Local woman speaks out against bullying
Tunstall shares advice in new books
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.”