USF student uses own experiences to help fight bullying

There are two main purposes to Bulls Against Bullying: prevention and awareness of bullying and being a safe haven for those who need it. 

Bullying is an unfortunate reality for some people. Generally thought of as a situation that occurs mainly to adolescents and teenagers, it can affect anyone, including college students. 

This is why Madison Masterson, a sophomore majoring in marketing, started Bulls Against Bullying during her second semester at USF.

Masterson experienced bullying firsthand when she was younger. It started her freshman year of high school and followed her all the way through.

“It started a lot of self-hate and drew me to depression and trying to kill myself multiple times, which is something I wouldn’t want to wish on anyone,” Masterson said.

After some time, she turned to social media for help and acceptance from her peers. While she did receive the reception she was looking for, this was also when she found out that bullying could continue online as well.

“I became almost obsessed with social media and obsessed with wanting attention and love from someone, because these people made me feel like I didn’t have love from anyone,” she said. “A lot of people did give me that love, but then also, even on social media, I got a lot of hate.”

Masterson, who has been attending USF since the summer of 2015, decided to start the club that fall. She spent most of that semester gathering people who were interested, and they had their first official meeting the following January. The group started with 10 people, but has since grown to 96.

There are two main purposes of Bulls Against Bullying: prevention and awareness of bullying and being a safe haven for those who need it. She said that people need to be informed about bullying, and the fact that it can happen to anyone is the first step in solving the problem. The club’s ‘safe haven concept’ is one where it tries to provide a welcoming and loving environment to anyone who needs it.

“Each month, we try and have a safe haven event where people can come and mellow down if they’re feeling stressed out,” Masterson said. “If that’s the only event of the month they want to come to, I’m completely fine with that.”

Previously, the organization has hosted movies, games, and arts and crafts nights for their safe haven events. These events are also to help students know that no matter what anyone says, they are not at fault for being harassed. Masterson said victim blaming was something she dealt with while being bullied.

“I wanted to spread the message that people are loved and that people have a place to go and talk to people, because I never want anyone to feel unwanted and unloved,” she said.

Students who are interested in learning more about the club, or who just want to drop by, can attend the Bulls Against Bullying Movie and Game Night tonight at 7:30 in MSC 3708. They will be screening ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ while playing UNO and Cards Against Humanity. Popcorn and drinks will be provided. There will also be a raffle for tickets to see the Tampa Bay Rays, Starbucks gift cards and Beef O’Brady’s gift cards.