Bullying is a very prevalent, yet little discussed issue and can lead to teenagers experiencing depression and suicidal thoughts. Bullying is largely ignored in Bangladesh and  victims, often young teenagers, feel they have no choice but to live with the difficulties they face on a daily basis. Countries, such as the US, have several organisations that host various websites where victims can share their stories online. Such sites have yet to develop in Bangladesh. Victims of bullying coming forward to share their stories may play in essential role in raising awareness on this issue. So here I share mine.

Ever since I hit puberty all I can remember from my classmates is their comments on my looks, their laughter at my appearance and the physical abuse I endured. They would beat me lightly with notebooks or water bottles. If I had fought back surely the physical abuse would have escalated to extreme levels.

They used every opportunity possible to shatter me into pieces and break my confidence at a vulnerable age, where one can easily be prone to suicidal thoughts and depression. I heard many things:

‘Tui toh akta chakma parlour e kaj na kore aikhane ki korte ashchish?’, ‘tui toh Genghis Khan kothakar’ and ‘tor baaper chemicals diye tor chokh thik kora jai na?’ were part of my everyday routine. Every day I was made to feel worthless and that I should die because I do not look ‘Bangalee’ or ‘acceptable’ according to their standards. I still remember how some would bully me actively, while the others in class would enjoy and laugh, taking it as a daily source of entertainment.

These passive bullies invite me to their hangouts on occasion because their parents knew my parents. I was made to feel abnormal by my family for not having a social group and enjoying time alone. So I was forced to take every invitation I received.

After they saw the active bullies berate my appearance every day, they would also take any opportunity to do so – ‘ai tumi atoh style koro keno? tomake akdom suit kore na’, ‘makeup diye tomake bhooter moto lagtese’, ‘aita ki kapor pore ashcho khet kothakar?’ ‘ai tomake na dekhte asholeo bangalee lage na genghis khaner moto tumi’. They would mock my eyes by stretching them out with their fingers. But they would not abuse me. Unfortunately, these passive bullies were the only ‘friendly and nice’ people I knew from school.

Being a thoughtful kid since childhood I could somehow understand the reason behind such bullying behaviour. I knew the bullies perceive introverts like me as weak and that this spurs their bullying.  So I tried to stay strong and unaffected. But no matter how hard I tried, the bullying of my teenage days affected my confidence. Now that I to instruct classes of 300 students in the US, I wonder at how, in my teens, I could confidently sing in front of a large crowd at musical events, was too shy to speak or read loudly in front of the class at school.

I am, however, one of the lucky ones and survived bullying without it affecting my academic performance and emerged as the only person from my batch to earn two distinctions at A Levels. I feel it is necessary to raise our voices against this issue so that teenagers at vulnerable ages no longer have to depend on luck and suffer silently due to the bullying of their peers. Children who are victims of from bullying often give up hope and lose confidence in themselves, pushing themselves into depression and suicidal thinking.

Bangladeshi parents often assume that school is a place where all children have fun and make friends, and are often ignorant of bullying. Due to being young and vulnerable victims of bullying, like other children who face abuse, may not confide in their parents as they may be too ashamed, may feel it is an acceptable norm or may even feel threatened. And even when some do tell their parents, they can be disbelieved, thinking the child is making excuses to skip school.

Teenagers are at a very vulnerable age and often experience depression or suicidal thoughts. We need more awareness of bullying among parents so that they teach their children what is appropriate among their schoolmates. School authorities must also spread awareness on bullying and keep an eye out for it

It is high time we stand up and work to stop bullying in schools.

Maliha M Ahmedis Undergraduate Course Instructor, Department of Economics, University of Illinois at Chicago Chicago, USA.

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