Lo­cal woman speaks out against bul­ly­ing

Tun­stall shares ad­vice in new books

The Dundalk Eagle - - EDITORIAL - By NI­COLE ROD­MAN nrod­man@ches­pub.com

Dun­dalk res­i­dent Ver­mell Tun­stall is on a cru­sade.

Her mis­sion — to stop bul­ly­ing and its dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect on young vic­tims.

Tun­stall was her­self bul­lied as a child and knows first-hand the dam­age such abuse can in­flict on the youngest, most vul­ner­a­ble mem­bers of so­ci­ety.

While bul­ly­ing has al­ways ex­isted, it is an is­sue that has drawn in­creas­ing at­ten­tion in re­cent years.

Bul­ly­ing can take many forms, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices (HHS).

On its web­site, at stop­bul­ly­ing.gov, HHS out­lines var­i­ous types of bul­ly­ing, in­clud­ing ver­bal (taunts, threats, in­ap­pro­pri­ate sex­ual com­ments), so­cial (spread­ing ru­mors, embarrassing some­one in pub­lic) and phys­i­cal (hit­ting, kick­ing). Cy­ber bul­ly­ing, that is, bul­ly­ing some­one via so­cial me­dia or other tech­no­log­i­cal means, has also be­come more preva­lent in re­cent years.

Ac­cord­ing to a 2013 re­port is­sued by the Na­tional Cen­ter for Ed­u­ca­tion Statis­tics and the Bureau of Jus­tice, 22 per­cent of stu­dents ages 12 to 18 across the U.S. have been vic­tims of bul­ly­ing.

For some vic­tims, the non­stop tor­ment has even led to sui­cide.

While her own chil­dren have, for­tu­nately, not been bul­lied, Tun­stall was deeply af­fected by her own ex­pe­ri­ences as a vic­tim of bul­ly­ing.

“For a while, I walked around not know­ing who I was and not lik­ing my­self,” she said.

Though she found her­self “spi­ral­ing out of con­trol” and do­ing things she would not have nor­mally, she even­tu­ally got through it with the help of her fam­ily and friends.

“It made me take a look at my­self and find things I like about my­self,” she said. “The prob­lem was not me, it was the kids who were bul­ly­ing me.”

By re­build­ing her self­es­teem she was able to best her bul­lies.

She added, “You can take your power back.”

Now an anti-bul­ly­ing ad­vo­cate, Tun­stall is tak­ing her mes­sage of self-ac­cep­tance and com­pas­sion for oth­ers to those who need it most – kids and teens.

She has writ­ten, and her daugh­ter il­lus­trated, two books aimed at young au­di­ences.

“Per­fectly Im­per­fect,” a book for teens, is di­rected to­ward in­di­vid­u­als go­ing through “the daily life strug- gles of school and be­ing ha­rassed in school.”

Her other book, “Why Doesn’t Any­body Like Me?” is aimed at el­e­men­taryschool aged chil­dren.

In both cases, Tun­stall is look­ing to speak di­rectly to kids suf­fer­ing from abuse at the hands of bul­lies.

“I see that a lot of kids are be­ing bul­lied on a day-to-day ba­sis, and they don’t know how to deal with it,” she said.

“I was try­ing to share some of the ways I got through it.”

Tun­stall is cur­rently in the process of find­ing a pub­lisher for her books, which she hopes to some­day see in book­stores. She also plans to do­nate copies to li­braries and schools.

In the mean­time, Tun­stall is busy spread­ing the word against bul­ly­ing.

She is try­ing to get speak­ing en­gage­ments at lo­cal schools and she has cre­ated a YouTube video on bul­ly­ing avail­able by search­ing “SassyV81.”

She is also ad­vo­cat­ing for schools to in­clude more in­for­ma­tion on bul­ly­ing in their cur­ricu­lums, both for stu­dents and their par­ents.

She hopes that, if peo­ple unite and stop “suf­fer­ing in si­lence,” the is­sue can be im­proved.

She noted, “We can make a dif­fer­ence if we all come to­gether.”

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