[Photo Source: Shree Saini, an undergraduate student at the University of Washington, competing in Miss. Seattle 2015 Pageant| Shree Saini/Facebook]

India West
By: Giovanni Albanese Jr., India West

A 20-year-old Indian American woman from Washington is using several platforms to not only open up about her experiences being emotionally and nonverbally bullied, but to educate and empower others to fight against such bullying.

Shree Saini, an undergraduate student at the University of Washington pursuing a double degree in public administration and business, wants to “lead a life of service.”

The Punjab native, who moved to Washington when she was 7, experienced hardships while in high school, where she was bullied. As a response, she created the website www.ShreeSaini.com to educate people about her experiences.

“My website was created based on my personal struggles during my high school,” Saini told India-West. “My journey was from a silent sufferer to a bitter person and finally an enabled victor.”

But just telling her story wasn’t enough. The young woman, whose parents are Sanjay and Ekta Saini, wants to be at the forefront of a movement.

“I am very passionate about my nonprofit and want to lead a life of service,” she stressed. “I want to end human trafficking and work to promote the importance of emotional well-being in our society.”

Among the countless ways to be nonverbally bullied, a form of harassment that doesn’t involve a physical attack or direct verbal violence, include spreading hurtful rumors, excessive faultfinding, intentional bitter responses, cold replies to someone’s friendliness and the silent treatment, among many others, according to Saini. And the bullying doesn’t just pertain to schools. It can happen in the household or at work, too.

According to the activist, the bullying stems from emotional stress that snowballs from the likes of depression, post-traumatic stress, self-harm, divorce, mass shootings, business failures, drug use and alcohol abuse, among many others.

After dealing with her experiences, Saini penciled her thoughts in a journal, which she said helped change her from a victim to an empowered young woman. The journals in her diary turned to newspaper clippings in local papers in Washington.

“In a society mainly obsessed with physical fitness, emotional problems are dismissed,” noted the young Indian American. “Emotional well-being is necessary to have a healthy body and mind,” she told India-West.

“Parents who lose a job or can’t discipline themselves with their finances or health matters, never get rebuked by their kids,” she continued. “Whereas when a child struggles at school, in place of helping a child, the parents yell at them, label them as failure when the child just needs extra tutoring or emotional support so the child could be capable to perform at his/her peak level, yet her society belittles or degrades the child and labels them as dumb, stupid or lazy.”

Parents at the school she attended reached out to her upon reading her articles and said they held onto the clippings. Putting all her thoughts on the website allowed Saini to reach a global audience, she explained.

“I want to lend a hand to the bullies too, because at some point in our lives, all of us can be bullies,” she stated. “As humans, all of us make mistakes, but the blessing is we are given a new chance every single day at every new minute.”

“We should not waste time and wait for a special someday to make up for the psychological harm and hurt we have caused to that one person,” she added.

Saini advises would-be bullies to take ownership of their mistakes. If they become a “silent manipulator,” she said they should talk to the person being bullied and apologize.

“A hand-written post-it will do wonders,” she stressed, adding that parents, teachers and coaches should get out of the denial. “Let’s have sincere, genuine open and true friendships, no fake, superficial small talks.”

But not only does the victim need to be treated with care, a bully should be as well because of unresolved emotional wounds, the 20-year-old said.

Saini was a Miss Seattle and Miss Moses Lake runner-up this year, and hopes to one day win the title of Miss America. At the pageants, as well as at dance competitions, she uses the platform to express her beliefs about nonverbal bullying and her website. Saini is also partnering with emotional health organizations and services around her university to bring “an emotionally healthier student body.”

“With the significance of (a Miss Seattle) crown and a solid education, I want to continue working on my nonprofit and become an ambassador of emotional health by continuing to visit many high school and middle schools around Washington,” Saini said.

This story was originally published on India West.