There was a time when the fear of getting bullied stayed on the playground. Harassment that used to end on the school yard now extends to one’s home, a place where kids should feel most secure, and all the verbal and physical abuse comes rushing back by simply logging onto a computer. For many, escaping their tormentor is impossible.
As the popularity of mixed martial arts balloons around the world, fighters grow into movie stars, fitness trainers, and most importantly, role models. UFC veterans have taken a stand by heading campaigns that stress tolerance.
Earlier this week, Former UFC heavyweight Tom Murphy spoke to a group of youths in Granville, NY.
“Most kids don’t know what to do, so I’m going to teach you the ABCs,” Murphy told the students, “A’ stands for getting a victim away from a bully; doing so could be as simple as asking for help with a locker. ‘B’ means being someone’s buddy, and ‘C’ is confronting the situation.”
Murphy and his partner Jason Specter established Sweethearts & Heroes, a non-profit that offers bullying victims an action plan when faced with a difficult situation. Their work with children earned Murphy and Specter keynote and featured presentation slots at the 2012 New York State Middle School Association Conference.
On Oct. 3, Mark Munoz and UFC welterweight Jake Ellenberger visited Valley High School in Santa Ana, Calif. to spread a message of understanding.
“Bullying affects everyone: those who are bullied, those who bully, and those who witness bullying,” Munoz said. “It is truly an epidemic that affects everyone. Even UFC fighters like myself.”
“The Filipino Wrecking Machine” and the Orange County Department of Education have teamed up to campaign throughout the county’s school districts.
Bullying goes far beyond the stereotypical wedgie. It has been linked to numerous teenage suicides and is the primary reason for classroom related violence. According to DoSomething.org, one the country’s largest non-profits directed at social change, 75 percent of school shootings occur as a means of retaliation. Approximately 160,000 students per day skip school in fear of verbal and physical abuse.
While fighting isn’t an answer to bullying, victims can follow in Georges St-Pierre’s footstep by learning self-defense. In his semi-autobiography “The Way of the Fight,” St-Pierre discusses how he learned karate to ward off a bully. In 2008 GSP founded The Georges St-Pierre Foundation, an organization which aims to help youths, stop bullying and promoting physical activity. They offer solutions to hostile situations victims face and link to various campaigns locations around the world.
Nearly one-third of all school-aged children are bullied each year, according to PACER, a national bullying prevention center. In 2010, only 36 percent of those that were harassed reported the incident and kids with disabilities were found to be two to three times more likely to be targeted.
“Don’t look to all the stereotypes. Look past that and treat others like you want to be treated,” Munoz said when speaking to high school students.
A bully’s words have the power to hurt an individual, but mentors like Munoz, Murphy and St-Pierre have the ability to heal those wounds. Victims can find comfort in knowing that these world-renowned athletes persevered through the same issue they face.