– elDon Staff Writer & elDon News Editor.
When Natalia Orellana was in middle school, she rolled with a crew she calls ‘The Plastics,’ a throwback to Mean Girls. Orellana picked on girls for the way they dressed, before running them through a gauntlet of terrifying acts and abusive words.
She regrets it all.
“I missed out on so much. So many friends, but I grew out of it,” said Orellana. “It’s shallow and it’s about what’s inside, that’s how you learn to love somebody.”
Bullying leaves a lasting mark. Orellana is just one of dozens of students who flocked to Hartnett Fountain May 2 to write letters to their bullies, or those they’ve bullied.
More than 40 percent of children have been bullied online, and about 30 percent of students are victims or have been bullies themselves, according to bullyingstatistics.org.
About 15 percent of students who miss class do so because of bullies.
The long-term psychological effects of bullying make victims doubt their self-esteem, sexual identity and physical safety, said Dan Raker, an intern with Santa Ana College’s Psychological Services Department.
“If you’ve ever been bullied, it makes you feel isolated,” Raker said.
The first annual Love Letters to a Bully event was created by the Family of Colors, an LGBT club. The letters will be collected and displayed in Nealley Library so that other students can learn from the stories, said Family of Colors club member Alphonso Garcia.
As a child, Family of Colors member Alexander Romero was taunted for being openly gay.
“When you live through it, you can prevent it,” Romero added.
Dozens of notes scribbled in crayon show patterns of lifelong bullying.
One said: “How could you forget all the times you called me ‘Gaylord,’ ‘Stupid,’ and ‘Skinny Bones’? I’m sorry no one was there to help you. I refuse to be like you or let myself be brought down by you. This cycle ends now. This letter is my release from you.”
Other notes were optimistic, thanking bullies for giving them the fuel to overcome obstacles.
Orellana turned over her letter to be displayed for a crowd of students.
Romero rushed over with arms wide open and his rainbow boa ruffling in the wind.
“I forgive you,” he said to Orellana — as if she stood in for one of his bullies — “That was yesterday and you still have tomorrow.”
Victims of bullying can seek help at SAC Psychological Services or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a 24-hour resource hotline by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
|CYBERSPACE More than a quarter of teens have been repeatedly bullied online or through their cell phones.||BEAT UP About 50 percent of males admit to being victimized in physical fights. A quarter have been verbally attacked more than once.|