Friday, October 19, 2012

#AuthorsAgainstBullying - Saving Yourself First

Today authors are coming together to blog against bullying. Non-authors have also been invited to participate, but although I have been a victim of bullying in the past, I have nothing much useful to say about it.

It's a horrible thing to experience.
It's a horrible thing to do.
If you ever feel tempted to do it, don't.

That's pretty much the sum total of my wisdom on the subject, except to say that sometimes bullying can come from very unexpected sources.

You may realise one day that your best friend is bullying you, but you hadn't spotted it before because, well, she's your friend, right? So it must be your fault that she sometimes says things that make you want to cry, right? You're just too sensitive, that's the problem. Maybe you can Google 'being less sensitive' and find some useful hints!

If that ever happens to you, step away from Google and consider that you may not be the problem.

From there, though, I can't advise what's the best thing to do. Which is worse, loneliness or being bullied? I can't answer that. I couldn't when I was bullied by friends when I was a teenager. Eventually, in my case, loneliness won (it just looked less crap) and I spent a lot of time on my own, writing bad story ideas in a notebook with a mottled green cover.

Which led to me being bullied by a whole new bunch of people. Seriously, they're everywhere! I'm now a working adult and I still meet them. I have no useful advice on how to deal with them either, except to run like hell (literally or metaphorically) when you realise you've met one. Put as much distance between you and them as you reasonably can.

One of the most damaging and pervasive myths of our time is that bullies will go away if you just stand up to them. I've met a few of that variety in my time but I don't think it's a good idea to assume that's the case, any more than it's a good idea to assume every other driver on the road is sober, alert and smart. Saying that bullies will back off if you stand up to them is also a nasty form of victim-blaming - if the victim just reacted right, then the bullying would stop. How about if we worked on modifying the bully's behaviour? Might that be a smart plan, since they're the one with the problem?

If you ever encounter a bully, whether at school or at work or in your private life, don't feel bad that you're not 'fighting the good fight' and 'sticking up for yourself' and 'teaching them a lesson.' That's not your job. Your job is to protect yourself and do what's best for you. You're not there to train other people to be reasonable human beings.

One final point - when you know what it's like to be bullied, you really, really appreciate fun, welcoming, warm, safe spaces like the ones I've found on the blogosphere. Not everyone's online experience is so good, sadly, but it's nice to be able to fully appreciate what we have.





18 comments:

  1. This is a great post, and a great cause. Bullies are everywhere and Im sure we've all encountered at least one in our lifetime. They make me sick!

    xx

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    1. I think they're very hard to avoid, Juls! Luckily there are a lot of people out there who agree that their behaviour is just not acceptable.

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  2. This is such a coincidence because yesterday I did a post about Amanda Todd (who committed suicide because she was bullied). I'm glad I unknowingly jumped on the anti-bullying-blogging-bandwagon.

    As for solutions to bullying, yes, it's hard to think of what to do. I'd like to say that as a victim there is not much you can do, but tell people and protect yourself. And then other people can stand up for you. But this is a feeble solution because, like was the case with Amanda Todd, sometimes it's those others who enjoy and participate in the bullying. Amanda Todd had nowhere to go.

    I don't know. I can't really give advice on this. All I can do is express my outrage over it.

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    1. Amanda Todd's story was so sad. I also read about an Australian TV presenter who attempted suicide sue to bullying on Twitter. Thankfully she survived, but not everyone is so (relatively) fortunate.

      I agree that telling people is very important. I don't know how I would have coped if I hadn't had people to go to.

      I think if enough of us express outrage, that may help.

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  3. Bullying is often counter image. Kids people think are upstanding students can be just as nasty with their bullying. I'm a former high school teacher and bullying is not gender or race or economically or academically biased. Anyone being bullied needs to go to either parents, school officials or the authorities. What happened to Amanda Todd is beyond sad and a wake-up call that passive behavior doesn't stop bullying. You're right, they also don't go away. I would like to caution that bullying can be generational. If a child feels trapped in the home, there has to be help available outside the home that authorities seriously promote.

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    1. That's an excellent point, Kittie. Anyone can be a bully - once at school, a group of us had to put together a short play about bullying. Everyone wanted the biggest girl in the group (who was unusually tall) to pick on the smallest - talk about playing to stereotype! - but in the end we flipped it and had the tiny innocent-looking girl play the bully.

      And yes, there can be such serious bullying issues within the home environment too. It can't be stressed enough that bullying is bullying, regardless of who is doing it.

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  4. Well said, Ellen. Two very strong and important points here - re "friends" bullying, and "standing up for yourself".

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    1. Thanks for dropping by, Ruth, glad you enjoyed it.

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  5. I remember very distinctly being shown a video by teachers in school describing the reason why bullies bully which showed bullies as victims of other bullies and gave the overall impression that bullies were the ones who needed support not the victim. It left a horrible sense of guilt for years that I was the one who was just misunderstanding how badily treated the bully was. It's nice to here someone say that the best option is to get as far away as possible although in situtations where you are a child and can't physically escape this is very very difficult!

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    1. That's pretty much the situation I was in too. It was impossible to escape physically a lot of the time, but making that a priority seems less risky to me than saying people should 'stand up for themselves.' Sometimes that works, but sometimes it gets you into an even worse situation.

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  6. This is such a great post, Ellen.

    "You're just too sensitive, that's the problem." THIS. Absolutely. People can argue very persuasively that it's the other person that's the problem - they were just joking, or they didn't MEAN it like that, or they're not responsible for how someone else responds to what they've said. (And it is tricky, because the rational person is aware that we can't control other people's behaviour and sometimes we CAN over-react to certain things, for various reasons, which can lead to putting up with being treated in a really unacceptable way.)

    But also such a great point about victim-blaming - if there was more on just empathising with people, full-stop (not the bully, not the victim, just people) it'd be much more effective than 'stand up for yourself'. Which can be dangerous. Most kids don't have the skills to do that in an effective, safe, non-creating-more-trouble-than-it's-worth way. Most adults don't.

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  7. Also! On another note, have seen people (both kids and adults) leap into bullying accusations when really what they mean is 'this person doesn't like me' or 'this person disagrees with me about something'. Which is not helpful either. The easy catch-phrase-style responses - be friends with everyone, stand up to your bully, etc - just don't work. I really do think we expect a lot more from kids in a classroom than one will ever see in a workplace.

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    1. Definitely, Claire - we need a lot more dialogue and discussion about what does and doesn't constitute bullying, and I also think we need to stop expecting things of kids that we don't expect of adults. I would love to see this discussed a lot more, and not merely in the usual morning-radio generalisation sort of way (although that can be valuable in itself because it keeps the issue out there), but in a way that discusses very nuts-and-bolts techniques for identifying bullying and for helping to stop it.

      Also, I think adults need guidelines on it. I'm not a parents and I don't work with kids so I'm far from well-informed on this stuff, but I wouldn't know what to do if a kid came to me and said they were being bullied.

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  8. Thank you so much for sharing your story and being part of this blog event!!!!!

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    1. You're welcome, Mandy, thanks for visiting!

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  9. Thanks for sharing.

    The Amanda Todd story continues to develop, and it is tragic. I feel sorry for her, for her family, and having it out there like that makes it all the harder.

    Growing up, I was one of the taller kids in school, so physical bullying wasn't much of an issue for me, aside from two periods which ended only when I had enough and hit back.

    Emotional abuse hurts just as much, probably more. It's my sisters who have done that to me, and I rationalized and make excuses and let it continue, mostly to keep the peace in the family. In the end, I had to say enough, to put my own emotional well being first, and save myself.

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    1. William, I'm sorry to hear you went through that. I'm glad you found the strength to save yourself and I hope you feel better off as a result.

      I agree, it must be very tough for Amanda Todd's family. Bereavement is hard enough without adding the public dimension.

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  10. I missed this event, but I loved your post - I experienced a lot of bullying when I first went to seconday school. Decades later it's all still "with me" in some way. You're right; it's easy to blame yourself for what others do.

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