About twenty years ago, there was a movement in emergency medicine to screen patients at risk for domestic violence. The concept was simple – when a woman presented to the ER with injuries, they would be asked whether the injuries were as a result of domestic violence. This concept quickly grew to include men who are at risk. The results were shocking. All that was needed to find and help these victims was to ask the right question, at the right time, in the right place.
Inspired by this game changer, I have embarked on something similar. Whenever a child comes in to the ER with an injury, even if the cover story has nothing to do with being bullied, I ask. I ask “is there a chance your injury was caused by a bully?”. Even if they say “no”, I take the opportunity and ask them if they have ever been bullied or whether they know of a bully in their school. I am hoping to do a formal study to quantify my results this year. However, informally, there are a number of children being bullied at school. What surprises me is the number of times the child’s parent has no idea. There is this unspoken code of silence on the play ground. It seems that most kids won’t speak up if they are being bullied. This has got to change. Once a child admits to being bullied, I counsel the parents and child on what to do next. I give the parent a copy of my report and tell them to go to their child’s school administrator with the copy. I tell the child that they need to speak to their parents and not keep being bullied silent.
I will keep talking about this on my blog and take the steps necessary to write a formal paper on this topic. I am so passionate about stopping bullying. The effects of this assault are permanent and often soul crushing. We can change this starting with a conversation with our children.