I find it unfair, a harsh dismissal, as if we should tread away carefully and suggest victims kindly - move on. If only it were that simple. There are unpleasant emotions involved when you become a victim of bullying. I repeat, if only it were that simple. One emotion is fear resulting in absences which can physically take its toll on victims.
Parents too sometimes ask the question, “Why didn’t they tell me?” Dismissing bullying encourages victims to keep it to themselves.
Instead of encouraging victims to stay silent we need to hear their stories and then tackle the bullies by expressing a severe warning or removing the bad from the environment. But bullies also need to apologize face to face or in writing to those whom were targeted. Schools or colleges in particular have a preference in what they want to see in publications, in for example, a local newspaper. It would benefit them to have good publicity regarding the percentage of grades. But it would also benefit them to spend more time concentrating on their pupils, and being able to remove a bully from their environment. If parents searching for a school in a borough hear how staff were able to exclude bullies, they would at least feel safe that their child could attend a school or college that supervises the behaviour of pupils.
There are certain areas in educational environments where a code of conduct is displayed in a list format in nearly every room. That list should be straightforward implying the staff expect pupils to bring with them a positive, respectful attitude, and the correct equipment, wearing a neat uniform. There should be a no tolerance policy regarding a bully that retorts to physical abuse. Once their fists or feet are used for anything but PE, for example, to hit out at pupils, that bully should be excluded. When verbal attacks are reported the bully should be given a warning that if he or she persists, they will be excluded.
In weeks leading up to Christmas, we are all put in a position where we are asked to share thoughts for people who are less fortunate. The main subject on a screen is starved middle eastern countries. Children in another country nearly at death’s door can be considered. Why can there not be a lengthy discussion for a child of bullying? Does a victim of bullying not matter? Does it not matter if the number of teenage suicides increase?
My heart breaks, my eyes begin to sting after crying so much for a stranger who I wish I could have reached out to; once I am through reading another teenage suicide. I instantly recall teenagers Tom Mullaney and Natasha MacBryde. But before I speak of these two casualties, I apologize for any further grief this bestows on family members.
A schoolboy from Bournville, Birmingham hanged himself after taunted and threatened on Facebook. Tom Mullaney, 15, found in his back garden by his dad had been bullied over the social networking site.
He attended Kings Norton Boys’ School, when following an altercation was claimed to have been threatened with a beating. A friend that wished to be unnamed implied, “There was even a message on Tom’s Facebook that said ‘we know where you live.’”
Harley Wilkes, a student in remorse said, “We knew about the Facebook stuff but nobody expected it to come to what it did.” Ben Smith wrote, “You don’t have to worry about people hating on you anymore. It’s all good now you can relax.”
The headmaster Roy Bayliss recognized Tom as a, “cheerful and friendly member of the school with a keen sense of humour and a ready smile, had ambitions to be a PE teacher. He was looking forward to his work experience with his uncle in Cornwall, installing satellite TV.”
A year ten schoolgirl died under the wheels of a passenger train after laying on a train track. Natasha MacBryde, 15, was discovered by a driver in the early hours of Valentine’s Day, near her home in Bromsgrove, Worcester.
Her parents split caused Natasha’s despair in the upcoming months. She had hoped for a reconciliation which was the main speculation as to why she was teased. Pupils were presumed to be spoilt who have two parents together supporting them, “Lots of the children at the school are wealthy and a few of the kids can be quite snobby.”
On a remembrance page created on Facebook, Becci Marks added, “How people can make someone feel so low is disgusting. I didn’t know her but she was so gorgeous, all my love to her family.”
A floral display was left at the station, yards from where Natasha died. An anonymous card read, “You were so brave for months. Why did they have to push you to this. We will love you always.”
Staff unaware of any bullying were shocked. Head teacher Andy Rattue said, “Natasha was a charming and lovely girl and model pupil in every way.” An athletic aspired pupil who joined the school athletics team that qualified for the county championships.
Questioning a victim’s capability of committing suicide is a need for concern as victims on a consistent basis feel a range of unavoidable feelings. Usually victims possess creative, honest, empathetic, and sensitive qualities. When sensitive the intimidation, humiliation, depression builds up making someone feel worthless. When feeling worthless people tend to consider death as an easy option. In my opinion it seems an easy option but it rarely solves anything. Take for example, the memorial pages. The memorial pages were targeted by bullies. Even after taking their own lives, the perpetrators still exist.
I feel once schools and colleges, or workplaces decide to follow an effective anti-bullying policy; presenting detailed conclusive impacts would be a start during anti-bullying week. Though it could be too devastating to see and hear for youngsters, at least the damage of physical bullying plus unsuspected verbal attacks would show the consequences.
KFC ranked today as “Britain’s top Employer”, couldn’t lift a finger to help an employee back in 2003. Before KFC introduced an anti-bullying policy to protect employees, a young female worker who set out a strategy to earn money for future studies, endured barbaric behaviour from colleagues.
A jury’s verdict decided overall that this teenager had tempted to take her own life. Hannah Kirkham, 18, subject to inhuman abuse overdosed on medication on December 17 2003.
At a KFC Northenden branch, Greater Manchester, she undertook part time employment paying her way into studies for Law College. Colleagues tampered with belongings such as a mobile phone and shoes were squirted with mayonnaise. Deodorant was sprayed onto her uniform, hot cooking oil splashed at her. Her staff photograph defaced with obscenities, also colleagues used a permanent marker pen to mark her face and arms. A cigarette lighter was held against her whilst threatened she would be set alight. She was stabbed with corn sticks, locked in a freezer and taunted over her appearance. Workers referred to Hannah as a “fat, spotty bitch” having a “tumour for a brain”, or insulted by being called a “dirty, ugly slag”.
Mrs. Kirkham noticed a change in her daughter’s behaviour. Her daughter would apply make-up before sleeping for a night, heated metal objects in order to burn her arms, and began cutting her arms. She avoided discussing her work placement and felt too uncomfortable to bring herself to watch KFC advertisements.
Doctors assessing Hannah indicated she suffered from a clinical depression. Proceeding to treat her depression she was observed in a psychiatric ward within Wythenshawe Hospital. Treatment lasted until October 2003 which was when Hannah was released. Two months later Mrs. Kirkham found her daughter unconscious on her bedroom floor. She was taken into Wythenshawe Hospital, only to be transferred to an intensive care unit in Royal Oldham Hospital, where she regained consciousness briefly. In her conscious state she clarified to a nurse she had wanted to kill herself. She died on Boxing Day, seven days after she was found.
Imprisoned, intimidated; but confident to resolve the issues, she approached management with a letter in writing of complaint. One month before she died, she sent out complaints to regional managers after she received no response from management due to misplacing letters.
Before being punished unjustly, Hannah was a joyous teenager. She enjoyed salsa dancing and studied A levels in law, sociology, and politics at a college in Cheadle. Her previous GCSE examinations gained her eight marvelled grades.
Are the losses of Hannah, Tom, and Natasha not enough to take a different direction in how to stop bullying?
I walked straight into secondary school dependent upon a best friend from primary school. When her absences became common gossip, I knew I had to build friendships up from scratch or be a loner sitting on my own. I appreciate the friends I did make, that accepted me for who I was, but also for how I looked; but being a target for bullies controlled my entire life in school. I had very little confidence, a difference to primary school as I would behave however I wanted. I was not exactly boisterous; I was quiet in lessons but I defended myself and my friends when chased around a playground, or threatened by a girl who would have spread false information on who I DEFINITELY did not fancy. But I grew into an inhibited teenager, with all the usual stereotypes surrounding me. The trends, the nerds, the silent types…I moved into a separate secondary school, that meant I lost what I used to think were unbreakable friendships.
Covered with acne that made my face a bright shade of red I didn’t need to laugh to be called a beetroot. I just had to be there. I just had to be their target. I would try to ignore the snickering, the fingers that were pointing at me, a leaflet passed on advising on how to lose acne; but it hurt deep down. After listening to adults, I interpreted ignoring bullies as a sign saying, don’t react. Ignoring physical, verbal, indirect attacks provokes bullies to persist until receiving a response. Humans have rights. We do not deserve to be mistreated by our peers or elders. At a young age we rarely recognize that we have rights including how we should be treated. A website referenced at the bottom of this article, where I found copied three important quotes suggests:
“When bullying starts, recognise it immediately, keep a log of events, do your research, and get your parents and teachers involved. Be persistent. You have a right not to be bullied, harassed, assaulted or abused.”
My acne made me an alien. I felt alienated. What was wrong with me? I asked, when frowning and searching for something likeable when I looked into the bathroom mirror. I hated my reflection. I scrubbed away at my face hoping for some miracle to rid me of these blotched red spots that made me look repulsive!
In classrooms I became a joke at the expense of other pupils humour. Pupils would widen their eyes at the sight of me, then giggle amongst friends. I thought it would end when the bell rang out at three in the afternoon. But at a bus stop I had to cope with other children tormenting me as one immature boy, older than me - tried impressing his friends by pretending he was attracted to me. This boy threw berries directly at me. On the bus that dropped me near to where I lived, he continued to humiliate me by tipping water on me. He would laugh, and so would his friends. I didn’t laugh. I felt miserable inside. I felt hated. I wished I hadn’t been born. Later on, it felt wonderful to learn from my eldest brother that one of those pupils who stood and encouraged the bully to attack me, the female with make-up plastered on too thick-too bright (who did she think she was copying, Anastasia from the animated Disney film?) - wasn’t particularly smart. She either studied in the low or medium mathematics class.
But back on to the bully. I wanted the traffic that appeared to slow down due to a crossing up ahead, changing from amber to red, to stop immediately and for a driver to get out and interfere. I remember when I attempted to give that useless school a second chance, and walking passed him in the school corridors. He had this face that could mean a million messages that I thought expressed a sincere apology. I couldn’t be sure if he felt guilty for emotionally hurting me, or if he had noticed my absence at the bus stop, as well as my absences on the school grounds, since I had thrown in the towel - admitting defeat - attending a much smaller, special school. Of course I gave up on that second chance and had no intentions of giving away a third chance, for that school nearly killed me. I’d be dead as I edit this piece, if I had have given them that third chance.
When I arrived in my sanctuary, after attending school; the previous attacks hit home. I felt an enormous uncontrollable anger. The bullies tore me up and helped to break down my walls - literally. I destroyed my first bright blue CD player that had the option to listen to radio stations, through throwing it and constantly smashing my wall. I was miserable which made me mental. Nothing was a typical mood swing for me.
Three years after starting secondary school; I was thirteen, holding tablets meant for clearing up my acne: I swallowed them down with water. After feeling ill and physically throwing up, pushed and pulled in a hospital wheelchair from ward to ward…I thought it was the end. I was terrified of this prospect. I had had a childish ambition of owning a farm full of animals which has changed now; but I had ambitions. I wanted to see the world. I wanted to experience the ages sixteen, eighteen, twenty-one and much older. But I thought that it was over for me.
All I had wanted was for someone to listen - for someone to understand I couldn’t attend that mainstream school. The mainstream school system failed me. I was the one to be sent out whilst the bullies stayed and passed ten GCSE’s whilst I had little chance of even passing four if I failed the fifth. As I mentioned, I returned to the special school that my home tutor worked for. Teachers supported me and in total fifty pupils. Since my return after taking my GCSE’S to wish my year eleven form tutor a good, healthy retirement I learnt of how staff tried to encourage years below eleven to return to a mainstream school. Year elevens could stay without stress in addition to revising and then taking their GCSE’s. Just because educational circumstances change, doesn’t mean there’s no chance for a victim to get out and move to somewhere else.
I will never forget the countless years that were never normal since I pretty much needed to fit into my week a counselling session. But without counselling I would be still anxious, struggling to speak up, fit in and cope. I can’t complain how long it has taken to feel I can end the sessions, in order for me to begin to stand on my own two feet. I’m not on the top end of a measuring stick or on the highest mark on a monitor: my confidence still has a long way to go but I’m happy with that. It will increase within time through experiences. I remember a quote from my favourite actress, “It’s sort of like every experience you have in life shapes you, makes you who you are”.
I made a change in career path, after one year of studying travel and tourism. Choosing to study at another college where no one knew me, feeling at an advantage as I could start anew somehow. The strange factor was, the course required confidence.
My teachers were patient in the first year and in the second helped to bring me out of my shell by a range of learning styles. I had my independence selecting to report on my own passionate stories such as a counselling service closing down. I had my own way too of presenting work on large boards, in front of twenty pupils that some, I felt uncomfortable around. My way was stood behind a cabinet that I thought could well be my shield, looking to and from my notes, my audience and the work on screen. It resulted in the highest grade - distinction! My counsellor has told me how there are few who feel confident enough to stand up and say “I want to do this”, so we’re not on our own. There were two pupils out of twenty that felt comfortable in delivering a presentation. One student had the confidence in himself but didn’t have confidence in his content. Another, my friend, who always impressed me - the one out of twenty, delivered a remarkable, entertaining, informative presentation. She also received the highest grade.
Shaking off my two anxieties which were feeling overly exposed at a bus stop or when walking to my college: I repeated to myself, “if I can’t see them they can’t see me,” and “I’ll get to where I need to be without any problems.” Sometimes it helps to look down instead of straight ahead.
Some pupils on my course I found to be nasty whilst they found it satisfying to be cruel about others. I now know you only have the power to change yourself but not anybody else, so why let another person bother you with their choice of words? That’s not saying I wouldn’t intervene if I noticed bullying. I would interfere if a bully brought someone to shame or tears, just as I did when a group of boys threw a drink over a former friend. I threw coke on them and it made me feel good that I could stand up for my friends.
I’m more reserved lately. I mean I don’t go around with a smile plastered on my face twenty-four-seven. Does anyone smile for that length of time? I’ll be freaked out the day I do meet a person that has a permanent smile on their face. I think that’s why I’m scared of clowns or masks. People judge my reserved attitude, insisting it is me being miserable. I’m happy inside but I’ve got my defences up when I’m surrounded by strangers.
I became a mute in a public space. The only place I would find my voice, was at home with my family. For too long I felt unable to speak to pupils who I was meant to mix with. My return to secondary school sought a group of pupils I didn’t feel I could trust. Partly it did seem down to trust, but I also felt anything I could talk about would be unimportant.
During this point, I want to pause and reflect on a song that always stirs up my past feelings.
“Am I that unimportant? Am I so insignificant? Isn’t something missing? Isn’t someone missing me?”
Song lyrics, Missing by Evanescence.
I would go day by day going through the motions, wanting to open my mouth for air - to speak - but it didn’t happen. The group I mixed with were frustrated each day, begging to know why I couldn’t speak. I’d told them. But I hadn’t figured it out at that time that I’d lost my confidence to that extent, where I couldn’t communicate with anyone until I got back home. It caused the group to argue with me, then to cry as I confirmed I couldn’t trust them. They turned up at the form tutor’s door whilst I moved as fast as I could to the bus stop. Everything was uncomfortable between them and myself.
That is when I became number one enemy amongst pupils including my form teacher. She had a gentle voice, suggesting I could always speak to her when I found I struggled with work or pupils. But the next school day, she warned me that she wanted no more upset from me. Basically she viewed me as the trouble maker. She blamed the victim! She sided with a group that ganged up on an individual. She knew none of them could forgive me, expecting me to move on and act normal when I had no friends in her form.
This has to be said before I return to my original point:
“Bullying happens in every school; good schools are proactive in their approach and deal with incidents of bullying promptly, firmly and fairly. Bad schools deny it, ignore it, justify it, rationalise it, handle it inappropriately, sweep it under the carpet, blame the victim of bullying, blame the parents of the victim of bullying, say they’ve ‘ticked all the boxes’ and make lots of impressive noises but take no substantive action.”
When you suddenly speak about your views in any political or random topic, it makes you feel good! My friends on my media course, smiled or would agree when I spoke up. But you do have to keep on and on constantly reminding yourself people do want to hear your voice. Every one of us has a voice that deserves to be heard.
Four years of misery following five years recovery.
Before anyone goes on reading possibly the wrong message, I do not encourage taking that risk of becoming seriously ill from an overdose. If there is a way to get out of a situation, and believe me there is no - matter how hurtful or complicated; you must take that chance. If I can survive then I hope more can. I’m almost nineteen - I cannot recall the last time I cried because I have been in an immensely positive mood for months. For the next two months, I shall be waiting for my ultimate grade from a two year BTEC National Diploma course in Media, that will eventually forward me onto university.
Good things nor bad things will last. This role of optimism will roll on for a while longer then I’ll be back in some other bad patch. But that’s life. But life is worth it! Trust me when I say that the journey of recovery is worth it. You can have those dreams or find new ones, making a dream a reality!
Another quote from my favoured actress, “Once you have done with school, you realize that it is just a smaller version of life.” There is much more to experience after school and think about it, there are some people that live till one hundred years old. Those people were not stuck in school for another eighty plus years.
“It is sensible to teach everybody strategies of self-defence, however, this must not be a smokescreen for encouraging bullies by failing to hold them accountable. Any anti-bullying scheme which omits accountability for the bullies is likely to have only limited success, and often no long-term success. It’s likely we’ll never completely get rid of harassment, discrimination, racism, abuse, molestation, paedophilia etc but we must never give up trying. Problems like bullying are solved by identifying and dealing with the cause, not by trying to hide, suppress or reduce the effects. Unfortunately, many people - and especially the responsible adults who are abdicating and denying their legal obligations - like to focus exclusively on the targets of bullying, thus distracting attention away from the source of the problem.”
I can’t suggest a way forward for every victim. We all lead different lives and find some things easier said than done. We may have friends or we might be friendless. Moving to another school, taking less GCSE’s, worked for me since I worked even harder for different rewards such as college diplomas. But it may not work for you. It might not even go to plan with the current educational circumstances. But don’t give up!
“Just imagine how you would feel, if you would be the one they’re picking on. Would you, would you be the one who’s gonna stand up strong? Honestly, would you let it slide, break down or cry?”
“What if it was your brother, sister, mother, father or child? Then would it still be cool, why can’t you see your words are hurting?”
Song lyrics, Darin - What If
Do not believe you are hideous. The hideous people are the ones bullying another person. So you may not be the most beautiful in appearance, but read and remember this, “We gotta be more than just appearances.”
Ask yourself if you’re bullying right now, or you witness bullying - how would you feel? Imagine the humiliation, intimidation, isolation, depression or alone contemplating death. Do not underestimate how far the simplest of words can test a person’s emotions. Repeat with me, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”
Please let me know, what you all think of this, even if it's not related to the fandom(s) we are here for. I'd like to know where I may have gone wrong (spelling, grammar etc,) and what is right. Let me know your overall opinion too.