Q&A with Author Chris Ponici, Bullied Reunion
By Teena Clipston.
High school bullying can be a traumatic experience for any young person. The bully, usually someone physically stronger, or socially more powerful, gains a morbid satisfaction in harming, intimidating, and controlling his or her victim. The torment often leads to mental health issues such as severe depression and suicidal thoughts (even suicide), as well as self-harm, addiction and other destructive behaviors. A study on bullying by the University of British Columbia (1999) states that 64% of kids have reported being bullied at school. These numbers unfortunately have risen over the last couple of decades with CBC reporting one in every five young Canadians being bullied. Unfortunately, bullying today does not only happen in the school yard: cyberbullying and cyberstalking create an environment where victims are not even safe in their own homes.
Can you imagine, at work, a colleague from your office, each morning punches you in the gut, steals your lunch (or wallet), and calls you “stupid”. The thought of that is unreal, and yet many of our youth suffer exactly this, sometimes daily, in the supposedly safe place we call school.
Author Chris Ponici, a Lake Country resident, experienced first-hand what bullying can do to a person. From beginning grade eight, at Burnaby Central Senior Secondary to the day he graduated, three boys from school tormented him daily. Twenty years later, he tells his story in a fictionalized account of his school days. Covering each high school year, he illustrates what it is like living the life of a bullied teenager. The book, described as heart wrenching and psychologically explicit, becomes the author’s retribution and payback for years of pain.
Why did you decide to write this book?
“I wrote this book for anybody who enjoys a great tale of revenge and retribution. Also, for those that have been bullied and want to feel the satisfaction of seeing their bullies get what they deserve and to delight in the escapism this story brings.”
Was it difficult writing about such a personal and painful experience?
“Although the book is pure fiction, the bullying scenes in the story happened to me and, at times, it was difficult to re-live some of those memories. But all in all, it was a cathartic experience. I left my pain on the page.”
What do you hope for this book to accomplish?
“The effects of bullying last well beyond high school. Though time passes, the psychological damage is done, and it stays with you forever. Even though you’ve ‘moved past it’ and it no longer consumes your every waking moment, it changes you as a person: many have become fearful and less socially active; aggressive and angry; have had difficulty in maintaining long term relationships; and quite a few end up abusing drugs and/or alcohol to anodyne themselves.
“My wish is that the rawness of this novel hits hard and shows the reader that bullying is not just a push or a shove or a condescending comment or verbal attack, but a very real, life threatening act that we, as a society, MUST put and end to—or the very last pages of my book may very well become fact rather than fiction.”
How serious a problem is bulling for our Canadian youth?
“With social media now filling our lives, bullying has escalated from physical to mental. It’s an epidemic that needs more awareness now than ever before. We hear of children as young as nine years old committing suicide—at their young age, they truly don’t see a way out. They feel as though the bullying will last forever and never go away.”
Do you think anything has changed within the school system since your experience to help combat bullying?
“On the other hand, I do think there is a revolution happening from within the schools. The Pink Shirt Day and the students standing up for themselves in groups and watching out for one another is a beautiful sight. I see a spark of change—but we need more involvement from our local government and police force. Bullying must be treated as a crime and punished accordingly. Just like we, as adults, can’t verbally threaten someone without repercussions, neither should a student be able to intimidate or harass another without feeling the sting of the law.”
What is your advice for those being bullied?
“First and foremost: learn how to defend yourself. Nobody cares about you more than YOU. Tell your parents that you MUST learn self-defence—which will increase your confidence, your ability to handle yourself in a physical situation, and will let others know that you are prepared and ready, should they choose to bully or attack you.
“Personally, I believe there are a lot of useless martial arts being taught out there that are not applicable in real life environments. That’s why I advocate for each teen (male or female) to join their local Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu club; a place where they will transform themselves into a person who can walk confidently down the halls of their school with the physical and mental tools to conquer their fear and become fearless in the face of oppression. (Supplementing with boxing/kickboxing is an important addition, as well.)
“Second: deal with it fast. Don’t let it continue! Tell a teacher, a friend, your parents, someone you trust. The longer it goes on, the harder it is to stop. And you are not being ‘a rat’ or a ‘snitch’ by letting those in authority know what is taking place; quite the contrary, you are doing the honorable thing by protecting yourself and others who are being victimized.”
Where can we purchase this book?
“You can find my book online at Amazon.ca and soon to be in our local bookstores, Chapters and Mosaic!”