suicide  Bullying  depression

The Bullycide of Brandon Swartwood
Bullies Who Kill
 

By his mother, Cathy Swartwood Mitchell - Director, Bully Police-Oklahoma
 

I have tried to write this message for three days and have not been able to complete it-- maybe today. I have a lot to say and this is a very painful and emotional subject for me. While my heart goes out to the victims of these school shootings--my life has been devastated by a different type of crime that is happening in our schools.

Although rarely labeled as such, "Bullying" is a crime. This "other" crime of "Bullying," injures, maims, destroys and kills-- as effectively as a gun. Until a proactive approach is taken with the crime of "Bullying," a reactive approach to the crime of school shootings is futile.

"Bullying" is a crime in which the perpetrators are rarely punished and the victims rarely receive justice. This crime is usually repetitive-- a victim is injured and traumatized over and over. Yet, "Bullying" is rarely acknowledged as a crime. When "Bullying" claims yet another victim, few notice and few care.  Oftentimes, the victims themselves are blamed by being told that they must be doing something to "deserve" it. 

These victims are isolated and usually suffer in silence. The media doesn't broadcast the injuries or deaths of these silenced victims. Our Great Nation doesn't share in their pain or extend sympathies to the survivors. Communities aren't outraged by these senseless, (and equally) devastating crimes being committed in our schools. The only outrage in our nation, in our communities, is when the psychiatric injuries caused by the "Bullying" are externalized, and we have another school shooting.

In the adult world, we have laws against "Bullying" crimes. We do not tolerate these crimes in "our" workplace. Yet, our children are told they must tolerate this in "their" workplace-- our public schools.  Society, in general, has the mindset that it is "all right" or "a rite of passage" for "Bullies" to deliberately and systematically destroy their victims-- our children. Why, but why, would anyone ask our children to endure more than we as adults could?

How could anyone expect our children to make it through humiliation, torment, isolation, assaults or a brutal beating unscathed?  We shouldn't.  And they don't.

In the adult world these offenses and crimes have names.  Society uses different terms for these offenses and crimes when our children are the victims.  I must pose the question to law enforcement, to school administrators and to our society-- At what age does teasing become harassment, taunting become tormenting, following-stalking, punching-assaulting, or a fight become a battery or a beating?

As long as this mindset prevails, our most vulnerable will continue to be our least protected.  Oh, some kids will survive the "Bullies" just like some adults survive being victimized.  However, in both instances, the injuries and the recovery depends largely on the number, frequency, severity and duration of the crime or crimes.

Some children will leave school to escape the victimization. They might only be deprived of their education-- a small price to pay to escape the torment and humiliation.  Some children will leave their hometowns to get away from the harassment and torture.  Some children will turn to substance abuse and self-medicate in an attempt to escape their pain and suffering.  Some will lose all self-confidence and always believe that there must be something wrong with them-- that they did deserve it like everyone said.  (If not, why would those in a position to help-- to save them from a living hell-- have condoned these crimes against them?)  Some children will leave this world to escape their living hell on this earth-- as their pain is with them wherever they go.

Other children will learn to accept the physical and/or psychological injuries inflicted upon them-- "just for fun." They will go to the doctors and take their medications and accept the fact that life isn't fair. They won't question "the system" or why they were not allowed to get a public education "just because" someone didn't like the way they dressed, or perhaps the way they looked. Or maybe it was the music they listened to, or the vehicle they drove. Could have been that they were really intelligent or perhaps that they really struggled to learn. Or maybe the "Bullies" used even better excuses like they thought they were a Christian or they thought they were a Satanist, they thought they were gay or they thought they were straight, they thought they were rich or they thought they were poor, etc., etc., etc.

At any rate, surely, we shouldn't think that these victims would have a problem with some "Bullies" setting themselves up as judge, jury and executioner-- thus depriving their victims of their education, their health and their happiness.  Surely, we should expect the victims to be okay-- to come through this uninjured and unscathed?

When we don't acknowledge "Bullying" as a "real" crime, we dismiss the very real injuries that are inflicted upon it's victims. Although the the psychological injuries and the extent can be varied, they are real injuries. Sometimes, the symptoms are internalized and sometimes they are externalized-- sometimes both.  In either case "Bullying" kills.  In both cases children die.

I speak from experience. My beloved son, Brandon, was a victim of "Bullies."
Brandon developed PTSD,  (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and Depression, after being harassed, tormented, isolated, assaulted and brutally beaten in our public school system.  When we took out a protective order against one of the "Bullies," he, the bully, decided to send a friend into the principal's office to claim that Brandon had made a bomb threat. It was absurd, along with the way that the school handled the allegation. The damage done to Brandon over this incident alone, was beyond measure-- victimize the victim.

The assistant principal later told me that he was convinced that Brandon had not made the bomb threat. Unfortunately, the damage to Brandon could not be undone. Brandon had to live with the stigma of the would-be-bomber. This is just one of the incidents. There were many.

On 12/16/00 Brandon put a loaded gun to his head, pulled the trigger and ended his pain. Some of the "Bullies" have said, (through their crocodile tears), that they didn't realize what they were doing-- that they were, "just having fun."

Those years that I watched my son die a slow and painful death. Those years that I saw the sparkling light of joy, love, and hope in his big, beautiful, brown eyes-- slowly replaced with the darkness of pain, devastation, and hopelessness. The night that Brandon stood by me and told me that he felt "dead inside"-- then the morning, three weeks later, that I stood over his dead body, knowing, that despite all my efforts to save my beloved son, the "Bullies" job had been too well done. Their mission had been accomplished.  Suffice to say that through all this, Brandon and all of us who love him were not having fun. Where was any justice for Brandon? Where is justice for us? Our light, our hope, our joy has been replaced with darkness, hopelessness, and an unrelenting sorrow. We feel "dead inside."

As tragic as all of these deaths are, the greater tragedy is if society doesn't stop to look at the reasons, and pause for a moment to see "all the victims."
 


Cathy and her son Brandon

"My true love, my four-wheeler.
I, of course, put God and my family first."
May 18, 1999 

In Loving Memory of Brandon Chris Swartwood
2/21/82 – 12/16/00

To Brandon

They came from the darkness
Like thieves in the night
They robbed us of our treasure
As they stole your precious life

An arsenal of viciousness
From deep within their hearts
Day by day, bit by bit
They took your life apart

How were you to defend yourself
Or take back the life they stole
For you possessed no weapons
In the repository of your soul

As they took your joy, your peace of mind
And all your precious things
I wonder if these thieves did know
They’d give you angel wings

May you rest in peace, and may others see
What all your loved ones know
For they stole from all - when they robbed this earth
Of your kind and gentle soul

Author, “Brandon's Mom”


The Politics of "Bullycide"

Suicide caused from Bullying
By Cathy Swartwood (Dec 2002)

Politics in our small town reared its ugly head when I tried to run a memoriam on the second anniversary of Brandon’s death.   Our local paper, refused to print a paid memoriam “intact” so I put it in the Tulsa World.   The publisher, read the poem and asked me what happened to Brandon. I told him the “history” and he asked me to write a letter to the editor, so I did. Obviously, someone got to him.  He didn't run the memoriam, nor did he “bother” to inform me that he had changed his mind - until December 29th.   The peom is above and below is the letter to the editor and his “notification” to me.  I have been effectively silenced again. Locally, the “Bullycide” of Brandon remains a well kept secret.

Note: The Publisher and the Editor told me that they were trying to fill space and needed news and articles - thus the length of the following letter that I submitted.

From : "Cathy Swartwood"
Date : Mon, 30 Dec 2002

Dear Mr. XXX
I submitted the poem "To Brandon" on December the 12th so it would run on or near the anniversary of his death on December 16th. While I was in your office (on the 12th), you and Mrs. XXX  both read it and both told me that you would run it. There was no mention of taking it under "consideration."

As for the letter to the editor, I only submitted that at your request.  Whether or not you ran that, was of no significance to me.

However, when you did not run the memoriam and did not notify me--you deprived me of the opportunity to place a timely memoriam in another publication.  And that, Mr. XXX, is of great significance to me.

Cathy


To: "Cathy"

Dear Mrs. Swartwood,

I regret that I haven't gotten back to you sooner. This time of the year is usually busy and I find that I run out of time to do all things.

After careful consideration, I find that we are unable to run your items.  We offer our condolences to you.

Publisher/THE Newspaper

"There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come"


On December 16, 2000 my son, Brandon, died by “Bullycide.” After numerous assaults, including a severe beating in the school cafeteria, Brandon developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is a real injury, with devastating symptoms. Among the list of symptoms are: self-medicating, severe depression and suicide. We provided Brandon with the medical help that he needed. In addition, we pursued - the most important thing to Brandon - justice. It was a futile pursuit.

The crimes went unpunished. The (deliberate) indifference of some administrators, in our school system, remained a well kept secret. Last year, I even tried to run a paid memoriam, telling how Brandon lived and why he died. The publisher of the other paper stonewalled me by refusing to print it without major editing that distorted the facts. He insisted on replacing “forced to” with “chose to” In my book there is 180 degrees between the meaning of forced and chose. I told them that Brandon chose to leave school about like I chose to drop the ad. Brandon had been a silenced victim, and now, if others had their way - he was going to be a silenced statistic.

Emotionally, I was running on empty and feeling defeated. But I was more determined than ever to do something - anything that might make a difference for some other kid being bullied. I contacted the Tulsa World and they ran the memoriam in tact. I have since learned of school employees (from other towns) who clipped that memoriam and vowed to do what they could to battle the epidemic of bullying.  I received calls, cards and letters from people I didn't know - telling me how his memoriam had touched them.

Next, I contacted Senator Rozell who had introduced an Anti-Bullying bill to the Senate. I told him Brandon’s Story and he used it to gain support for his bill. The Anti-Bullying bill passed last spring. Every school in the state must now have policy in place to address “Bullying.” Numerous articles appeared in papers, not just in Oklahoma but out of state as well. One associated press writer reported, “And in December 2000, an 18-year old Coweta student who committed suicide said he did it because of bullying, according to the state Health Department.”

A crew from NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw came to Coweta to get Brandon’s Story. The segment aired, complete with pictures of Brandon, on the same day as the ceremonies after the cleanup at the World Trade Center.  I thought it appropriate, that the story, about the thousands who died at the hands of terrorists, aired on the same evening as the segment about my child who died because he was terrorized.

Isn’t it ironic that Brandon’s Story made the national news and yet never made the local news?

Sincerely, Cathy

Brandon's mother, Cathy Swartwood Mitchell, is now serving as the Director of Bully Police Oklahoma, www.bullypolice.org, (Bully Police USA), a watch-dog group that advocates for children who are bullied and works with lawmakers to get anti bullying laws enacted.

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