By Linda Wilson
In Secret in the Stars, the first book of the Abi Wunder series, Abi is confronted with a bully, Angel, whose disposition doesn’t quite live up to her name. They meet on the beach while Angel is lying on a beach towel that matches her neon pink two-piece bathing suit, and wearing movie-star sunglasses.
Abi stands an awkward distance away. When Angel finally notices her, she says to Abi’s new friend Jess, syrup dripping off her tongue, “Ba the way, who’s your plump friend in the frilly suit bottoms?”
Abi glances at her suit. She’d liked it until now. She’d liked everything until meeting this girl. Now nothing seemed right.
Throughout the book and also in the second book in the series, Secret in the Mist, when Angel appears again, she finds many ways to bully Abi. Again, Abi doesn’t fall for it right from the start. The reason for Angel's bullying becomes crystal clear to Abi, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
What is Bullying?
The regrettable dynamics of bullying comes in the form of the viscous "bullying triangle:" the bully, the victim, and the bystander.
Bullying takes on many guises. Its main intent is to hurt someone and is relentless in its delivery. Once a bully zeroes in on a target that he deems small, helpless and/or weak, he preys on his victim over and over by calling him names, recruiting cronies to gang up, and in the worst cases, the bullies can become physically violent.
Often bullies are bigger kids who pick on kids who they think won’t stand up for themselves, and kids with few friends. But that’s not always the case. A short kid could be a bully as a means of defense against his size, and even a kid who has been bullied can turn into a bully to gain favor from his previous aggressor. As Kaitlyn Blais put it in Bullying Under Attack: True Stories Written by Teen Victims, Bullies and Bystanders, edited by Stephanie H. Meyer, John Meyer, Emily Sperber, and Heather Alexander, “Every kid wants to be ‘cool, popular, and in.’ The problem is that you can’t be ‘in’ unless someone is ‘out.’” Kaitlyn stood up for a victim who turned on her and victimized her. She wrote that she learned from that experience that “there needed to be only one black sheep.”
Inside a Bully’s Head
First and foremost, a bully hates himself. He is hurting inside. Why? His home life may be unhappy. He may imagine that he has an embarrassing flaw and feels self-conscious about it. So, he picks a victim who appears weaker than him and lashes out. If he gets away with it, he feels a sense of power and as his behavior continues, he becomes hooked. Eventually, as confessed bully Michael Ortiz wrote in Bullying Under Attack, Michael lost control and any ability he might have had to tell right from wrong. The hate he inflicted on others replaced the hatred he felt for himself.
The victim is led to believe that more harm will come to her if she seeks help, and anyway, she doesn't want to be a tattletale. Lacking the proper skills to defend herself, she takes it and takes it until her life spins out of control and she descends into self-pity and worse. In dire cases, the victim may resort to harming herself by retreating into her own lonely world, and worse--cutting and even suicide. If a child is fortunate enough to rise above her unhappy situation, she is often left with long-lasting scars.
Enter an Audience and the Triangle is Complete
Bystanders witness the bullying--the presence of bystanders actually encourages the bullying. The bully loves to show off his skills, especially if he is egged on. And even if the bystanders remain silent, the bully believes that they are lending him support.
• Look the other way
• Avoid any people or place where bullying might take place
• Are afraid or embarrassed to speak up
• Feel helpless themselves
• Don't think they should interfere
How Abi Became an “Upstander”
Enter the rare person who is willing to stand up for the victim, dubbed the upstander, in the excellent chapter "Understanding Bystanders," in Bullying: Prevention and Intervention--Protecting Children and Teens from Physical, Emotional, and Online Bullying, by Cindy Miller and Cynthia Lowen.
Abi approaches Angel with caution. She takes time to size her up. To figure out what she’s up to. She’s heartened because Jess sticks up for her, but she still has to hold her own with Angel, and she does. She sees through Angel right away. She notices Angel’s pouty lower lip when Angel tries to get her to spy on the people Abi is staying with at the Hilltop Inn. She realizes that Angel is nosy. She makes sure not to give Angel what she wants. She also recognizes that she’s a liar.
In other words, Abi stood up to Angel. She didn’t play her game, but stood her ground. By the end of the first book, she figures out the reason Angel treats her so poorly. Can you guess? Angel is jealous of Abi’s new friendship with Jess and does everything she can to try to make Abi look bad..
Personally, I have never been involved in a bullying situation except to break up fights as a classroom teacher. If your child becomes involved in a bullying situation, I hope this information is helpful. Also, it is my hope that your child will benefit from the example that Abi has set.
If you'd like to share your story, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you'd like to share your story with my readers, I will post it in an upcoming post. Please be sure and sign up for my newsletter for updates, at https://www.lindawilsonauthor.com, and check out my Amazon author page at https://www.amazon.com/author/lindawilsonchildrensauthor.