Sophia, the Red-Rover Bully: A True Story
Since October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, I thought I could blog about this issue and share a true bullying story, featuring me.
All names have been changed to protect the identities of the ones who bullied me, because I have forgiven them, and do not hold a grudge.
In the seventh grade, I sported the physical education gym clothes and headed out to the gym for a friendly game of dodge ball.
I hope you can sense the irony there.
There is nothing friendly about hitting each other with balls and dodging them as they whip past your head.
It is important to set the scene for you. Despite my father’s dreams of his only daughter becoming an athlete, I was not one. My petite, 4’9’’ and 65 lbs. body was anything but an athlete.
Official Seventh Grade Photo
However, because I was my dad’s daughter, my competitive nature was like no other, so if my teacher tells me to hit my classmates with a ball, I was going to go for it.
Once the whistle blew, it was time for my death defying dodging and my aimless nonathletic throws. I honestly believe I stayed in the game for as long as I did because I was too small to hit. The numbers of participants were dwindling down and my confidence rose with every defeat. I stayed out of the way and my aimless throws were hitting undesignated targets. With about four girls left, my ball hit Sophia square in the chest. When Sophia picked up the ball and continued playing, I, the rule follower that I was, alerted the teacher that Sophia “forgot” to sit out.
The whistle blew, and Sophia was motioned by the teacher to head to the sidelines. Sophia’s you-betta-watch-yo-back-girl-cuz-you-are-mine face made me turn around, because I thought, “Surely she isn’t talking to me. She was out and just forgot to sit down. I was helping her out.” Boy, was I naïve.
Back in the locker room, despite the loss, I still enjoyed the game. My smile soon left my face as Sophia, Avery, and Lauren formed a triangle and walked towards me simultaneously.
I didn’t cry out for help. I didn’t move an inch. I had never been in a situation like that ever before. My mom had never prepped me for a dodge-ball-game-gone-bad scenario, so I froze in my tracks and awaited my punishment.
Sophia and her posse stopped inches from me then Sophia threatened, “You don’t know who you just messed with and you better watch your back.”
They turned, walked off, and launched their six year bullying campaign against me.
I did not tell my mom. I did not tell my teacher. I did not tell a friend.
Looking back, I wish that I would have told my mom, my teacher, a friend –anyone.
Back in P.E., weeks later, my teacher announced we were playing Red-Rover. Two lines of holding hands stood across from each other and the teams took turns yelling, “Red-Rover Red-Rover, let So-and-So come over.” So-and-So would let go and run across the gym to the other line. She would find two sets of arms and attempt to break her way through. If she did, she took those two people with her to her side, and if she was caught, she had to stay on that team and grab hands.
Our teacher blew her whistle yelling for us to form two lines. Before I had a chance to grab hands with my friends, Avery and Lauren grabbed mine saying I was on their team. Yes, I was naïve, and yes I was hopeful, but I knew “I was not on their team.” Avery and Lauren alerted the other teammates that “Sophia” was coming over. Despite my subtle protests, the chant began to bellow out. “Red-Rover, Red-Rover, let Sophia come over.”
I felt the grip on my hands tighten, quickly understanding the negative outcome of this game. Despite losing for my team, I did not want to lose my arms. Sophia was three times my size and about a foot taller than me. Sophia running towards me was like a middle linebacker taking aim for the quarterback.
With about a few feet to go, I braced for the collision. Sophia hit my right arm and I flew slow-motion five feet back, crashed towards the gym floor with my head hitting on impact. The gym roared with laughter and my tears contested the pain because I feared the tears would only make the shame worse.
Even though that even happened 24 years ago, I remember it like it was yesterday. I have wondered many times if Sophia, Avery, and Lauren regret their actions, but then I quickly dismiss it. Instead, I focus on the future and share my experiences, my regrets, and my hope for others to stop the cycle of bullying or tell someone they are a victim of bullying.
That day, even though I was a little seventh grader, I had a powerful voice. I could have told my teacher, a counselor, a friend, my mom, and maybe, just maybe, the next six years of torture would not have occurred.
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