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Healing Rhythms

Bullying On the Prairies

by Rosalea Hostetler
(Harper, KS, USA)

You know how you sometimes have an “eureka” moment in life, when you “finally get it”? Recently I had that moment when it finally sunk in that the reason my journey for the past 40 years has been so hard in Harper County Kansas has been the incessant bullying. It took me my entire life to finally truly understand that I had been a target and of the brutal impact Harper County bullies have had on my life, my health and on the 501(c) (3) nonprofit I established to preserve the history, art & culture of the prairies for future generations. Tragically, this abuse of power has also nearly obliterated our small town. It is not Wal-Mart -- rather, it is the abuses bestowed by bullies in “leadership” on the good people, the talented people who do not have the energy or knowledge to fight such rotten apples.

Now that I truly understand what I’ve endured for FORTY YEARS AT THE MERCY OF BULLIES, I AM NOT TAKING IT ANY MORE. Our monthly grassroots journal will make every effort to educate the public over the next several issues as removing the bullies from power is the only way for our small towns to survive. Hoping to rebuild our historic downtown will be my sweet revenge for the years of abuses. I’ve been lied to, harassed, vandalized, boycotted, shunned, ostracized, ripped-off, put in jail — you name it, it’s happened to me in some form or another. Outsiders often ask how I’ve endured — I honestly do not know except I have always believed that “Good Will Prevail”.

As I study bullying, I have come to understand what it is and what all it entails. It is an educational process. Few people I know grasped the concept 40 years ago or even 20 years ago. Ten years ago there was an awakening but it was still hazy. But more people are learning all the time the way bullying invades schools, the workplace -- and now I include our small towns on the prairies. It causes suicides, physical and mental illness, loss of motivation, fear, stress, apathy and indifference. And overt substance abuse.

Years ago our state Attorney General set up small towns to operate on their own; there are so many it would be impossible to monitor them all. It was expected that there would be trust and truth in these elected officials but alas, through the decades the municipal, county and law enforcement positions have become nothing more than brutal positions of power for weak people who lack integrity to wield the control, sometimes in the most inhumane ways. Usually, these are the people who have stayed behind in a small town, do not have much in the way of higher education, and find little fulfillment in their lives except to abuse power and control.

I cringe to think of the lives these bullies in power have ruined. Worst of all, they have beat down the regular citizen with fear and intimidation, to the point they won’t stand up or speak up to these ruthless smart alecks. Rather, the citizens sit meekly and watch as the gang brutalizes those who fight for their rights. Rather than gathering as a group to run or vote these people out of power, the Silent Majority only allows them to fester and grow more abusive with each new election and each new generation.

Because I’ve traveled so many miles a year across the prairies as a volunteer since 1994, I have seen a lot. The small towns with bullies in leadership positions are withering and will eventually disappear. Only the spare handful that have honest leaders with integrity and the best interest of the citizens at heart are surviving -- and there aren’t very many.

Small town bullies work in gangs or mobs. They do not have the courage to attack alone. They thrive on attacking one person standing alone. It apparently gives them a real ego surge, much like a pack of animals after a single prey.

Because I have stood up to the bullies, told the truth and stayed the course, I have lost virtually everything once important in my life: my Mennonite church, my family ties, two husbands (also bullies) and school chum friendships. For years I was taunted as “the problem.” (I cried a lot in those days.) I’ve lost so much in my life that there is nothing left to lose so now I am ready to speak up wherever I can to tell the world about the horrors of small town bullies with the hopes of bringing Hope to our small prairie towns.

I invite everyone to view my story to be posted the first week in August, 2008, on You Tube, Bullying On the Prairies, to help you comprehend the pain and the loss, and how I am cling to Hope for a brighter tomorrow. I hope it inspires others to never give up. Forty years is a long time to cling to hope, chronically daunted by bullies in authority. Some call me “Crazy.” No, I’m not — I’m a Survivor with a Dream.

Comments for Bullying On the Prairies

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YOU GO WOMAN!
by: political_mama

Let me tell you small town politics are the worst. And yes, I know that the whole town can turn on you in a split second if the right person says so.

As a fellow feminist, I love that some of us are still up for not putting up with it any longer. We deserve our say just as much as the other.

You hang in there. There are others who have your back even if you don't know it.

Bullying
by: Angie C

You hit the nail on the head. Well said & AMEN

Elections
by: James

Aren't the officials, even in a small town, elected?

Your Story
by: Bad Apple Polisher

Rosalea,

I posted excerpts from your story on my blog to help pass the word.

www.BulliesAmongUs.blogspot.com

Home... Home On the Range
by: Mari

We just need to stick together.
We can and will make a difference.
It is a slow process. We just need to get the word out there and put the focus on these bullies and mobbers in a big way.
I've got your back my friend.
Together we will prevail.

A big THANK YOU goes out to Anton Hout for creating this web site and helping all of us to find each other. You may not realize it but... You are saving lives. God bless you Anton.


i hear you, i'm also on the prairies
by: Anonymous

You hit the nail on the head. Small towns often have these entrenched families or groups that are used to having power (even just a little power corrupts people, I have observed). All it takes to threaten them is for a new person to come along and do a good job or, worse, notice that something isn't operating according to the rules they all profess to believe in. If you try to stand up for a principle, you will become a target, like I became and am. I found out too late that the people in charge of enforcing rules were never interested in doing so unless it protected themselves or their friends. They would never stand up for principles if that meant protecting someone they weren't related to through business or friends.

I foolishly thought others got onto our worker's committee for the same reasons I did: to stand for equality and fairness for ALL, not just people I knew and liked. Ironically, my trouble started when I defended the rights of someone I didn't particularly like, but did so because I saw it as my duty. It was the ethical thing to do. But only one year later, management fired me for no just cause, lies were repeatedly printed in the media, I suffered severe depression and numerous physical ailments brought on by stress.

My fellow committee members, all of whom had a duty to stand up for the truth and the rule of our contracts - not one of them stood up for me when I was fired. They will not even return a phone call now. I feel like they just act like I've died. It hurts beyond what I could have imagined, that even the people I stood up for have been silent as they watched my life destroyed. MLK said it best: what you remember is not the words of your enemies, but the silence of your friends. And one of those "friends" is my own sister, who chose to stay safe in the pack and watch me get lynched. Truth really is stranger than fiction, I assure you.

I'm just a nobody in a small town, but I've seen up close now what people are capable of when they get a bit of power and in a position where they can manipulate that power through committees, i.e. semi-anonymously. None of them are strong enough to have done this if they personally had to take responsibility. I haven't been in a literal war, but now I understand how "good" people can do great evil. They get some power, abuse it, and then tell themselves the group did it. It's the same horrible dynamics as a lynch mob. No one person feels like they're the ones who did the deed. It's truly horrific to behold when you see friends and family slowly turn into monsters who literally don't care if you lose your home and starve. And you know they all sleep very well at night.

Bullied in the South
by: Anonymous

My husband and I recently moved from the city to a small town. We both had grew up in small towns and as small town nerds who made a life for themselves were hoping for better this time around.
It only took six months and after a month in bed, I took to the web for help. These bullies have attacked us in the worst way and I am not sure how to recover my self esteem. In a small town it one feels doomed. I thank you so much for your article and hope maybe if we all support each other we will find comfort and the strength to overcome these soul searing people.
These are the people who smash dreams and crush all they encounter in one way or another the bulldoze anyone who possess something they do not.

I'm here too!
by: Anonymous

I can't or can believe what I'm reading. I am going through the same as you all in a small town I am not from & since I started working in a high management position in the town I feel like I am being attacked every day every wherever I go once people found out my abilities & if they don't have them they will destroy you so they can feel "on top". I can not believe the evil, jealousy, & meanness of these women that are destroying me & I'm so far drug down I don't have the strength to get myself back together. Once I stood up for myself I almost lost my job & was given a safety warning that I scared the bully I worked with. So humiliating. I feel like not living anymore, am suffering health wise & feel stuck with a teenage son I don't want to move. I also am a very successful, strong single mother but don't know how to get myself back together & dont know how I could go so down.

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