You may think of young children when you hear the word "bully," but bullying these days extends far beyond the playground.
Bullying through social networks websites, known as cyberbullying, is a growing problem for teens as bullies use sites like Facebook and Twitter to post cruel or embarrassing content about someone.
Adults, however, are just as guilty, and in some cases, the older the bully, the crueler.
Anne, a 35-year-old woman from Dillon who asked that her full name not be used, said she was bullied for four years by an ex-boyfriend who used social media sites to spread malicious rumors and lies about her.
"He told me if I ever broke up with him, he would run me out of town. I didn't believe him at the time, but he about did it," she said.
"He started by posting stuff on Myspace, then when I moved over to Facebook, he started doing it there," she said. "One time, he posted that I peed in the bed. It sounds stupid and something like a child would say, but people believed it and made fun of me. I begged him to leave me alone and stop putting things on there, but he just got worse and worse."
When Anne blocked her bully, he created different fake screen names to continue the bullying. She said he had more than 40 different screen names at one point.
After several years of enduring the harassment and humiliation, Anne said things got so bad she couldn't take it anymore.
"I felt horrible about myself. I tried to commit suicide," she said. "Nobody would help me stop him. People were laughing and giggling behind my back. I know most people would say, 'Why would an adult let that get to them?' But after a while it does. I tried to keep my head up, but it was hard. I still don't trust people because of it."
Men aren't the only culprits. One Florence woman, 40-year-old Karen, said she has been bullied by another woman for years and is still trying to figure out how to properly handle it.
"Oh, she's put terrible stuff about me on Facebook and she's told friends and family members awful things about me. If we're both at the same event, she loses it and makes it terrible for me," Karen said. "I've talked to an attorney about what to do, but he says it's a very hard case to prove. So for right now, I just have to deal with it."
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. It's a time when communities nationwide are encouraged to unite to raise awareness of bullying prevention through events, activities, outreach, and education.
Though the South Carolina Code of Laws does not directly address cyberbullying, there are harassment and stalking laws that can apply in certain situations.
According to S.C. law, "harassment in the first degree" means a pattern of intentional, substantial and unreasonable intrusion into the private life of a targeted person that serves no legitimate purpose and causes the person and would cause a reasonable person in his position to suffer mental or emotional distress. This can include physical threats and those conveyed electronically.
"Stalking" means a pattern of words, whether verbal, written or electronic, or a pattern of conduct that serves no legitimate purpose and is intended to cause and does cause a targeted person and would cause a reasonable person in the targeted person's position to fear harm to himself or his family.
A person convicted of either can face fines and jail time.
Dr. John Hester, a psychology professor at Francis Marion University, said people don't always outgrow bullying and the Internet makes it a whole lot easier to do.
"I think social media -- the immediacy of it and the ability to comment on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube -- all creates an environment where people can make statements they wouldn't ever make in person," Hester said.
"So a bully can bully and remain pretty anonymous doing it," Hester said. "I think most bullies feel some inadequacy themselves. They feel hurt and inadequate and they bully in an effort to gain some control. That control -- that's really what it's all about."
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