Kate MacHugh
Bullying Survivor
Female | Galloway, NJ   United States
From a Bullied Girl to a Well-Adjusted Woman, Kate MacHugh Shares Triumph
Bullying Type: Emotional
Posted By: LaffyTaffy
5/30/13 3:40 PM
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As a first impression of Kate MacHugh, young author, activist and nationally touring speaker on bullying prevention, “victim” is the last thing that comes to mind. To meet the petite, raven-haired, 24-year-old Barnegat resident is to be charmed instantly by her warmth and openness, her smart, softspoken eloquence, her bright outlook and her self-assured, friendly demeanor. As living proof that hurdles can be overcome and even made into blessings, she stands as a role model to young women as she spreads her message of hope.

Ugly: The Story of a Bullied Girl was released as an e-book on Jan. 1. It is MacHugh’s story, told in a series of short passages that illustrate specific instances throughout middle and high school of girl-on-girl harassment, emotional abuse, cyber-bullying and physical aggression; each chapter concludes with a question-and-answer section for readers to journal their reactions, thoughts and personal experiences.

MacHugh is now on the cusp of a brand new chapter of her life. Earlier this month, she graduated from Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, having earned her master’s degree in social work. Her advanced standing as an undergrad (at Alvernia University in Reading, Pa.) enabled her to complete the master’s program in one year. She is now preparing to begin a brand new job as a functional family therapist for Community Treatment Solutions, based in Moorestown, which will have her traveling around Ocean County to the homes of at-risk youth between the ages of 11 and 21 to counsel them and their families in crisis resolution and skill-building.

On Saturday, June 15, MacHugh will present “A Girl Called Ugly: A Bullying Workshop for Girls” at the Barnegat Recreation Center, for middle and high school girls ages 11 to 18 to come together in a supportive and therapeutic environment to discuss bullying in their schools and communities. The middle schoolers’ portion will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the high school portion from 2 to 6 p.m. The cost is $10 per girl, and $5 for a sibling. Email [email protected] or [email protected]

The workshop’s objectives are for attendees to be able to identify bullying behaviors in their schools and communities; understand the roles of bully, bystander and victim; develop empathy skills; learn coping skills if they are victims; gain empowerment, healthy self-esteem and self-image.

A graduate of Southern Regional High School, MacHugh fled her hometown (and the source of so much of her pain) for rural Pennsylvania to attend Alvernia University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in social work and flourished in the college campus setting, finally free to get involved in campus and extracurricular activities. Bullying victims often avoid sports and after-school activities, she explained, because the last thing they want to do is prolong the school day.

As she grew up with a social worker mom and psychotherapist dad, the only career path she ever considered was one that would benefit humankind. Built into the foundation of her upbringing were the principle of empathy, the value of good listening skills and the importance of helping others.

Ironically, however, she could not bring herself to talk to her parents about her bullying experiences at school. Raised to believe she was a strong, smart and capable young woman, she felt responsible for her own struggles and felt she should handle and solve the problem on her own. She was reluctant to get her parents involved in the drama, fearing the added attention of parents and authorities would make the already-embarrassing situation even more unbearable and the consequences might mean having her computer or other privileges taken away.

According to MacHugh, her troubles began in middle school when she reached, as so many young people do, “an awkward stage” and, try as she might, just did not fit in anywhere in the preteen social construct. Looking back, she thinks her natural way of caring and empathizing made her an easy target, as someone who wouldn’t fight back.

By 11th grade, she finally began to feel comfortable in her own skin, as her physicality caught up to her emotional and intellectual maturity. But still, the “mean girls” used her attractiveness as a weapon, spreading outrageous rumors about her promiscuity.

In hindsight, most of the conflicts were over petty issues that spun out of control.

Bringing it to the attention of school officials was no help, she recalled. They seemed to trivialize the abuse as mere “girl drama,” suggesting MacHugh herself had a part in causing or perpetuating it, that, somehow, certain choices she was making contributed to the problem, and the school had no policies in place to address or resolve the matter. Today, MacHugh does not cast blame on Southern or hold a grudge against her teachers or administrators; at that time, in the early 2000s, they simply weren’t equipped with the right tools.

MacHugh’s firsthand experience led her swiftly to the conclusion that “peer mediation,” while useful in conflict resolution, where the two parties at odds are relative equals, is largely ineffective as a method of bullying intervention, where the two parties are inequal, because, at its root, bullying is about an imbalance of power. In her book she draws an analogy to jars containing marbles, with the marbles symbolizing power. A bully fills his or her jar with marbles by robbing them from the victim, until the victim’s jar is empty.

MacHugh said she is relieved to see the anti-bullying message now permeating mass media – the more attention and education that surround the topic, the better the chances that fewer children will need to go through what she went through.

Further good news is that now, thanks in part to Gov. Christie, who signed the New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act into law in January 2011, the state’s anti-bullying statutes are some of the strictest in the nation. Every school is required to have a policy in place to address bullying incidents, an anti-bullying specialist and school safety team, plus an added layer of defense in requiring teachers to receive suicide prevention training, to spot the signs.

At first, she said, there was a lot of pushback from schools, bemoaning the expense of putting the mandated anti-bullying measures in place. So in March of last year, Christie created a $1 million anti-bullying fund, to support the implementation of bullying prevention and awareness and programs.

As MacHugh pointed out, bullying is most often carried out in hidden places, away from the eyes and ears of authority; and bullies and their entourages honor a code of silence. The vigilance must be applied to schoolbuses, the after-school environment, the restrooms and locker rooms.

Sadly, she said, the predator-prey tendency is part of human nature, and the world will always have people who want to inflict harm on others they perceive as weak. On the bright side, she said, “I think we’re starting to grow a generation of people who learn to care about each other.”

Read on: http://thesandpaper.villagesoup.com/p/from-a-bullied-girl-to-a-well-adjusted-woman-kate-machugh-shares-triumph-in-reflective-book/1007688#.UafUNWTwKKM

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Story Details

Name: Kate MacHugh
Age: 31
Country: United States
Location: Galloway, NJ
Gender: Female
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Profession: Other
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