Character is who you truly are. Reputation is who others think you are.
All too often, when a person is bullied, his/her reputation takes a big hit, due to the many ugly rumors and lies which are spread by their tormentors. Remember that bullying is a campaign.
Just as a politician would go from house to house and business to business, kissing babies and shaking hands with people on the street while giving a spiel of why they’re the best person for the office they’re running for, bullies basically do the same. They go from person to person spinning their yarn about why no one should associate with the target.
Bullies/Peer Abusers engage everyone, even friends and family of the victim, pulling false accusations out of thin air and making them sound so convincing that others find the lies difficult not to believe.
Tormentors may also use a “tiny grain of truth”, which may be a simple mistake the victim might have made in the past (possibly a mistake which anybody could have made at any time), then add their own spin on it, making it worse and bigger than what it is for the purpose of making the story even more believable.
Moreover, harassers may use subtle provocations, taunts and assaults to bait the victim into a reaction, then turn around and use his/her perfectly normal human response as further proof that he/she really is a less than desirable person (crazy, stupid, evil, etc.).
You must realize that bullies are sociopaths. They have a wealth of superficial charm at their disposal and are masters in the arts of persuasion and influence. People of this nature are very skilled wordsmiths, which is why they are seemingly able to pull a complete fabrication out of their own butts and make it smell sweet and sound plausible. Because of this oozing charm that most seasoned bullies possess, they are able to encourage bystanders and sometimes authority (teachers, principals, monitors, etc.) to join in the torment.
After being attacked for so long, it’s too easy for victims to become worn down and go the “eye for an eye” route and return the attacks (physically or verbally). Although defending oneself is a perfectly normal response to assaults, victims must be very careful in their counter-attacks and very carefully choose their battles because a well experienced bully can very easily use any reactions as validation of any rumors and lies which have been spread. Before long, even those who aren’t normally bullies will either shun or brutalize the selected victim. Thus, the reputation of the innocent victim is tarnished and will take years to repair.
With all the above combined, bullies can be a weapon of mass destruction to their victims, ripping them to shreds and destroying any credibility they once had. Right or wrong, once credibility is lost, victims are powerless and have almost zero chance of redeeming themselves and opportunities can be lost even before they present themselves.
If you are a target of bullying, I want to assure you that your reputation DOES NOT equal your character. You are an awesome, intelligent, goodhearted person and you are worthy of being loved regardless of how others may perceive you. As difficult as it may be to do so, you must never let your reputation define you. Never let bullies dim your shine! Hold on, with everything you have in you, to your awesome qualities even if you have to remind yourself every day that you are a great person! Hold on to your faith and your dignity! Hold on to TRUTH!