2. The Truth About Bullying
I still vividly remember what school taught me about bullying when I was a kid. During Anti-Bullying Week in Year 5, we had a special PSHE lesson on how to deal with it, and apparently, the way to stop a bully in its tracks is to say these magic words: "Stop it! I don't like it!" Yep. That's not a joke; that's what I was actually told. My classmates made it a running joke for the rest of the year, and it's pretty obvious why: excuse my French, but it might just be up there with the biggest chunks of bullshit I've ever heard. This was November 2010, but the worst part is that nearly six years later, my younger sister has been told the same thing. How do you expect someone to tell a bully that we don't like what they're doing in an attempt to get them to stop? They weren't out for you to enjoy them calling your names, stealing your belongings, spreading rumours and/or worse! Yet, somehow, this was the message both my younger sister and myself were given, and for me especially, I was told three wretched words that were meant to help and solve things, but didn't. "Just ignore them." I have been bullied in the past, but I am slightly careful with using the word 'bullied', mainly because my experiences with it have been nowhere near as bad as stories I've heard from people I know and from other people who have spoken out about it in the press who have dealt with that shit for years relentlessly without a reprieve. However, throughout my life I've been picked on by various people for various things: I've been the 'odd child' who people don't understand, but as I've gotten older I've been called names simply for having curly ginger hair. I've been called 'Curly Fries'. I've been called 'Frizzhead'. I've been called 'Freak'. When I moved school last year, for the first month or so, the cool kids called me Tracy Beaker. It got to the point where some of the people a couple of years below knew me as Tracy and not as my real name. (And while I'm on the subject, please, even if you're curious as to what they'd look like, never ask a curly-haired person to straighten their hair,You might never see the light of day again.) Enough of me - from what I know and what I've seen, I don't believe certain schools do enough to combat this problem.
A friend of mine has been bullied since the start of secondary school, and although he's spoken to teachers numerous times, it has still not completely stopped. When I told my Head of Year about some things someone said to me in Year 7, the rest of my year quickly got word of it and it made it even worse. A lack of action - even just telling someone to 'just ignore them' - is simply not excusable.
Consider this: according to the brilliant anti-bullying charity Ditch The Label (I'll put a link to them at the end; they do some amazing stuff), 7 in 10 young people are bullied. In their recent Annual Bullying Survey, 50% of their 8,850 respondents said they had been bullied in the past year, and it happened to 19% of these people every day. 44% of these people suffered from depression as a result of the bullying, 41% suffered from social anxiety and 33% had suicidal thoughts. What's more, 45% of respondents didn't think their school takes it seriously enough,
None of that should be allowed to happen. Nobody should have to dread going to school, nobody should have their self-esteem thrown to the floor by someone else, and nobody should have to live in fear of being judged or insulted for being themselves. The fact that this still goes on, even in 2016, is unbelievable. But yes, stopping it is more than possible.
Let's start with the people who bully. You've probably heard plenty of the how's and why's,but what you may not know is in the same survey I mentioned above, 24% of the 8,850 respondents who were bullied in the past go on to bully themselves (The girl who called me 'Curly Fries' as well as numerous other things, is also one of these people). David Draiman, lead singer of heavy metal band Disturbed, once said: 'People who have nothing better to do than prey on other people should be seeing a therapist'* and he speaks truth - bullying is very often an unhealthy coping or defense mechanism. If this is you, then please, go and get yourself the help you need. You and the people around you will benefit so much from it.
But what if these bully/bullies don't realise the harm of what they're doing? This is more common than it sounds, and I have been a witness of tasteless 'jokes' at someone else's expense, and I've been on the receiving end of some too. If you're one of the people looking on and laughing, that's just as bad. If these people sound like you, think before you speak (or laugh): in the words of Motionless In White, 'open your mind before your mouth'. If you're a witness, call these people out. The subjects of these tasteless jokes (me included) will be grateful. I'll round this post off with some personal advice for anyone who's reading this that is being bullied. I'm by no means an expert, but if I can help someone out there, then I will. Remember that this bully doesn't define your worth - you do. There are plenty of people who do like you and do care for you, and they're the people to devote your time and energy into. None of this is your fault. I repeat, NONE OF IT.
NONE OF IT!! It's probably better to keep your responses to the person bullying you on the shorter side. I often say "And?" if someone says something mean to me, but whatever you do, don't insult them back or use violence, because that could get you into trouble. Write down what happens to you, especially things the bully says, so you can use it as evidence if you need to. If you're being cyberbullied, don't reply to any messages, take screenshots of the things you say as evidence again, and block them. Don't change for someone who bullies you. I'm largely talking about people who are bullied for their appearance like I was, but this can be used in other instances too. Using myself as an example, if you're being picked on for having curly hair, don't straighten it. If you're being picked on because you're ginger, don't dye your hair. This shows you are proud of the way you are, and that the bullies aren't winning. (You're gorgeous, by the way. Yes, you there, behind your screen. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.) Lastly, tell someone. It doesn't have to a teacher if you're not comfortable doing that (though that is a good idea), but at least tell your closest friends and/or family members so they can possibly help.
- E Ditch The Label: http://www.ditchthelabel.org/ DTL's Annual Bullying Survey 2016: http://www.ditchthelabel.org/annual-bullying-survey-2016/ *This quote is taken from Issue 204 of Rock Sound Magazine.