OSKALOOSA, Iowa — In KTVO's mental health awareness campaign, Stand for the Silent, we’re turning our focus now to bullying prevention.
After video of an Oskaloosa bullying incident went viral, a local tattoo shop is leading the way for the city to be a little bit of a kinder place.
The shop hosted an event for the community to get together, and get to know each other.
“Sometimes it takes one person to come out of the woodwork and say enough is enough,” said Tammy Sparks, a friend of the boy who was bullied. “I’m hoping that’s the effect here.”
“We’re just trying to rally together to make people aware of what has happened, and figure out what we can do to stop it in the future,” said Westley Vaughan, manager and tattoo artist at In the Flesh Tattoo and Piercing.
What happened was captured on video. A young Oskaloosa boy with autism was beaten up in an alleyway, and punched in the head.
Residents told KTVO they were shocked when they saw it.
“It made me sick, I was just sick,” Sparks said. “I know Cobra [the bullying victim], I remember him back when I worked with him in preschool. And it’s even harder when you know they are special needs children who are getting bullied.”
“It was pretty terrible, it’s sad that anybody would have to deal with that, and it’s even more sad the way some people responded to the child doing it,” Vaughan said. “We should really just ask what happened and what went wrong and what we can do to stop it.”
Vaughan asked himself those questions, and now, is taking action to stop bullying.
One thing he’s started already, making Safe Space stickers for businesses.
“We’re going to try to get businesses on board to put those in their windows, so children passing by, if they were about to be or were in the middle of an altercation know that they can come in and ask for help,” he explained.
Sparks is in the process of organizing a support group for victims of bullying, and bullies themselves to see the impact of their works and actions.
“Too many people are choosing to be quiet, they don’t want to get involved, or they’re afraid to. I know kids are scared to death and I know they’re scared to talk,” Sparks said. “It changes their lives because they’re so scared to do the things they want to do.”
As a father of a young child, Vaughn is working to make the world a better place for his son, because he knows firsthand how cruel people can be.
“Dealing with it as a child, and being able to do something about it now, it feels pretty good to be able to have the ability to take action,” Vaughn said.
And Vaughn has a message for those who are being bullied.
“It’s not the end, it’s definitely not the end and you can say something to a lot of people, there are a lot of people that do care.”
Community members are planning an anti-bullying seminar to teach others how to notice and stop bullying.