The effects of bullying—a lifetime of scars

MNSU student shares her story of being bullied by others on campus

Amira Abdulkadir
Staff Writer

Sometimes people only like to see you go down because they cannot go higher than you. Zara would like her story to be shared because she wants the bullies to know that the things they do affect the victim deeply and it can become very serious.

It all started when Zara came to study at MNSU in fall 2013. The main reason—other than higher studies—was to explore the diverse culture she had always heard about and because her sister was here as a transfer student at the time.

She was so excited to be here. She had heard a lot of good things about the university, the different diverse communities here and had seen such colorful and happy pictures of the life in Mankato.

“I couldn’t wait to blend in and explore the diverse culture and experience all the ‘fun’ things at MSU” said Zara. At last, she was able to come here and was introduced to her sister’s friends and some students she already knew from back home who were seniors. She was just a regular student and known as her sister’s sister. As time passed, she got to know more people, mostly from her own country, and everything was fine at the beginning.

Hatred and jealousy started when her sister decided to be the president of the community.

“The hatred was a shocker to me because it was the first time I have seen someone hate my sister,” Zara said.

From the very beginning, day one for her at MNSU, Zara had seen people crash at her sister’s place anytime they want to. People were always welcome at her place. She would host everybody’s birthday party, and would welcome anybody at any time, even when she had to study. She would make food for every occasion, like Eid and Thanksgiving, and invite everybody. Zara’s sister would even bake everybody’s birthday cake. She helped people financially and let people stay in her couch month after month if some people didn’t have money for rent or didn’t have a place.

“I thought everyone loved my sister!” said Zara.

But soon people started having issues with her sister being president of this club, claiming that she is a girl and cannot handle all those responsibilities, that she is not strong and doesn’t do enough, doesn’t deserve it at all. Soon they started talking about her character, the way she dressed up and how she partied a lot.

“Well of course she had to party if she had to host a party for someone!” said Zara.

Zara was here when the election for president of the club was going on and soon things became nasty. This is such a simple issue, but people from her own country made it disrespectful. Things got out of hand when people started spreading rumors for no reason. And there were no boundaries for what they had to say.

“So what the people in the community did was try to get to her sister through me,” said Zara. They used her as a weapon to affect her sister. “This was a huge cultural shock to me, I have never experienced such hate from people in my life before.”

________________________________________________________________

Bullying in college

15 percent of college students report
being bullied

22 percent reported being cyber-bullied in college

42 percent of
students said they had seen someone being bullied by another student

8 percent reported bullying another
student

Nearly 15 percent had seen a professor bully a student and 4 percent said they had been bullied by a professor

* According to a study done by the Health Day News in 2012

________________________________________________________________

Zara came from the city, whereas most of the people from her community came from another state. This was an issue to the bullies. They used to say, “She is from the city, she knows a lot.” There isn’t a problem with a person being called “know-it-all,” but the problem is they were being sarcastic about it and trying to get to her in a way that is embarrassing. The sisters came from a reputed family, a good background, and a very well-known private high school. Apparently, this became a reason to hate them!

“They started threatening my sister saying, ‘No one is going to vote for you,’ as if her sister did not care and kept tried trying just ‘cause she wanted to see who her real friends were,” Zara said.

Zara was even being called and told to vote for another person and not her sister, claiming girls are not good and qualified enough to be a president.

Zara’s sister presidency became a very big issue that sparked multiple meetings and fights.

“To me, it never made sense,” said Zara. “Why is this such a big issue? The people of the community should be proud of my sister, especially after everything she did for everybody.”

This was a completely different world for Zara, as she has never been exposed to such a thing. She came from a polite family and an elite society, so all these politics are very new and shocking to her.

In spite of what they went through, her sister still managed to become the president. This time the problem doubled, if not tripled. Now the bullies have started connecting everything that Zara gains is due to her sister being president. Their focus now has changed from her sister to Zara.

“Even if I achieved a thing because of her own hard work, they used to say that it is because of my sister’s presidency,” said Zara. This wasn’t necessarily true because she has her own mindset and she can achieve and do things on her own. “As time passed, people are hating me for no reason.”

They started calling her “fat.” That was really disturbing and depressing to Zara. This was the time when her sister said, “You know what, go out and diversify. Focus on your studies and ignore what they are saying.” Since then, Zara has started getting out and diversifying, joining a sorority and other clubs, which has helped her to balance the situation she was in.

Zara was passing by to get some lunch and she saw a group laughing and making fun of her saying, “She is fat, not even good looking. We don’t know why she wants to dance and perform in front of crowds.”

“That really affected me and killed my self-esteem,” said Zara. “I tried very hard to ignore all this. But this became a daily thing and I couldn’t take it no more. Every day I had to listen to things like [that] and eventually this made me become scared and self-conscious wherever I went. They used to make fun of me in my rehearsals. Everyone used to point fingers and laugh at me. Gradually they started not to let me participate in anything. And for them, the best way to let me out was to spread rumors about me.”

Things got worse when a guy spread a rumor that Zara sleeps with different guys for money. This was the ultimate shock and hurt her the most. Zara had never heard anything like this before. The rumor was all over and this really tore her apart. Zara lost it all, she lost all her redeeming qualities, her confidence, her identity and this left a huge scar in her.

As things got more public, the guy who spread the rumor came and apologized to her. He was a friend of Zara’s, or at least she thought he was. To make matters worse, some guys in the same community took advantage of the situation and started spreading more rumors such as, “I did this with her,” and “ I did that with her,” simply to be seen as “cool.”

The most shocking and strange thing to Zara was she thought that boys would be less dramatic and were less inclined to gossip than the girls. But surprisingly, the boys were worse. She grew up with male friends and male cousins and never had she seen or met such dramatic boys as these.

“Soon I found out these bullies also had a group on Facebook where they had personal picture of me, where they talked about me and said all those bad words and called me names. They would even talk about my body parts and physical appearance,” Zara said. “Even worse, I realized these are people that I considered big brothers and sisters and some were actually good friends.”

This was really disappointing and embarrassing to Zara.

“I stopped performing from that time on and I still am not. They broke down all my passions and dreams. Not only did I stop performing, I also could not focus on my studies,” Zara said.

Zara’s GPA went down drastically and she lost some of her scholarships.

“This was such as disaster in my life. I felt lonely and not worth anything. I was depressed and unhappy with my life in MNSU,” she said.

All this happened in her freshman year and this was overwhelmingly painful for Zara. She reported the bullies and some measures were taken against them and the guy who created the Facebook page was punished for what he did. But the damage had been done.

After a while, Zara stopped making friends and became quiet and less confident. She stopped trusting people, especially at MNSU. She was depressed and homesick as this was her first time away from her family. This was too much for her, so she needed some time away from this hellish world she was in. She went back home to her family to revive and recooperate.

It is really hard when people get made fun of because of their physical appearance. Zara started gaining weight because of the medicine she has been taking for her allergies and her illness. She also has a tumor inside her head called an ICH (inter cerebral hemorrhage). With all this going on in her life, there was a point when she contemplated suicide. She put a suicidal status on her Facebook page. A school community, the International Student Association, found out about her status and called her to discuss what was going on. They told her that they, as well as her family, were concerned, which made Zara feel good, as she realized that there are people who care about her wellness. That meant a lot to Zara. It was the people of ISA, her family and her friends from home who helped her stand on her feet again.

The family friendship program also really helped her stay busy and keep her mind off the mess she was in. The Counseling Center on campus was also a resource that helped her to recover from all the things she had been through. She has been working on taking care of herself and improving her self-esteem. The fact that she realized that there are people that cared about her and have her back made her feel a little bit better.

All in all, the message of Zara’s story to all the students who can relate to her story is do not let people get to you and destroy your future. Some people do not want you to accomplish things in life. Do not give any space to those kind of people as they are nothing more than haters.

Zara also expands on the advice that her sister gave her: “Diversify yourself as you are here to learn and explore other cultures too.” Do not get stuck and stay in one specific community only. Try to be friends with and get involved in different communities, not only one. Try to get involved in different activities and events since your mind needs space and some new stimulation every once and a while.

This is only half of the story. A lot more has happened to Zara because she finally caught up. but so far. this part of the story is good enough to get the message to you all. There are always many sides to a story.

Photo: (Courtesy of Zara)

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