'Breaking the Silence': Reformed bully now working to be an advocate for kindness

Crystal Wilson reads from a letter she read before the Gladstone City Council in the hope of getting city leaders to better understanding bullying. The letter told her story about how she bullied people during her childhood. (KATU Photo)

KATU News is taking part in an unprecedented effort to raise awareness and stop the stigma surrounding suicide. For one week, from April 7 to April 14, over 30 newsrooms from around the state will be reporting on suicide and its effect on the community. The project is called “Breaking the Silence.”

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A local woman, who calls herself a reformed bully, is working to turn her painful past into a positive future for others.

Crystal Wilson spent much of her childhood starting fights.

"I would slam kids into lockers and laugh,” she said. “I would start fights with girls for just looking my direction; no reason at all, except in my mind, I did have a reason."

She bullied boys, girls, and even teachers.

“Pretty much everyone in my path when I was angry,” she said.

Wilson finally came to terms with it as an adult, and earlier this year read a letter to the Gladstone City Council in the hope of getting city leaders to better understand bullying.

“Bullies don’t become bullies for no reason,” Wilson said.

She realized bullying was a reaction created out of pain.

"I was hurting, so (I) wanted to hurt others,” she said. “This is usually how bullying starts. Someone's in pain so they focus on hurting others to distract them from their own stress, pain, and problems."

Tyson Payne is a behavioral health clinician at Providence. He agreed that kids who bully are often suffering, too.

“It’s a symptom of other pain children are feeling and I think one of the reasons why it’s talked about more is there are a lot of things that teachers, systems, and parents can do about it,” said Payne.

Wilson knows she can’t change the effect she had on people while growing up, but now wants to be an advocate for kindness.

"Now I want to be known for who I am today,” she said. “I want to be known for standing up for those who are being bullied and to help the bullies who may not have anyone to talk to."

She’s promoting involvement and encouraging people in the community to take time and be mentors for kids -- even perpetrators.

"The bully needs just as much listening as kid getting bullied," said Wilson.

She hopes others learn from her mistakes.

"I want them to know the power of kindness and to know kind is better," she said.

Payne said it starts with recognition.

“The biggest thing is to recognize that it’s bullying and then talk to an adult,” he said.

Check out the content from all the news partners in this project at BreakingtheSilenceOR.com.

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