Story by: Pamela Wells
Photo Illustration by: Jorge Alvarado
Former abuser reflects on his bullying
He felt like a dog backed into a corner. He did not want to attack but he also did not want to be conquered.
Torrey Drake looked around for his target, or as he calls him, the victim. His victim was bigger than him and could have easily beaten him up, but he knew that breaking a bigger kid down was the key to his freedom at school.
He needed to prove that he was a cool guy.
“I thought that if I could bully him that would mean I was tough,” Drake said. “I wanted to make people jealous of me, so they would think I had a great life.”
Drake was a freshman at the time whose only concern was that he was to be respected. He did not care whom he had to harm to earn that respect.
“Bullying is about control,” Drake said. “It is about having control over a person and making them fear you.”
According to the National Education Association, it is estimated that 15 percent of all school absenteeism is directly related to fears of being bullied at school by other students.
The National School Safety Center reports that American schools are home to approximately 2.1 million bullies and 2.7 million of their victims, and that one out of every 10 students drops out of school because of repeated bullying.
With today’s technology, the abuse has gone online, giving rise to cyber bullying.
“You can’t win against a bully,” said Barbara Neitlich, a private practice psychotherapist. “Teens are at an age where they do not want to be a snitch, so they try to fight their bully with their tactics, but it is no-win situation.”
China Taylor, 16, is one of those students. She has been a victim of cyber bullying for the past two years.
She has had ketchup packets thrown at her, been pushed down stairs, and had hurtful things said about her. But it is the messages left on her Facebook page and the hurtful tweets on Twitter that hurts her the most.
“People go to Facebook because it is easy to hide their faces,” Taylor said. “You can say all these hurtful things without being in front of someone. It is for cowards. You can throw a ball without anyone seeing who threw it.”
Taylor is referring to fake Facebook accounts she said people have created to make up things about her. One girl went so far as to befriend her on Facebook.
“Facebook can be so destructive,” Taylor said. “People are committing suicide because of it. I don’t understand why people are not finding ways to censor it.”
It is the opposite for Athena Aliya, 15. She has a friend that does the cyber bullying. Her friend makes up fake Facebook pages and often posts rude comments about her friends when she is upset with them.
Aliya is quick to admit that she doesn’t condone her friend’s behavior, but she understands her friend’s point of view.
“She does it when she is upset with someone,” Aliya said. “It is her way of telling people that she is upset with them.”
Aliya thinks her friend should confront people when she is upset with them, but her friend finds it easier to take her grievances online.
“It is her way of telling people to stop,” Aliya said. “She thinks this is the best way to do it.”
For Drake, now 19, bullying made him feel powerful.
“It fuels a bully when they see you cry,” he said. “When I made someone cry, it validated me that I had power over them.
“I was so desperate to make a point. If I could make a kid avoid me, then it meant that I was worth something.”
Drake said his friends were impressed by his ability to make someone cry.
“I was so desperate to be seen as untouchable,” Drake said. “Anyone who thought they were better than me. I would try to put myself over them.”
He challenged any student who did not do what he wanted.
The bad boy bullying would continue for years.
It would take a special young lady to help Drake see that bullying other classmates was not the way to earn respect from peers. It was their bond that prompted Drake to be a new guy.
“She helped me see that hurting other people was not how I wanted to be seen in life,” Drake said.
A former wrestler, Drake has a new outlook on life. He gives advice to students who are being bullied, hoping that his past can help them.
“Ignore your bully,” Drake said. “I know it is hard to do, but you must. You should ignore it because you want to be better than who they are choosing to be at that moment in their life. Find things you want to do.”
He encourages students not to remain silent.
“Talk to someone about being bullied,” Drake said. “It will not fix all your problems, but you need to get it off your chest so you will not feel isolated and alone. The hardest part is going to school and having no idea what is going to happen.”
Before Drake began terrorizing students, he said he was the victim. He spent his recesses in the bathroom.
Drake had just moved from Washington to California. He was finding it hard to make friends.
One morning before recess a volleyball hit his friend in the head. His first instinct was to cry, but he ignored this instinct. Instead he picked up the volleyball so he could defend his 9-year-old friend.
The three older guys approached him as if they were giants about to take candy from a baby. Each one kicked him in the stomach. He was short, pudgy and looked like a loser. This moment turned him from a victim to the ultimate bully.
It has been two years since Drake left high school. He has stopped abusing and intimidating others and he plans never to do it again.
“The scars of bullying last forever,” Drake said. “I want future and existing bullies to know that it will scar the kids they bully forever. It is not short term. They judge who they are for the rest of their life. It programs them in a different way than they should be programmed.
“It breaks them and changes them. It makes them socially awkward for the rest of their life.”