How bullying and abuse can prevent people from being themselves

I think one of the cruelest sides of bullying and abuse are the way they can prevent a person from simply being her or himself.

Because when you’re suffering one, or both, all you want is to stop it. You can only think of how life would be without it. That’s when some people start blaming themselves for it. It sure must be their fault; there must be something seriously wrong within them…otherwise it wouldn’t happen, right? Nope! But it’s easy to think like that when your surroundings give you that impression. It’s hard to believe it’s okay being who you are when people around you are incessantly picking on you because of that.

Take my example. I’m not a very sociable person, never was. Of course it might have been because of all the abuse I suffered in my own home, but still… I always preferred to read in a good corner than to go to a party, for instance. Actually, I don’t like parties. Never know what to do in one, where to put my hands, what others are finding so funny… It’s more like torture to me. I LOVE to socialize on the internet, but not so much face to face.

Well, it’s okay now. I can say that and, even though most people still don’t understand my preferences, they respect it. But when I was at school, it was reason to mock me. To despise me. To write things about how much of a freak I was on the walls. To whisper, point and laugh when I was sitting on my chair during breaks, reading. In some cases, it was even reason to destroy my books when I wasn’t there and to assault me outside school one day…

It was also reason at home for having to hear things like: “You should go out, you’re young, can’t be reading all the time”, or “You look weird reading so much, go out, make some friends”; “What’s wrong with you, can’t you be like the other girls?”.

If it weren’t once in a while, okay, but it was repeated to me EVERY SINGLE DAY.

So tell me, please, how can a child or a teenager, believes there’s nothing wrong with the way he or she wants to spend their free time (as long as they don’t want to do anything dangerous or illegal, of course), when even your mother keeps screaming at you because of that?

It’s impossible.

That’s when this little person starts thinking people must be right. So, if they change, if they try to act more like others, the incessant ranting, the constant mocking, the hell would stop, right?

I believed that, and tried so hard to be a ‘party-girl’ like everyone told me I should be, that I got into a lot of trouble. The shiny nerd I was soon was dating anyone. Drinking, smoking, coming home just the next day without even calling.

It almost destroyed me. All because I couldn’t be the person I really was. And the saddest part is that it didn’t work. Of course not. Bullies just love to bully, it’s what they do. They will find any reason to pick on you, no matter what you do. So don’t change to please them. I learned it the hard way.

Back then we didn’t call it bullying, nor abuse. At least not here in Brazil. It was just the daily hell, no one talked about it, no one thought about it. Except the ones suffering, of course.

It still happens everyday, but at least we are talking about it now. We are worried about it and trying to find solutions.

But meanwhile, teenagers, and even children, dread so much going to school and facing the bullies that some of them start skipping classes. If they have a not so good environment at home, they may as well just runaway. Or they will try to change their behaviors to better fit. Some can’t cope at all with it and think of harming themselves as an escape.

So please, I beg all parents and caregivers… Pay attention to your children. Talk to them. Be sure they are okay. Be sure to tell them they can be who they are, that they don’t have to change to please anyone. Make them feel safe enough to talk to you if they need help. Listen to them when they talk about bullying.

Oh, and also, pay attention if they are the bullies. Make them understand that it’s never okay, it’s never funny, it’s never the answer.

I firmly believe that we can change the world by better educating our children. Let’s try!

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You can help stop child abuse, but… Would you take action if you suspected a child was being abused?

With my new release, My Sore Hush-a-Bye, I go back to a theme that is very emotional to me: child abuse.

I think it’s absolutely important to talk about it. Abuse is, often, a silent violence. It can go on for years and years, with the abused person hiding, becoming more and more withdrawn, sad, and closing off to the world. It takes a lot of courage to break the cycle. Courage that a child, on his or her own most times doesn’t have.

Of all forms of abuse, child abuse is the worst. Because children cannot help themselves. They are supposed to be cared by others, nothing else. Children are vulnerable, fragile, and they need guidance, help, and love.

A child that grows up in a violent, abusive environment is very likely to become an adult with low self-esteem and respect issues (self or for others), and they’ll often be someone who enters into abusive relationships throughout their lives. They become a magnet to bad people, or simply go after them to repeat the pattern they learned all their lives.

Worst of all, in some cases, this child can repeat the behavior she or he had loathed so much during childhood, without even realizing it. The abused, more often than not, becomes an abuser. And the story never ends.

I know how it is, believe me. Because I’ve been there.

I don’t want to get into much detail, since it is now something that I choose to believe as foundational to my strength, but I was abused in several forms during my early years.

 The fact is that I survived, and was able to transform the dark matter that filled my childhood into a great cause that I defend relentlessly. I now want to write about child abuse cases (fictional, but unfortunately inspired on some levels in real experiences—mine or from others that I read/heard about) in the hope that my stories might help people to reflect about the theme. That one day, in the future, child abuse will happen only in fiction.

Child abuse happens a lot. It could be happening right next to you. Would you know how to recognize the signs if it were the case? And, a trickier and more important question:

 Would you take action if you suspected a child was being abused?

Because no one did it for me. And I’m pretty sure people knew what was happening. Maybe not all of it, but a good part of it. Enough to make them aware, to make them suspicious. (Although there were people who really had no idea of the worst part and tried their best to help me with the most obvious problem…)

 So…would you?

It’s important to learn to recognize the signs, and especially, to understand that a single sign is not proof of abuse. A closer look, though, can help you to see if the signs are repeated or happening in combination—which can be an indication that something is not quite right.

There’s a very useful list of signs to look for on this great site: Kidscape. Also on HelpGuide.org. Please visit and read them all. They also tell you how you can help.

Because an abused child will most likely NOT talk.

That’s right: the child doesn’t tell anyone about the abuse in most cases. They feel it’s their fault. They feel ashamed of what happened. They are convinced by the abuser not to talk. They feel they’re not worth help. They feel they deserve the abuse. They don’t know what to do, because the abuser is someone they love. Sometimes, they don’t even know for sure if it’s abuse or if life is like that for every child.

That’s why it is so important to be alert. To help and to protect our children. They need it.

And the future will be a much brighter one if we take care of our children.

To break the cycle.

To.Stop.Child.Abuse!

So, I’ll ask again…would you help? Will you?

EDIT- 11.01: People who know me may be a little shocked by this revelation, including some very close people who can even feel somehow betrayed by my post. Please understand that this is my story, and I decided it was time to share.

Because it can help, and because it is now over to me. It’s so in the past, so detached from the person I am now that I can talk. It is an eternal scar, but it doesn’t hurt anymore. Better saying- it hurts, but doesn’t throb.