Martinsville and Henry County working to combat bullying

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MARTINSVILLE (WSLS 10) - The Henry County and Martinsville community is coming together to fight bullying before it starts.

The program, that brought out hundreds at Martinsville High School Thursday night, is part of the police department's community policing initiative.

Students, parents, teachers, and police all learned a valuable lesson about bullying from a Carroll County man who says he was a bully when he was young, and he's regretted it all his life.

Doug Reavis told a candid tale to the crowd Thursday of how, when he was a kid, he and his friends bullied a girl in the neighborhood.

"We were verbally mean. Teased, laughed, joked, made fun of, and I know, whenever I chose to lead that charge, I would get a pat on the back from some of my buddies who maybe, weren't the right kind of buddies," said Reavis.

Reavis says, it was only later that he began to have regrets about his behavior.

"When I grew up, I wanted to go back and find that little girl and kind of apologize to her for what I did, and I found out that she had passed away, so I never got a chance to say those words to her," said Reavis.

Reavis hopes his story sends a powerful message about the consequence of actions, a message the Martinsville Police Department says it fully endorses.

"Any chance we have to partner with our community in a non-traditional policing type of, positive and friendly type of environment like this, it's just, it's just such a great way to build relationships, and that's exactly what we need," said Chief Sean Dunn.

The department helped sponsor the event Thursday, that is part of a community policing effort that is having a major impact on the area.

"We've seen a pretty dramatic reduction in crime over three years where right now, we're down, total part one crime, about 30 percent. Violent crime alone over those three years we're down 59 percent, so we really think it's pretty incredible," said Dunn.

As people left the auditorium, members of a Martinsville after school program asked attendees to sign an anti-bullying pledge with their fingerprint.

"It gives them that reminder when they leave. It's one thing to hear, and you kind of forget about that, but when you do something physically, it gives you that reminder, it connects your body and your brain back together," said MHC After 3 staff member Brian Stanley.

That reminder, Reavis says, is that we always have the chance to do the right thing.

"We can either follow the good or we can follow the bad, but we all get to choose," said Reavis.

In addition to creating safer communities, Reavis says anti-bullying programs can actually save lives.

According to the National Suicide Prevention Program, suicide is the third leading cause of death among high school age kids, caused in part by bullying, and Reavis says he hopes that's a statistic that won't be reflected in the Martinsville-Henry County area.