An essay by Joyce: By now, most all are aware that a contest being run by the National Down Syndrome Congress, has been compromised by a sad, sick individual who thought it would be funny to distort the positive messages being conveyed and turn them into what he considered funny. When in fact what he did is crude, distasteful and just plain mean.
The work by this individual is exactly like that of a bully. Bullying is generally defined as an intentional act that causes harm to others and may involve verbal harassment, verbal or non-verbal threats, physical assult, stalking or other methods of coercion such as manipulation, blackmail or extortion. Simply stated: Bullying is when someone keeps doing or saying things to have power over another person.
Over the course of the last six months, I have been engaging in workshops and discussion around this topic. They have been related to kids in schools, the population that have some type of disability and for me personally. I had come to realize there was a certain group of people in my life that I was letting control me and my emotions. The one message that I heard loud and clear, no matter what the target audience, is you cannot let the bully win. You need to do whatever is appropriate for the situation to send a message to the bully that their behavior will not be tolerated.
In a school setting, that might mean going to a teacher. In our world of having a children with Ds , it means we need to be paying attention to clues that they may be facing a bully and step in for them. In my case, I needed to exit the harmful people from my everyday existence. I needed to stand up and say, "I will no longer allow this behavior to continue."
There are a lot of reasons why some people bully. They may see it as a way of being popular. They may think others will find them funny. They may like the feeling of being the tough guy, the one in charge. In most cases, it is believed that the person doing the bullying has some underlying issues that give them the need to seek out a person or group that they perceive to be less than they are. Often the bully has been bullied themselves.
Bullying is harmful because it can make the person feel lonely, unhappy and frightened. It can make them feel unsafe and think there is something wrong with them. It can erode at your self confidence and may make you want to retreat. And that is just what the bully wants to have happen.
The situation with the photos of our children is frightening. No doubt about it. What was more intolerable to me is when I read the letter sent out by NDSC that stated they believe the hacker was someone who had been invited by a family, who had a poster with their child on it, in the contest to vote. If that is the case, it truly is heartbreaking. To think that a family member would turn like that on their own flesh and blood, brings greater feelings of anger and rejection. I do believe that this person will be identified and outed for their cruel work. Hopefully, at that point some therapeutic intervention can take place to help this person with their own issues. They do need help.
In the meantime, we cannot run. We cannot hide. We cannot let one person, one who may have a legitimate mental illness causing this type of aggression, alter what we have built. If we all close down our blogs or go private, deactivate our facebook accounts, stop posting on message boards, stop permitting NDSC to use photos of our precious children, then the bully has won. Not only has he won, we have sent a message to all the families who have just been given a diagnosis that this is something horrible, something that we need to hide, always be in protection mode. That is not the message I want to send. I want to continue to allow our story to be told. Even if it is just one family that finds us and realizes they will be ok, it is worth it to me.
Note: If you are concerned about your photos, Bethany has written an excellent post about watermarking your photos.