Stories about: Peter Raffalli

Samantha’s story: Partnering with BACPAC program to end bullying

During the fifth grade when Samantha was 10 years old, she was bullied by a male classmate. She remembers walking through the halls of her elementary school and hearing the bully call out these words:

“Why are you on this earth? You don’t deserve to be alive.”

The bullying followed her every day.

“I didn’t want to go to school because I knew he would be there. I was afraid,” says Samantha, now 12.

Weeks into the school year, the harassment and intimidation escalated and turned physical.

“It was usually mental [abuse], but at one point in fifth grade the bully came up to me, and he punched me on the back,” says Samantha quietly. This was the breaking point.

“I had enough,” says Samantha’s mother Karen. “The verbal and physical abuse needed to stop.”

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Can the term bullying be overused?

We recently received the following comment on a Thriving post about bullying:

“My daughter is 7 years old.  Yesterday she was accused of bullying another girl on her soccer team by a parent who said that my daughter is the reason this girl scared to come to practice. She used an incident of the girl taking my daughter’s “pink” soccer ball and my daughter wanting it back (and arguing with her to give it back) from as my daughter being a bully. 

I know my daughter is not perfect, but this seems extreme.

Every time the girl shows up she does cartwheels, runs around and plays with her friends from school on the team. I’ve never seen anything to indicate this girl is unhappy there. Three parents have come forward, including the coach, who have said that they have never seen my daughter bully this girl or any other child on the team and that the incident was not as the parent described.  The coach suggested the parent is looking for an excuse as to why she never brought her daughter or practice or games.

I know bullying is awful, but now bullying is used for everything when it is also not the case. It seems to me that as much as there is horrible bullying, people also use it against others when it is not true. This person is hurting my daughter. How do I handle this?”

This stuck me as a very valid concern. To learn more I reached out to Peter Raffalli, MD, FAAP, director of Children’s Hospital Boston’s BACPAC (Bullying and Cyberbullying Prevention and Advocacy Collaborative). In the following blog post he addresses this mother’s issue.

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A doctor's response to bullying

Kelly as a toddler

We recently shared a blog written by Children’s patient Kelly Rock, who for years was bullied and excluded as a result of a medical condition. Kelly is an amazing young woman, and her blog post spurred a great deal of conversation on our Facebook page.

In response to Kelly’s story, Peter Raffalli, MD, FAAP, director of Children’s Hospital Boston’s BACPAC (Bullying and Cyberbullying Prevention and Advocacy Collaborative) has written a companion blog exploring bullying’s affect on health and provides advice for parents on behaviors to look out for if you fear your child may be a bullying victim.

Reading Kelly’s account of her childhood experience with bullying, I am truly struck by her courage. She also brings insight on the impact bullying has on its victims and the potential protective influences family and friends can provide. Bullying is such a common and age-old problem, but sometimes I marvel at how overlooked it can be. However, in the last decade we have seen a groundswell of attention to the scourge of bullying.

Kelly clearly had one important weapon in the battle against bullying: a strong, supportive, loving family. Studies show that one of the protective influences in bullying dynamics is a strong supportive family and a good friendship network. Communication between family members is important. Victims of bullying are very reluctant to report it or talk about it. If communication with your child is poor to begin with, then the chance of detecting the bullying is poor.

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A year on, what Phoebe Prince has taught us about bullying

On January 14, 2010 15-year-old Phoebe Prince, who had been relentlessly bullied, hung herself in a closet.

She wasn’t the first child to die as a result of bullying. But there was something about her, and about her story, that caught the attention of the world. As the details of her bullying emerged, it seemed clear that her death could have been prevented. There were signs. People knew. But they either didn’t do anything—or they didn’t do the right things.

Phoebe’s story didn’t just cause sadness. It caused outrage. Enough is enough, people said. We can’t let children die. We need to do something.

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