Anti-bullying advocate urges victims to speak out

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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) -- "Your child is either a bully, a victim or a witness, one or the other," said Tracy Palmer, the organizer of the Anti-Bullying Awareness Family night in Flint, Michigan.

"Tell your child they're beautiful. Tell your child they're talented," said Palmer to a gymnasium filled with students and parents.

Students and parents were encouraged to take the sticky-note challenge, writing a positive message about themselves and sticking it to a large mirror.

A visual exercise that words matter.

"Right now teenagers having a huge problem with identity and self esteem," said Palmer. "Identify with who you are, who you want to be, and understand that you are enough, you have purpose so when you come to school, no one's able to change that."

"Some days I'd come into gym class they'd talk about my hair, about I'm not a good athlete," explained DeQuasha Poplar, a high school senior.

She says she was bullied by other girls as a freshman during gym class, an experience she described as isolating:

"I felt like anyone who was having a conversation around me was talking about me, so it really just affected my self esteem," she said.

While she eventually recovered, she doesn't think much has changed at her school, despite there being an anti-bullying policy in place.

"People are still bullied everyday," she said. "There are still fights every day, there's still problems with students with other students."

She thinks an approach that gets to the root of the problem is what's currently missing. Her suggestion?

"You have a peer mediation," she said, "and have the two people resolve it, make them do community service together."

Communication is key according to Palmer.

"If you're a victim yourself, you have to say something. Somebody that you trust needs to know what you're going through. You have to get it out, you cannot keep it inside," she said.

Palmier listed the following as signs of a victim:
*Often depressed
*Unexplained injuries
*Lost or destroyed belongings
*Frequent Faked Illness
*Changes in eating habits
*Difficulty sleeping
*Declining grades
*Lack of social interaction with others
*Self-destructive behavior
*Thoughts of suicide.

Resources: NSPL (National Suicide Prevention Line) 1-800-273-TALK

National Youth Talk Line 1-800-246-7743

For more information on resources, click on the link to the left.

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