Should bullying victims fight back? Or should they instead, as school officials always demand, stick to letting adults deal with the problem? Those are questions that have long been debated by both experts and people directly involved in bullying, and yet, there remains no definitive answers. In fact, the case studies on bullying victims who fought back often show mixed results — some victims earning back their sense of self-worth, and yet others ending up badly injured and facing sanctions for their retaliation.
Both sides of this debate are represented with the 10 cases of bullying collected in this list. All of these victims fought back in one way or another, and while some of them seem to have freed themselves from the shackles of bullying, it’s clear that not all attempts to beat bullying are successful. Whether it’s through self-defense, getting the message out, or simply having a positive attitude, there are a multitude of ways to tackle this very complex issue, and each case presents its own unique challenges.
Here are ten cases of bullying victims who fought back against their tormentors in varied ways and with varying results:
10. Victim Body Slams His Bully
In 2011, a 15-year-old at a Sydney high school snapped after enduring years of bullying, throughout which he was called fatty, slapped on the back of his head, and hit by flying water bottles. Casey Heynes admitted to being depressed and contemplating suicide for a time, but one day, he decided that enough was enough. The reaction was triggered by another boy at his Sydney high school punching him repeatedly in the face. Shocking observers, Casey picked up Ritchard Gale, and violently slammed him to the ground, causing the smaller boy to stagger as he stood up and walked. That turned Casey into an Internet sensation, a Facebook page even dubbing him “Casey the Punisher” and gained more than 15,000 likes. Nevertheless, both students in the incident were suspended from school for four days.
9. Victim Who Fights Back, Charged With Assault
14-year-old Eric Martin of Henrico Virginia was for years constantly harassed and called homophobic names. Finally, in September of 2014, he decided to fight back against his bullies. That resulted in Eric being so badly hurt that he was hospitalized and had to receive medical care for months due to broken bones and a brain injury. Furthermore, despite his tormentors escaping largely unhurt, the school charged Eric with two counts of assault, one of which he was found guilty for and for which he was sentenced to attend anger management classes. The judge, however, took the case under advisement and could decide to drop the charges in six months after Eric serves his sentence. Thousands of people have signed a petition for the charges to be dropped altogether.
8. Victim Learns Jiu-Jitsu from the Gracies
In 2011, a 12-year-old Martin Hendricks was being bullied at a middle school in Denver, so one summer, his parents enrolled him at the Gracie Academy, headed by the family that created Brazilian jui-jitsu. The parents’ goal was to make their son “bullyproof,” and the academy tried to accomplish this by teaching Martin how to deal with bullying. Their action plan involved Martin firmly talking to his tormentor, asking to be left alone, reporting the matter to adults, then tackling the bully if the aggression didn’t stop. Well, just four days into the following school year, the bully threw a water bottle at Martin and punched him. Practicing what he was taught, Martin told the boy to stop, then when the bully didn’t, Martin jumped off a bench, pushed the bully in the chest, and pinned him with one knee. The school later found that Martin’s response was an appropriate one and didn’t sanction him. Furthermore, the bully publicly apologized and no longer bothers Martin.
7. Student Attacked During Interview About Bullying
In 2012, a local TV station in Brunswick Maryland was about to interview then 15-year-old Preston Deener about bullying when three larger students proceeded to assault him. The aggressors asked, “What are you recording?” then chased after Preston while hitting him on the head. The bullies didn’t stop, even as reporter Katie Kyros shouted at them do so.
The week before the assault, Preston had stood up to one of the bullies after being tackled. That resulted in Preston being suspended for three days. In fact, it was for this reason that when he was attacked during the interview, he chose to run away. Preston hopes that the incident will force the school to take a tougher stance against bullying.
6. “Manbeast” Gets Revenge
Oxford University student Louisa Manning was reunited with a former classmate during their Christmas ball, and he invited her out on a date. She said yes, but didn’t show up. Instead, a waiter at the restaurant they were supposed to meet at handed the boy a photograph of Louisa’s younger self, along with an explanatory letter she had written and later posted on Facebook:
Hey [name omitted],
Remember year 8, when I was fat and you made fun of my weight? No? I do – I spent the following three years eating less than an apple a day. So I’ve decided to skip dinner.
Remember the monobrow you mocked? The hairy legs you were disgusted by? Remember how every day for three years, you and your friends called me manbeast? No, perhaps you don’t – or you wouldn’t have seen how I look eight years later and deemed me [word omitted] enough to treat me like a human being.
I thought I’d send you this as a reminder. Next time you think of me, picture the girl in this photo, because she’s the one who just stood you up.
Louisa gained lots of support for what she did and also received an apology from the boy she had stood up. This is a more recent picture of Louisa:
5. Schoolboy Writes an Open Video Letter to His Bullies
On January 29, 2015, the mother of a certain Connor Williams posted a video of her son on Facebook and YouTube. In it, the 12-year-old boy shares, through a self-made poster, that ever since he has attended Montgomery High School in the United Kingdom, he has been bullied and not received any help despite him telling the teachers about it. The poster actually names the bullies and illustrates them saying mean things to Connor. It also includes the message, “I just wanna stick up for myself but I can’t, I’m not strong enough. PLEASE HELP!”
A background check on Connor shows that he has, for four years, danced with the Royal Ballet’s Primary Steps program. However, he has attempted to hide his hobby from others after people at school began to make fun of him for it. Montgomery High School claims it had no knowledge of Connor’s case until they learned of it through the video.
4. Girl Quietly Takes Taunts, Then Lashes Out
In February of 2013, a video featuring a certain Jaide went viral after it was posted on Twitter. The clip starts with a seemingly meek girl being taunted by several other girls who are led by the main aggressor, Jaide. After some time, Jaide asks the victim, “If I touch you, will you hit me?” to which she receives no reply. However, when Jaide actually touches the quiet girl’s face, she gets an answer she probably didn’t expect: a flurry of slaps and punches for which she had no answer. Most people who viewed the video made fun of Jaide, and she even had a song written about her:
3. 9-Year-Old Victim Suspended After Fighting Back
In 2012, then 9-year-old Nathan Pemberton of West Elementary School in Colorado Springs fought back after he had been bullied by a classmate for months. According to Nathan’s version of the story, the bully often picked him up and slammed him onto a concrete basketball court. Then one day, the bully elbowed him in the eye and kicked him in the back, so Nathan punched his tormentor in the face. That resulted in both third-grade students being suspended from school, the sanction a consequence of the school’s zero tolerance policy for fighting regardless of the reasons for the fight. The boys have since returned to school, but have been placed in different classes.
2. Female Bully Gets Choked by Male Victim
Not much is known about the identity of the individuals captured in a video that began circulating on the Internet in 2014. In the clip shot in a bus, a male is seen trying to protect his face as a female stands over him while punching and slapping him. Then later, when the girl attempts to kick the boy several times, he somehow manages to stand up and put his tormentor in a choke hold. Another boy, who appears to be the girl’s brother, then jumps towards the two and asks that his sister be let go. After a few moments of the girl gasping, the chokehold is released, and the bullied boy then asks his tormentor, “You okay?” Most netizens condemned the female for being a bully and praised the victim for fighting back and even being a gentleman afterwards.
1. Fighting Back With Post-Its
Fighting back against bullies is always thought of as involving some sort of physical retaliation, or at the very least, a verbal confrontation. But those weren’t what Caitlin Prater-Haacke, an 11th grader from Calgary, Canada, ended up doing. In 2014, her locker was robbed and her Facebook was hijacked, the hackers posting cruel messages on her Facebook account. So what did Caitlin decide to do? She stuck 850 Post-Its with messages like “Be yourself” and “You’re awesome!” all over the lockers in her school, her aim being to make everyone smile. At first, teachers called Caitlin out for littering, but her community rallied around her and began posting similar notes all around town. In fact, the Staples store in Caitlin’s neighborhood even began giving away the notes for free for people to post. The school then relented and allowed the posting of the messages, provided students cleaned up after themselves.