Op-Ed: We Can All Break the Cycle of Relationship Abuse

By Kimberly Pena

“The summer before I turned six years old, my parents finally got divorced. That seems very odd to say, finally. Most people want a complete family. They want to have their mom, their dad and maybe a sibling or two, that’s how the setup is with average American families. But not mine. I was only six years old and at the time my definition of love was accepting violent words and closed fists. My  definition of love was unhealthy jealousy and infatuation masked by insecurity and selfishness. If you haven’t caught on yet, my parents divorced because of domestic violence. At six years old I saw my  mother be a victim to relationship abuse.”

Relationship abuse is much more common than people think. It affects over two million people a year (http://www.clicktoempower.org/domestic-violence-facts).

And my mom was one of them.

Ever since I discovered this I vowed I would never allow myself to fall into the cycle of what she thought was love and what really was pain, a cycle that many teens in high school fall into as well.

Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year, according to http://www.loveisrespect.org/resources/dating-violence-statistics/ and most of them don’t even know it. They almost always deny that they are a victim, keeping their eyes closed to what’s truly happening.

Whether it be emotional, mental, psychological, or physical, all forms of abuse are damaging and very harmful to the victim. Abuse changes a person inside and out, and abuse alters the people around them. Changes in the victim include sudden isolation and lost of interest in things they once thoroughly enjoyed. There is a growing lack of socialization and there is a change in their normal personality. The victim insists on covering up with clothing and/or makeup, possibly trying to cover bruises or scarring. He or she no longer shows affection as before, and when a traditional hug is offered, will shy away. Suddenly they’re having mood swings and acting fearful around friends or  acting sad. A friend doesn’t know why, but just wants that old friend back.

Often, these signs are being displayed directly in front of us but we get distracted by the fact that this is high school, and we’ve been programmed to believe that relationship abuse only occurs between adults. We don’t realize that it happens to people in platonic as well as serious relationships in high school, to both friends and associates.

We may also become so absorbed with helping others that we forget to think about ourselves. Toxicity is found everywhere. Abusive people are found everywhere. That friend since sophomore year that is constantly throwing micro-aggressions every day may be abusive. That can be toxic. The girlfriend that is making her boyfriend feel bad for playing football, eventually persuading him to quit the team, may be abusive, and that, too, can be toxic.

There are countless scenarios for abuse in high school and it can happen. We must agree on where the line separating friendship from abuse ends and begins. We must set a precedent of educating our youth to recognize abuse for what it is, and we, as a community, must teach one another to love ourselves before loving others, and to treat others as we would have ourselves treated.

But right now, there is abuse, and so we must set a precedent where we say it is okay to be a victim so you can then get out of it and find guidance, and healing.

At the beginning of this piece I shared my mother’s story, one she shares with people who just happen to ask or who just happen to discuss the topic with her. Had she not left, had she not gotten help, there’s a very good chance I wouldn’t be writing this for you. There’s a good chance my little brother and I could’ve been lost in the foster care system, growing up without one another or a mother.

Many cases of relationship abuse don’t end well, so it is important to help yourself while you can, or help your friend while you can. The time is now, the pain is real.

Grade Shaming is Real and it Hurts

By Iris Ocasio

As the school bell was about to ring to begin one Monday, students were divided into cliques in a classroom.

One faction decided to describe its weekend, which, of course, was different for everyone. After all of the other students shared their stories there was only student remaining (let’s call him Dave) who had to add his account of weekend highlights. He said, “I was doing homework the entire weekend.”

One by one, his classmates laughed at him. Traumatizing comments such as “you are such a loser ” and “do you ever like to have fun?” stabbed at his self esteem. From that moment on, Dave tried to be as average as possible. He let go of his interest in school and made social life a priority; he risked so many goals that he set for his future because he did not want to be an outcast in high school.

Sadly, this is not a rare occurrence in American schools.

Getting good grades is something that teens should be proud of accomplishing. For most dedicated students, school is their only passion. 

During a Journalism class interview session, Dr. Dimitry, HHS psychiatrist, said, “Shaming is different from embarrassment because it goes to the core of who you are and not what you do.”

Dr Dimitry

HHS School Psychiatrist Dr. Dimitry

 

Being shamed for academic merit can affect motivation and emotional health. When a student self-defines by grades, it is important to focus on the positive attributes of this strength. If not, grade shaming will make a student believe that him/herself to be somehow inadequate.

Dr. Dimitry added, “Anything outside of the norms can make a person vulnerable,” so when a student is insecure about his/her true nature, s/he tends to become a follower. 

This is not okay.

The goal here is to find ways to overcome potential torment. Technically, there is nothing a student can do to prevent grade-shaming from happening.  Ms. Trocolar, HHS psychologist, explained that shamers use projection (when one makes others feel bad about themselves) as a defense mechanism, but the root of the problem is in the bully’s own shame and insecurities.

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HHS psychologist Ms. Trocolar

“Shaming is not successful if there is no audience,” Ms. Trocolar reminded us.

 High school students judge each other, it is simply part of our current culture. However, it is not fair that some students feel the need to go out of their way and bring down someone else’s confidence by shaming them.

Not all people that shame are necessarily popular, but they do try to make themselves feel superior by belittling others. This problem can actually stem from the bully’s own self-doubt, which they use as fuel to hurt someone else in order to take attention off of themselves, according to the HHS Special Services staff members participating in the interview.

Such behavior should make others wonder what must be going wrong in this student’s life that he or she has to make others feel shame.

Abusive students who “think they are cool” are just in their “peak” phase according to, Mr. Sanchez, HHS social worker. He explained the phenomenon as a student who is in his prime only in high school. Subsequently, after the four years, his life turns around and he becomes an ordinary person, according to Mr. Sanchez.

Mr Sanchez

HHS Social Worker Mr. Sanchez

Grade shaming, just like any other form of shaming, can have a major impact on high school students. They are still in the process of growing up and discovering their own identity, so bringing them down the slightest detail can make them feel like their whole world is coming apart. GMA News writes, “You can say we celebrate education, but we seem to hold ourselves back. It’s almost like we’re afraid or ashamed to be too intelligent.” This supports the idea that there is a population of people who feel the same way as these students do.

If learning is your passion then continue to enrich your knowledge. If people are upset it is because they may fear they do not have the capability for excelling in school that you do. That is their problem, not yours.

Cyber Bullying Cannot be Ignored

By Annise Garcia

Technological advancements in the 21st century have created ways to spread information and knowledge like wildfire with just the press of a button. But as the world advances with this technology, cell phones, social media, and the internet have also made it much easier for cyber bullying to occur.

Cyber bullying is a serious matter that should never be taken lightly.

And cyber bullying has been a significant danger to young people for years.

In October of 2010, a teenager by the name of Amanda Todd committed suicide in her home because she was being bullied and blackmailed by her fellow classmates. She even was bullied by other teenagers who she didn’t know because she exposed her breast on an online webcam. She may have made a mistake in judgment, but the cyber bullying that followed destroyed her.

Bullying victims are two to nine times more likely to commit suicide than any other group of people.

If we are going to be totally honest,  HHS is no different than so many high schools across the country; there are students who have been or are at risk for committing suicide. During a Journalism class interview session, School Psychiatrist Dr. Dimitry confirmed, “We do at least one risk assessment every day.”

Dr Dimitry

HHS School Psychiatrist Dr. Dimitry

A risk assessment is when a certified staff member evaluates a person who has been reported as being at risk.

In high school there is a diverse population of people who lead a variety of different lives and support different beliefs. Many people can be bullied because of what they wear and how they act, but some people are just bullied because of things they can’t change such as gender or race.

Cyber bullying is no different or hurtful than regular bullying, the reason why people cyber bully is because “that’s just how the times are,” according to Dr. Dimitry.

During the Journalism class interview with members of the school’s Special Services department, it was confirmed that cyber bullying attacks are most commonly against females.  

 Dr. Dimitry said the numbers may possibly be closer than we know. “It could be both equal, but the male (victims) could be more afraid of reporting it because they may feel like a snitch or less than a man,” he said.

There are a wide range of solutions that could solve the problem of cyber bullying. One of the easier ones is to report any bullying. Another possibility is if it gets too bad to handle delete the account under attack. “The first step is reporting it,” HHS Student Assistance Counselor Ms. Koonin advised. 

Koonin

HHS Student Assistance Counselor Ms. Koonin

High school is an experience that each student should enjoy greatly since we are here for four years of our lives. Being bullied isn’t something that would make high school memorable. It is not okay and shouldn’t be tolerated by anyone, whether victim or victim’s friend.

Slut Shaming Must Stop

By Skylar Werner

Many people nowadays have been shamed for a surprising variety of things: height, hobbies, backgrounds — no matter what it is, people get shamed too often.

Slut-shaming is one of the most common forms of shaming that there is, and one of the most harmful.

Girls have been taunted at school or even outside of school because of what they do with their own body. Not many people have heard about it because who would want to talk about themselves being called a “slut”?

HHS staff have answered some questions on this issue of  slut-shaming. School social worker Ms. Millard and school psychologist Ms. Trocolar, have told us, “The best way to cope with this issue is to surround yourself with people who love you for you no matter what you do.”

M and T

Ms. Trocolar and Ms. Millard

They suggested that having positive people in your life who can help you defend against taunting by others makes it easier to cope.

School Psychologist Dr. Dimitry and school Social Worker Ms. Shepard both believe shaming someone is way worse than embarrassment.

“Embarrassment is over in a short amount of time but shaming actually goes to the ‘core’ and makes you think it defines you,” Ms. Shepard explains.

Dimitry and Shepard

Dr. Dimitry and Ms. Shepard

Shaming doesn’t actually define you. People who shame others are most likely insecure or struggling with their own identity, according to Dr. Dimitry, so having someone call you a certain name has nothing to do with who you are but makes a significant comment about who they are.

School Social Worker Mr. Sanchez and Student Assistance Counselor Ms. Koonin acknowledged that as unfair as it is, slut shaming is mostly a female issue. Men get “praised” for having a lot of women, Mr. Sanchez pointed out, but women get put down for having lots of men. “It’s sexist and not fair at all,” Ms. Koonin said.

Ozzie and

Mr. Sanchez and Ms. Koonin

Ms. Shepard said, “Women should be treated the same and people should not care what a person does with his or her own body.”

Slut-shaming needs to stop with this generation. Everyone has control of what they do with their body and it shouldn’t be anyone else’s business. What you think of yourself is so much more important. As long as you know your own worth and surround yourself with positive people, no one can hurt you.

Islamophobia is a Curable Epidemic

By Khayla Dixon

Islamophobia is an epidemic in post 9/11 America, and it is evident that school children are not excluded from this trend.

Islamophobia, the dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, has increased in the country since the September 11th attacks, and seems to be passing on to a new generation. In many parts of the country, Muslim or Arab students are mocked with bigoted, prejudice terms such as “terrorist” or “towel-head” (which denigrate their religious headdress).

In a Journalism class press conference, Ms. Trocolar, HHS psychologist, said, “Religion doesn’t play a role in public schools, but there is an effort to educate students. It is a place to learn about it.”

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HHS School Psychologist Ms. Trocolar

This offers a possible solution for Islamophobia; teaching others about Islam. By teaching students the principles and ideals valued by Muslims we can hope to discourage the hate associated with the religion.

During the press conference, Ms.Trocolar stated that though she hasn’t seen Islamophobia present in our school, she does not doubt it could be present.

Mrs. Shepard, an HHS social worker, also agreed, stating that she sees there could be “potential” for Islamophobia in our school.

Pat

HHS School Social Worker Ms. Shepard

An infamous example of Islamophobia in high school was perpetrated not by students but teachers and administrators. In Texas’s MacArthur High School, in 2015,  Ahmed Mohamed, a freshman, was arrested and accused of terrorism when he brought a homemade clock to school. This event captured America’s attention and brought awareness to the active prejudice sometimes present in our school systems.

In discussing Islamaphobic shamers, Mrs. Shepard stated that shaming “goes to the core of who you are.” This implied that those who shame others are dealing with insecurities of their own, and using bullying as an outlet.

HHS School Psychiatrist Dr. Dimitry asserted that one way to stop shaming was to make bullies “aware of the impact of their own actions.”

Dr Dimitry

HHS School Psychiatrist Dr. Dimitry

Dr. Dimitry commented on the long-term effects of bullying on those shamed, “What they’re hearing about themselves can carry through to adulthood.”

By addressing this and encouraging students to work to feel better about themselves, we may be able to reduce and maybe even stop shaming.

Shaming Someone for Their Interests is Harmful

By Carolina Reyes

            Famed psychiatrist Karl A. Menninger once said,“The voice of the intelligence is drowned out by the roar of fear. It is ignored by the voice of desire. It is contradicted by the voice of shame. It is biased by hate and extinguished by anger. Most of all it is silenced by ignorance.”

Shaming has been an issue for a long time and as the years have passed, it seems to be getting easier and easier to shame people for small reasons.

In high school, teenagers like to form groups; you have the popular clique, the fringe group, the athletic group, the friendship circle, the nerds, the geeks, and then those who are seen as loners.

Most people feel the need to change themselves in order to fit in. For some reason society doesn’t allow anyone to be too different. HHS School Psychologist, Dr. Dimitry said, “If there are people who like things that aren’t the norm in a society, then other people will shame them because they don’t know how to react towards that person.”

Dr Dimitry

HHS School Psychiatrist Dr. Dimitry

Teens in high school sometimes think that it is okay to make others feel weird. It makes them critique and question those who aren’t into the same things, for example, the same kind of music, or reading, or a certain sport, or a sexual preference, or career goal. 

People don’t really understand the pain that other people go through after being shamed for their interests, but it is significant. HHS School Social Worker, Ms. Millard says, “Some of the reasons that people shame others is because they try so hard to not focus on their life and make themselves feel better.” People tend to blend in so that no one shames them but they could also shame others because they feel uncomfortable that those others are so willingly open about what they like and don’t care about what everyone says.

Millard 1

HHS School Social Worker Ms. Millard

Things can always get better. If people are being shamed for liking certain things then they should try to express how they feel to someone else.

HHS SChool Psychologist Ms. Trocolar says, “Support groups can help you get through this hard time and talking to someone can allow you to not feel alone.”

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HHS School Psychologist Ms. Trocolar

No one should be dealing with these kinds of problems alone. Hopefully people realize that it’s okay to have different interests and to have the freedom to be who they really are without being judged.

Height Shaming is No Joke

By Quasim Depew, Kylow Spence, and Eric Williams

Shaming in high school is a problem around the U.S. If you’re not popular enough, athletic or dress well enough, your life may become problematic.

This shouldn’t be.

Many things factor into this phenomena. Some social workers and counselors say the effects can be long lasting.

HHS School Psychiatrist Dr. Dimitry says, “Shaming stays with a person past high school.”

Dr Dimitry

HHS School Psychiatrist Dr. Dimitry

Even newspaper articles say such supposedly acceptable abuse has long lasting consequences. New York Magazine ran a cover article entitled “High School is a Sadistic Institution” in which the authors argue that high school is a time when people are at their most vulnerable.

Making fun of a person’s height is a form of shaming that can damage a person’s confidence for life.

HHS Social worker Ms. Millard says “The people doing the shaming do this because they are insecure about themselves and want to draw attention away from their flaws and put it onto somebody else.”

Millard 1

HHS School Social Worker Ms. Millard

Shaming can effect someone beyond high school, especially if it’s something physical like their height.

A perceived inadequate height can effect a man’s confidence because many girls prefer tall men. According to Daniel Freeman, a professor of clinical psychology and a Medical Research Council senior clinical fellow, studies show that men who are short have less confidence than men who are tall. “Ours is a culture that (values) the tall and belittles, as it were, the short. As a result, being tall brings with it a host of advantages,” he wrote in The Guardian in January of 2014.

Many people don’t understand that there is no problem with being short, it is just one of many factors that make up a whole person. HHS School Social Worker Ozzie Sanchez says, “Everyone has differences and that’s what makes us human. You should look at your flaws as something that makes you stand out as a person.”

Ozzie and

HHS Social Worker Ozzie Sanchez and HHS Student Assistance Counselor Iris Khoonin.

If a person often thinks about his or her flaws and is shamed about some aspect constantly, it will affect his or her self-image. Some people might suffer low self-esteem for years until it is resolved. To deal with something like height shaming, experts say a person should talk to someone about it. Your height is not the only thing that defines you and that goes for any flaw the counselors say.

Shaming someone’s differences doesn’t define the person being shamed, it defines the person who is doing the shaming. With something like height, a person must remember to also look at his or her other abilities and qualities that are good because everyone is built differently.

Ultimately, people also need to understand that shaming is not right and can affect a person or child’s future significantly.