns? Are you a society which simply accepts bullying? Or are you really a community of bullies?

Bullying is not just for teachers and principals and school councils to solve because it is not restricted to schools. It is a communal problem which requires a community solution. As long as bullies are tolerated by your society, and the victims alienated, you will not live in a just and fair society. You will inhabit a community of bullies.

— Jeff Rose-Martland describes himself as a citizen advocate. He writes from St. John’s.

Geographic location: Carbonear

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • "2 BAD Bye"
    March 06, 2014 - 17:06

    War of the Roses, now that's you isn't it "JEFFERY ROSE" ,,,, remember back when Tom shot the Dog was on CBC back around 1991 , Don Coombs was never a bully, nice man. Then it became Martland ??????

    • Citizen of harbour grace
      March 07, 2014 - 12:43

      A little internet bullying here I suspect!! What does a family problem from 2o yrs ago have to do with this?? REALLY

    • Jeff Rose-Martland
      March 09, 2014 - 12:21

      Yes, that is me, though I fail to see your point. Yes, Tom shot my 6yo brother's dog right in front of him, and got away with it. Yes, my family relocated from away from that situation. And yes, it changed it's name, to further remove itself from that situation. And not one bit of that information has a single connection to anything I endured in school, since I was living in St. John's by then. So what, exactly, is your point? That you can drag up unrelated trauma in order to hurt me, while simultaneously hiding your name? Thanks for illustrating my point. And I never said Don was a bully, I said it was his job to sort this out.

    • Jeff Rose-Martland
      March 09, 2014 - 12:23

      Yes, that is me, though I fail to see your point. Yes, Tom shot my 6yo brother's dog right in front of him, and got away with it. Yes, my family relocated from away from that situation. And yes, it changed it's name, to further remove itself from that situation. And not one bit of that information has a single connection to anything I endured in school, since I was living in St. John's by then. So what, exactly, is your point? That you can drag up unrelated trauma in order to hurt me, while simultaneously hiding your name? Thanks for illustrating my point. And I never said Don was a bully, I said it was his job to sort this out.

  • Stephen
    March 06, 2014 - 10:11

    When are we going to wake up and realize that bullying is never going to stop. The sooner we realize this the sooner we can stop raising a generation of victims. Life is full of bully's , bad neighbors , people we work with , can all be classified as bully's. The world can be a mean place and by raising a generation of victims we aren't doing our kids any flavours in preparing them for what life may throw at them. We should be preaching strength, respect, and teaching children to have high standards and embrace self worth, and yes I live in hr.grace and have 2 , 9 year old children who attend school there and I was bullied in school as most children are at some point in their lives. I will not allow my children to become someone else's victim in the school system or life. I preach to them everday to stand up for themselves, and for people who can't, respect others and the fact that everyone is different and to respect those differences and respect each other.

    • donna hayter
      March 09, 2014 - 23:24

      I whole-heartedly agree. Bullying never will stop. It's up to us as parents to raise our children with a sense of self-worth which in turn gives them a self respect that no one can take away from. It allows them to have the mental strength to stand up for themselves and others and let "bullies" know they can't win. I find that bullies never "really" amount to anything.

    • donna hayter
      March 09, 2014 - 23:27

      I whole-heartedly agree. Bullying never will stop. It's up to us as parents to raise our children with a sense of self-worth which in turn gives them a self respect that no one can take away from. It allows them to have the mental strength to stand up for themselves and others and let "bullies" know they can't win. I find that bullies never "really" amount to anything.

  • Former Harbour Gracer
    March 06, 2014 - 06:23

    I can totally relate to your well written letter to the editor. I would like to add that bullying is a far greater problem in society than is actually perceived. It starts as children inside and outside the schools and continues through to adulthood. Ask any young apprentice trying to move forward in a trade. A lot of the foremen actually get a kick out of pushing a young apprentice around figuring they must pay their dues, unfortunately it's sometimes a team effort. How many ppl have said to me if a young person doesn't have a thick skin then they should not pursue a trade. I personally know several young ppl who have dropped out of their trade because of pushy foremen. Bullying is a learned behavior that actually starts at home, some children are living in fear in their very own home which leads them to acting out what ever way they can, therefor in my humble opinion it is our responsibility as a society to teach good human relation skills to all school children. I've had many yrs to think about this, besides being a victim my own self I also had a few opportunities to work in schools as a councillor and project coordinator, it is very clear to me that a strong human relations program is missing in all grade levels. There will always be bullies however I am 100% confident that a good human relations program will help immensely.

  • Tom Claw
    March 05, 2014 - 19:07

    well Hr Grace Beautiful town and beautiful people likewise Carbonear Don Coombs is correct it's no big deal and I can assure you Mr. Coombs is no Bully As for mr rose - mart land hmmm never heard that name in our parts I can only guess it is a homogenous name of future issues Always somebody's fault get over it Grow Up OPPS I just saw a pic of of our complainant on the net my heavens my hands are itching Hmmm! It's sports people now it could not be someone writing or tryin and tryin to get print He is writer ???????? Poor bayou are so brave to com forward Man this is hilarious

    • citizen of harbour grace
      March 07, 2014 - 12:46

      Cyber Bully!!!

  • tracey furlong
    March 05, 2014 - 12:53

    I congratulate Mr. Rose-Martland for speaking out so courageously. I was also picked on in elementary AND high school. Never really considered it bullying. But it is. Emotional/mental harassment is a form of bullying. Sadly, those scars remain just as long as the physical, if not longer. I am now a mother of two beautiful teenagers, and I cannot go to school with them. So, I trust the adults there take care of them. Things are different now. Schools were run by religion "back in the day". Now it's worse. It's run by the government. The same office that shut down the fishery, can't seem to fix those pesky potholes, etc. I can only hope that someone in a position to fix this, cares enough to try. In the meantime,here's a question for you. If YOUR child came home with a ripped up book, that you had to replace, and a bloody nose, or bruises from being locked in a tiny locker.....would you help, then? Would bullying be an issue then?

  • Agnes Mullowney
    March 05, 2014 - 10:53

    I was never popular but I was never really bullied. I never had to deal with any physically violent people. I have to say this article is brillantly written by someone who is, no doubt , well-educated. If more people showed this type of courage ,a lot could be done towards solving the problem.