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Standing Up

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Standing Up is an incredible film by D. J. Caruso telling the fictional stories of two kids who are brutally bullied and harassed at their summer camp. After being stripped naked and chased through the woods by their peers, they decide to join forces and run away because they are afraid of their perpetrators and what they might do to them. These feelings of fear and isolation are all too familiar to the 13 millions kids that are bullied every year in America, including me.

When I was in middle school I was bullied for being gay. Just like in the film, kids called me names, left me out and made me want to run away -- I was missing two or three days of school a week. One day a group of guys who were tormenting me slammed my hand in my locker as I was putting my books away. I held back tears as I watched them run away laughing. I didn't tell anyone about what happened because I was afraid that would make it worse. I didn't stand up to the bullies because I didn't know how.

For the past few years I've been working as anti-bullying activist bringing light to the issue of bullying and taking part in our national dialogue about the solutions. As a middle school student I wasn't able to find my voice but, after 8th grade I changed schools and at that point I was given a second chance to speak up and make a difference. Just like I had another opportunity to address bullying in my life the main characters in Standing Up also took advantage of the second confrontation we see with a bully.

This time, instead of running away like they do from their summer camp, they decide to stick up for each other when they are being picked on at the second summer camp they stumble upon. We see that it only takes one person to confront a bully, but it doesn't always happen the first time because -- I know from personal experience -- it is a really hard thing to do. But, it all starts with one! More and more kids decide that it's the right thing to do -- not letting him bully anyone else.

It's so important for kids to see and understand that no matter who you are you can always be the one to speak up and chances are there are other people who feel the same way and will stand behind you! This film does an amazing job of showing us that this is possible and that no matter how many times it takes you can stand up to a bully!

Eventually, the kids even invite the bully to be in a group picture with them before they leave to go back to find their own camp. They include him with their new friends instead of bullying him back. They illustrate that standing up to a bully doesn't mean calling them names. It means helping to insure the physical and emotional safety and security of your peers -- all your peers. To eliminate bullying we really need to shift the culture of our schools. Bullying really isn't cool and this film shows us a few things we can do to help create that cultural shift!

Standing Up has such an important message to contribute to the conversation America is having about bullying on a national level. So many people are speaking up because bullying really does affect everyone. As you are watch Standing Up I'm asking you, as someone who was bullied and is now making an effort to make a difference, please: think about what you can do in your community and amongst your friends to end bullying. I know it's difficult but if we all work together I know we can make a difference because together we are the change.

Standing Up will be in theaters on August 16 and available on VOD and DVD (exclusively at Walmart) on August 20.