Local Girl Scout group picks a fight with bullies

Local group seeks to educate about effects on victims, how to help those who are picked on

ahobbs@theolympian.comFebruary 16, 2014 

T-shirt posters display how children said they would react if they witnessed bullying, at The Ultimate Anti-Bullying Event held Saturday at Capital Mall. The event was organized by Girl Scout Troop 40545 as part of a Silver Award community service project.

TONY OVERMAN/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

A group of Girl Scouts is spreading an antibully message with facts, bananas and toothpaste.

Saturday, members of Girl Scout Troop 40545 set up shop at Capital Mall in Olympia and invited passersby to participate in a number of interactive lessons.

In one activity, children were asked to insult and verbally abuse bananas, only to find the bananas already sliced up after peeling them. This symbolizes how a person can be “cut up” by bullying on the inside, even though the damage might not show on the outside.

In another lesson that symbolized the mess that bullying can leave behind, participants squirted toothpaste on a table, then struggled to put the goop back in the tube.

A couple dozen local high school students and other Girl Scouts assisted the troop Saturday in a project that sent a clear message to all ages: Stand up to bullying. This includes cyberbullying, a fairly recent issue in which people are harassed online. At Saturday’s event, more than 130 people also signed a link for a paper chain with a pledge to help victims of bullying.

“I hope people just become more aware,” said troop member Katie Kabat, adding that victims should confide in an adult when possible. “Adults can stop it and do what needs to be done.”

Fellow troop member Grace Gibbs also stressed the importance of support.

“Be a friend to someone who’s bullied,” she said. “Help them have confidence.”

While some see bullying as part of growing up, the cumulative effect of repeated abuse — verbal or physical — can have dire consequences on a victim’s well-being.

Dr. David Callies and Dr. Liz Koenig of GyroPsychology Services, who worked an information table at Saturday’s event, said they try to build healthy communication skills for children as well as parents.

Sometimes their young clients need to be talked out of suicide or self-harm. Often, bullying can worsen problems such as depression in people who lack coping skills. Parents often don’t know how to connect with their teenagers in a way that leads to solutions.

And while victims might be afraid to come forward for fear of retaliation, Callies and Koenig encourage youth to speak up regardless — and get help.

“Although it may be uncool to tell,” Callies said, “it’s the right thing to do.”

The Girl Scouts are pursuing their Silver Award with the anti-bullying project. They will bring the exhibit to the Lacey Spring Fun Fair on May 17-18 at the St. Martin’s University campus.

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869 ahobbs@theolympian.com

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