Being bullied has lasting effects. I’ve never forgotten my experience, but it also informs my work for animals on a daily basis. Listen to today’s commentary for KQED Radio.
Supporters make this work possible. Thank you.
I was 16 years old when a classmate began threatening to kick my…well…butt. I had done nothing to provoke her, but for weeks, she terrorized and terrified me until finally she named the day — the day she was going to find me and hurt me.
Friends warned me not to go to the promenade that Friday; she would be waiting for me; but that’s where I went every day, and I figured getting beaten up was better than living in fear of getting beaten up.
That was 30 years ago, and I remember it like it was yesterday, because it was the day I learned what I — and the world — was made of.
A crowd had already gathered by the time she arrived to find me sitting on a bench. She approached aggressively. A few friends who had been sitting next to me got up and left me by myself. She cussed and screamed at me to get up and fight. With a shaking voice, I told her I wasn’t going to. She hit me hard across the face. Another friend walked away.
Tears welled up in my eyes from the pain — and from feeling utterly alone.
Voices from the gathering crowd yelled out for me to hit her back. I wouldn’t.
Before I knew it, she hit me hard across the other side of my face. At this, the crowd began turning away; fights aren’t fun when they’re one-sided. At that point, it’s just blatant cruelty.
She left me alone after that ”because,” she said, I “wasn’t going to play.” I saw it differently. I saw a coward whose cruelty became clear to her that day — and to everyone else who bore witness.
I also saw cowardice in those who didn’t stay with me, and I vowed never to be passive in the face of violence. Two years later, I became an advocate for animals after learning about the violence perpetrated against them on a daily basis — unprovoked and unwarranted. Ever since, I’ve been sitting next to them on the proverbial bench holding up a mirror to the one-sided fight they endure every day, and I’m proud to be their witness and their defender.