One On One With Anti Bullying Advocate, Dave Boddy

Editors note. The following interview has been posted in its entirety and without interruption for two reasons. The first is that Mr. Boddy’s story deserves to be told without any editing or anything else that takes away from what he is saying.

The second reason is that the following interview holds a lot of value for victims of bullying, bullies themselves and parents trying to work through a situation of bullying. With that being said, the focus should be on the words and his experiences, which are much more important than what I could add to it myself.

If you or anyone you know is dealing with an issue of bullying, please visit the links below. Also feel free to send Mr. Dave Boddy and his organization, Boddyguards United to learn more about ways to prevent bullying. There is also a community group where you can speak to other victims and share stories.

Suicide text line

Boddyguards United Anti Bullying page

Dave Boddy’s Facebook

Resources for parents

1. What are your earliest memories of bullying?

The most visual memory I have of bullying was in either kindergarten or grade one, I remember I was walking in the back part of the school and I was pushed to the ground and laughed at, and then the youth kicked stones into my face. I also remember constantly being called names, and this was in my early years when this all happened. I remember feeling confused, however, I also remember feeling I should not tell anyone as I thought that would be ratting the youths out. I remember eventually just accepting bullying as normal behaviour, and many years later I realize now why that was a counterproductive decision.

2. What was the worst experience of bullying in your in your life?

It was in 1996 when I was in grade 6, and I share this story often as it truly was the worst case of bullying I experienced. I was walking out of the door of the portable, and as I began to walk down the first step from the top a youth pushed me down the stairs. I fell onto my stomach and immediately two other youths grabbed me and spun me onto my stomach. This was when the first male who pushed me began to yell and swear at me, he then proceeded to throw razor blades at my face, once the razor blades were gone he proceeded to throw rocks. While they all laughed and made their jokes I was clouded with anger and fear, as soon as they stopped I got up and walked home with my head down low and tears flowing. I was experiencing more anger than fear as I was walking. I elected once again not to inform anyone, and once again I regret this decision.

3. How did getting bullied make you feel, and what did it do to you as a person?

Bullying brought on many emotions for me such as: fear, worry, confusion, anger, and loneliness. However, the most common were anger and loneliness. Due to living these emotions for many years I developed a personality that was driven by bitterness, sadness, and anger. I started to remove myself from participating in gym class, well, any class for that matter. I started to have emotional instability, my emotions would transition without notice at anytime, and I started to lose focus while in class. I was becoming a youth who was lost and angry, which is NOT a healthy combination. 

4. What actions do you think schools, parents and teachers should make to help prevent bullying in a child’s life?

Here is the sad reality, and the stats only prove this thought process, bullying is not going to stop. When I lost one of my best friends in 2004 due to suicide as a result of bullying it shook our school system. Now, here we are in 2019 and the stats have only drastically increased. What I have done since coaching youths since 2012 is help these youths develop internal strength, I found with the youths I have coached that when you help them internally become stronger they start to overcome external issues. As long as we focus all of our energy on stopping bullying, and no action on helping youths become stronger, it will never stop. Eliminate the opportunity for someone to be bullied and the interest goes away. Also, during my years coaching I have coached youths who were bullies as well, to be honest, I was also a bully in elementary school. I understand how it feels to be on both sides, and one of the most important factors here is to help those who are bullying just as much as we help those who are bullied. Also, it is time we say what needs to be said, schools need to show more emphasis on ENFORCING the anti-bullying policies as opposed to speaking about it. Youths do not feel confident in the school system, they constantly feel failed by them. Many youths make reports of incidents and the faculty does not follow through on their end. If you truly want to stop bullying, you need to create an environment where youths understand there WILL be IMMEDIATE consequences for their actions. Create an environment where youths feel HEARD and UNDERSTOOD when they speak up, create an environment where youths are confident they are safe and protected. Parents, pay attention to your youths. If you see even the slightest change in their behaviour, question it. Parents, also create the environment where your youth can speak to you about ANYTHING, hear them, listen to them, understand them. 

5. You are the creator of “Boddyguard’s United Against Bullying Community”, which is an anti-bullying community that has gotten a lot accomplished in combating bullying and helping young adults feel better about themselves. What was the driving force behind creating the organization and what are your plans for the future with it?

I started this community in 2012 when I started to speak to schools and share my stories, the community was started as a group on Facebook where I would share my stories on bullying, and how I overcame it. I realized soon that it was becoming more than that as many youths and families started to share their stories to me. I worked with youths in the past in security for over 4 years, I worked with youths who were part of gangs, drugs, and even prostitution. I developed a strong passion for helping youths when I was in security. In 2011 I had to retire from active duty due to suffering my 15th concussion, as a result of this my life changed. I wanted to still be a source of support for youths, thus, I started to create this community. Soon enough I was coaching 6 youths in 2012, and then in 2013 I began coaching more, and every year after the numbers grew. I then realized that these youths have amazing stories and have overcome so much, therefore, with the support of a BUHero and close friend, Morgan, we created what is now recognized as, “the BUHeroes”. These are youths from around the world who are amazing sources of inspiration for other youths. I put the focus on all these youths, we are now the community where the youths are the heroes. The purpose for this community is to help give youths a platform to inspire other youths, these are youths who have overcome bullying, depression, and more. I learned during my life that one of the best ways to heal is to help others heal with you, and that right there is the concept of the Boddyguards United Against Bullying Community, we say NO to bullying, and YES to unity. As of right now we have over 30+ youths recognized as BUHeroes, and we are always in talks with more youths and their families to recognize more.

Did you ever think about ending your life due to the bullying that you were experiencing. What was that process like and how did you overcome that? 

Yes, in 1999 (grade 9) was when I started to feel suicide was my only way to escape the behaviour and the pain that accompanied it. I had visuals of how I was going to do it and where, I have always been a person who can visualize in a very detailed manner, and every time I would think about it, it would make me shake. I do not know how willing I was to go through with it, however, I often would have dreams about it. 

2. Why do you believe that students have so little trust in schools and administration to deal with bullying and what are some of the ways they can start building up that trust again?I was a youth who needed help, even though I did not actively see it or ask for it, I knew I needed it, and I saw youths speak up and be ignored quite often. They were either told to ignore it, grow up, or to stop whining about it. This was back in 2003-2004, and here we are in 2019 with suicide stats increasing, and over 160,000 youths daily missing school. The fact is the youths are speaking up and not many are listening. I have youths themselves come to me as they refuse to go to their schools as they failed them. Enforcement, the schools need to actually enforce the rules and expectations they post all around their schools. NEVER dismiss a report from a youth, regardless whether you think the report is minor or untrue you have an obligation to treat it as real. You earn trust through actions, not fancy bulletins and posters. Youths do not care about seeing or hearing about the policy, they want to actually see it enforced.

What should schools do when a bullying incident arises? What would be a suitable punishment for the bullying to make sure it doesn’t happen again?

When a incident of bullying occurs and it is reported they need to launch an investigation, the truth is the term “bullying” is often met with rolling eye, shoulder shrugs, and a dismissive response. However, the truth is these youths are dealing with assault, abuse, and/or harassment, which are all crimes. We need to have more urgency with these reports, and not just look at them as “a bullying incident”. Youths are not entirely sensitive to being called a name once, most cases are repetitive. These youths are constantly called names, pushed, shoved, ignored, punched, kicked, and victim of rumours. These incidents of bullying are often routine, and when the routine is reported and it is ignored, this is when it becomes worse. You need urgency and you need the WHY to be to help the youth. Punishment needs to depend on the severity and the amount it has happened. First report, you receive a verbal warning, second a written warning and a phone call home, third, in school suspension, fourth at-home suspension, fifth, expelled. There needs to be a strict policy in place. However, there needs to be an investigation as well launched. When there is no belief a consequence will be delivered, why would a youth have any fear of breaking a rule? There needs to be immediate consequences otherwise the youth fears no repercussions.  

You also believe that helping the bully is necessary in correcting the problem. What ways do you believe the bully should be help?

Yes, the truth is a bully is often being bullied themselves. May it be by a parent or guardian, another student, or even a teacher and/or faculty member. Bullying is often a reactionary decision, it is a decision one makes as a way to retaliate, and it is not a choice that is just developed. Bullying is a behaviour manifested from the behaviour of someone else. When I have helped youths who were reported bullies I was able to so when I learned WHY. As soon as I was able to locate their WHY I was able to help them with the HOW. They need attention. The human race thrives off of attention, appreciation, and acceptance. When someone experiences neglect or disrespect it causes them to feel worthless, ignored, judged, and belittled. Youths I have coached who have bullied expressed to me they did so to receive attention, and they wanted to feel something either than weakness, therefore, they garnered false confidence from making others weak. This is why you never see a genuinely happy bully, they themselves are in pain. Give the bully attention, and help them realize they are worthy of being heard in a positive way. 

What would you say to someone that is taking part in bullying either as the actual bully or the bystander?

If they are the one bullying I will inform them of the legal consequences that can happen to them, and the reality that can happen to the person they are bullying. The key is to help the youth relate to what is happening, help them understand at a emotional level truly what they are doing. I have found when I helped the bully become the supporter that as soon as they UNDERSTOOD at a emotional level, they would often realize. And the way I did this was sharing my story, and helping them feel as if they were in my shoes, and often another eye-opener for them was being labeled a hypocrite. For those who are standing by and witnessing, they need to know the person who is being bullied is surely seeing them standing there, and for that they lose respect and are warranted to be held just as guilty. If you choose to stand there and do nothing, you surely are proving that you either agree with what is happening, or you do not care, either way neither of those choices show compassion or respect. Empathy is only possible through understanding what is happening, and how YOU would feel if it happened to you.

You talked about feeling a plethora of emotions when you were bullied as a youth. What would you say to others that are in that situation now? Furthermore, what do you believe are effective ways to deal with the bullying that they may be experiencing?

You need to focus on how YOU feel about yourself, as if you allow all the external voices to determine how you treat yourself, you will sooner than later believe their words. I made the mistake of repeating the words in my head, and I made the worst mistake putting “I am” before every word they said. The moment you agree with their words is when they gain all the power, and you lose it all. You need to CREATE confidence and self-worth, and that is only done with your internal language being positive and overwhelming all the negative words. “Focus on the JOYS and ignore the NOISE”. There are many suggested ways to deal with bullying, ignore them, stand up for yourself, tell someone else, etc. However, the truth is there is common issues with all those. A) If you ignore them it does not guarantee they will stop, it can also mean they increase their behaviour as a means to get attention. B) If you stand up for yourself you do risk being physically attacked, a youth I coached did just that, he stood up for himself and then he was jumped by 5 boys, and he was hurt pretty seriously. C) Tell someone else, this is often seen as snitching in the youth community and as a result the youth can be at risk for future issues. My best advice I give to youths depends on the youths personality. Some youths are confident in standing up for themselves, some are more confident with ignoring, some have zero confidence to do either of those. I always say to tell someone IMMEDIATELY, record all the behaviour in a notebook or your phone, garner photos or video if possible, build up the evidence. Tell someone in secret, and tell someone you trust right away. Build that environment with someone you can speak to often, and allow them to help you.

You also talked about things getting worse since the unfortunate passing of your friend several years ago. Why do you think that is and what are things people can do to try to prevent these kinds of things from happening?

When my friend ended his life social media was not popular, sure, we have MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, and MySpace, however, it was rare youths had issues online. Now, social media has become a huge part of our societal culture, and as a result of this it is near impossible for youths to escape their bullying experiences. When I was in school I knew I was able to go home and escape with video games or watching pro-wrestling, now youths do not feel they can escape. They can find a message online bashing them, they can see a public post about them, maybe someone shared one of their posts or photos to mock it, there are many ways cyber bullying can become part of the bullying. Parents need to be more active on the precautionary security with their youths social media accounts. There needs to be more content shared to youths about cyber bullying processes to report. We need to stop this belief that likes, follows, re-tweets, and comments determine our worth, too many youths use posts to determine their worth, such as those posts that say things like, “rate how much you like me, would you date me? do you like me? rate how you feel about me, etc”. We need to help youths build internal confidence, we need to ensure the youth knows their parent is monitoring their behavior. Depending on their age the parents monitoring can be altered. 

Why do you think others are so afraid to step in when they see someone or even their friend being bullied? What do you think they need to do in the future?

We are all different when it comes to our “fight or flight”, and it also depends on the culture of the environment. Most youths are used to seeing bullying and fights now, and as a result they have grown numb to them. They no longer feel anything towards the issue, now, if it is with their friend, it all depends on their fight or flight. People are scared to be hurt trying to help others, and youths are often also given confusing advice. Sometimes they are told to mind their own business, other times to not snitch or rat out, and other times to stand up for others. It is hard to make a split second decision when you have so much social monitoring to process through. “What if I get involved? What if I get in trouble too? What if no one believes me when I say I was there to help? What if I get beat up later for helping?” There is a lot of questions and pressure in a split second when something arises. For example, we expect way too much out of youths when most adults themselves run from a situation they should help with. If there is a chance of you being hurt, most will ignore and walk away. If you’re not going to get physically involved due to fear of safety, fine, I understand that, however, that does not warrant doing nothing. GO GET HELP IMMEDIATELY.

What do you believe makes someone want to bully another person and what are things the bully can do to change their behaviour?

It is NOT normal behaviour to go and cause someone else hurt, pain, and embarrassment, we all know the saying, “everything happens for a reason”, well, I have learned that everyone acts a way for a reason, and I believe from speaking to numerous youths since 2012 that they bully to release. They bully to release anger, and they bully to gain a feeling that they describe as “powerful”. When you are belittled and bullied you feel a loss of power, and some youths only find that power again hurting others, thus, they resort to bullying as a means to gain “power” back. The bully needs to understand they are choosing to lose power as opposed to get it back, in the longrun they always lose. It is a means to an end, and it is a result they need to fear. They will lose respect, they will lose trust, they will lose credibility, and they will lose their freedom as soon enough they can (and likely will) get charged. You always lose as a bully, you may feel a win short-term, however, the truth is long-term you end up far worse as a bully. Remember that what you do to others affects your character and image, it shows YOUR true colours, and people will remember that, forever.

You discussed that families should be aware of changes in mood and talk to their youths if they feel something is wrong. What are other warning signs parents, and friends can look for if someone is being bullied?

Bad hygiene, emotional changes, the way they dress, the way they do their hair or the lack of doing it, lack of concern for others, lost compassion, bitter, aggressive, refusal to attend school, mentions of or interest in suicidal discussion or material, change in music taste, neglect of usual favourite activities, loss of appetite, poor choices and decisions more regularly, decline in grades, ignoring friends and family, change in their cleanliness of room or other personal space, TATTS (tired all the time syndrome) if they are sleeping more more often. These were all changes youths brought to my attention for when they were struggling with depression and bullying.

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