A young person is liable to face bullying by the time you finish reading this story.
That’s because girls and boys are being bullied every seven minutes, according to international speaker and therapist Tracie Berry-McGhee, founder of SistaKeeper.
The group started in Berry-McGhee’s basement with seven girls and grew to an international organization that works to help young girls victimized by bullies.
Berry-McGhee was one of the speakers at this year’s Girl Power event held by WomenSource on Saturday morning at the Brenau Downtown Center in Gainesville.
The Missouri native addressed the attendees, all young girls, like she was talking to a friend.
“We all know some pretty girls … whose attitudes just stank,” she said.
Berry-McGhee encouraged the girls not to act that way, along with several other messages. She said they should define themselves not by other people or what they see in magazines or on television.
Once when she was growing up, a boy she liked made fun of her lips.
“He said, ‘Your lips so big you could scoop ice cream,’” Berry-McGhee said.
She told the girls that made her stop wearing lip gloss, and she encouraged them not to follow in her footsteps.
Berry-McGhee also told those in attendance not to be afraid of the mean girls, celebrate your uniqueness and “love all of who you are.”
“There’s nothing meaner than middle school girls,” said Anga-Lee Tipton, co-chair of the event.
Tipton also told the girls not to be afraid in the space provided by the conference, and to share their stories if they felt comfortable doing so.
Bullying can happen at any age. Elizabeth Burnette, executive director of WomenSource, said her 8-year-old daughter came home from first grade upset a classmate wouldn’t remain friends with her.
Co-chair and executive director Brandee Thomas shared her experiences with bullying. In her case, she was made fun of for her height and her glasses, and called “Big Bird” and “Four Eyes.”
“(Bullying) is something we, even as adults, go through,” she said. “It doesn’t define you as a person.”
Anna Brown, a 13-year old student at World Language Academy in Flowery Branch, said she hasn’t necessarily been bullied by her peers but by teachers.
“They say stuff like, ‘The kindergarteners are smarter than you,’” Anna said.
However, she was able to learn ways to spot bullying, how to stop it and how to deal with it at the conference.
“It’s important to see that it’s not OK to bully someone,” she said.
Anna said she was taught to intervene if someone else is being bullied, and that she should be more active in stepping up for her friends who are being victimized.
“Kids these days are getting bullied a lot on social media, too,” she said.
Social media bullying, also known as cyberbullying, was one of the main topics of counselor Christine Shahleen-Ball’s presentation. Her expertise on the subject came from her three years as a school counselor.
“(Girls) tend to be more passive aggressive,” she said.
Boys, she said, are more likely to be physically aggressive and get over their fights more quickly. Girls, however, are more likely to use emotions to intimidate.
Olivia Weismayer and Amy Jacques taught an interactive class on how to stop bullying. They separated a group of girls into two and had them face each other. Then they had one side run at the other in an aggressive manner until their partner said “stop.”
Linh Lam and Cori Hosch advised girls to seek an authority figure to report bullying.