“I am the face of bullying, from preschooler, to teacher, to social worker, to single mother of three I am the face of bullying,” said Allison Taite about her experience with bullying.
Her statements and life story left some feeling sympathetic and others in a state of astonishment during the recent bullying symposium hosted by the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice’s Alumni Council.
The theme for the symposium, “Bullying Across the Lifespan: Targeting the Bully,” drew several hundred students, social workers and community members who were eager to learn more on this topic.
The symposium’s three-part agenda covered the context of bullying, deepening the understanding of the problem and strategies for making a difference.
Like many bullies, reoccurring stressors, frustrations and the need for attention ultimately led Taite to a place of acting out her anger by victimizing her childhood peers.
Fortunately, this period ended in her elementary school years because of consistency and caring attitudes from two of her former teachers.
“My teachers saw me as a hurting child, not a problem child,” Taite said. “That made all the difference for me. My first and second grade teachers had two different approaches. Neither teacher gave up on me.”
Later in life, Taite became the victim of cyber bullying through a very difficult divorce and co-parenting situation.
When asked what she would say to one of her victims today, Taite shared that she had already closed that chapter in her life.
“In middle school I was fortunate to address someone I bullied,” she said. “I happened to overhear this girl tell the story of how someone — and I was that someone she described — destroyed her teddy bear. I apologized to her. After so many years had passed, we were able to laugh about the experience.”
When asked to share her experience with bullying, Taite admits she was initially very apprehensive about being the bully.
“I cringed at the thought of people scowling at me and chastising me for my past poor decisions as an angry young child,” she said. “But people were very compassionate. They helped me understand that my story reinforced the need for bully prevention and intervention services at a very young age.”
During a session break, several attendees greeted Taite with a hug. Some shared how they thought her testimony was powerful and touching — others simply said thank you.
Lara McDavit shared her experience as a seventh-grade victim of bullying.
“I could never really defend myself beyond waking up in the morning,” she said.
Today, McDavit finds herself still shying away from any kind of confrontation.
“I feel uncomfortable with confrontational people and really avoid these situations and people,” she said.