How bul­lies forced teen out of her school

Na­tional anti-bul­ly­ing week starts on Mon­day. This 15-year-old girl out­lines the prob­lems which forced her to leave her Jewish school

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE -

THE WELL-KNOWN im­age of the stan­dard bully is some­one who is large and in­tim­i­dat­ing, stronger and taller then you. This is in­ac­cu­rate: they could be small, thin and in­no­cent­look­ing, but the dan­ger­ous thing about th­ese bul­lies is that no one be­lieves you if you say they bul­lied you be­cause they look so in­no­cent.

Bul­lies make you feel iso­lated and some­times turn your friends against you, or make them lie about you to oth­ers, and once some­one has an un­fair im­pres­sion of you, it’s un­for­tu­nately very hard to change it. Ask­ing some­one out as a joke, prank-call­ing some­one, even laugh­ing about some­one are forms of bul­ly­ing. It might get so bad that the vic­tim is feel­ing scared, worth­less or even sui­ci­dal. Bul­ly­ing is no fun.

Spread­ing ru­mours is an­other key el­e­ment of bul­ly­ing, and what’s re­ally mean about this is the per­son doesn’t al­ways know things are be­ing said about them and why other peo­ple are avoid­ing them.

De­lib­er­ately and pur­posely ex­clud­ing peo­ple is an­other form of bul­ly­ing. Be­lieve it or not, al­ways let­ting the same per­son be cho­sen last for your team at PE, let­ting some­one sit by them­selves in the corner of the lunch hall, or leav­ing a per­son without some­one to work with in class are all forms of bul­ly­ing: not in­clud­ing some­one is ex­clud­ing them.

One of the worst im­pacts of bul­ly­ing is that it can change who you are. I know a lot of peo­ple who haven’t been able to cope with it and who have turned to self-harm, al­co­hol or drugs. It’s true that bul­ly­ing can make you strong- er and wiser in some re­spects, but it also low­ers your con­fi­dence, dam­ages your self-es­teem and leaves you feel­ing in­se­cure — which changes how you make friends in the fu­ture.

It also has a ma­jor im­pact on learn­ing. I was un­able to con­cen­trate when I was wor­ry­ing about pos­si­ble come­backs, in­sults or what was be­ing said about me. This can af­fect how teach­ers see you and can im­pact badly on your grades, mak­ing you feel un­mo­ti­vated, un­able to con­cen­trate and frus­trated.

What I (like many teenagers) found hard is telling peo­ple you have been, or are be­ing, bul­lied. This is be­cause they usu­ally don’t re­spond in a way that ac­tu­ally makes you feel bet­ter. They usu­ally re­act in one of three dif­fer­ent ways: Doubt — “Are you sure it’s not just a few mean com­ments?” Then there’s blame — “maybe you should do this or that dif­fer­ently”, which makes you feel you de­served to be bul­lied, and dis­be­lief — “I don’t think you’re the type to be bul­lied”.

Th­ese re­ac­tions are al­most the worst part of bul­ly­ing, as it’s hard enough to ad­mit that you are be­ing bul­lied in the first place only to be told that, some­how, what you’re go­ing through isn’t valid or is your fault.

I do see how it is hard for a teacher to be aware of what is hap­pen­ing. Some­times what they see is not what hap­pened or doesn’t tell the full story. For ex­am­ple, once some­one pro­voked me by pok­ing me un­der the ta­ble and mak­ing rude com­ments and I shouted at them to shut up — which was all the teacher heard. I was pun­ished and told “it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other” which only made the bul­lies feel they could carry on and get away with it. I think teach­ers — like ev­ery­one else in this world per­haps — tend to be­lieve the ma­jor­ity. Bul­ly­ing isn’t al­ways vis­i­ble to the naked eye at all: you think peo­ple would bully some­one else in front of mem­bers of staff if they knew there would be con­se­quences? No. So they find more sneaky and se­cre­tive ways to bully peo­ple, so that they won’t get caught. This can be on­line, with sar­cas­tic re­marks or ex­clud­ing some­one from a party list, a game or a group of friends; or even mak­ing nasty re­marks on­line if they see their vic­tim has been added to the same on­line party list as them. And there are many other ways to bully some­one on­line as well.

The other un­pleas­ant as­pect of bul­ly­ing is that peo­ple as­sume that you are a fair tar­get be­cause you have a fancy house or you’re dif­fer­ent in some way (even though that isn’t al­ways a bad thing).

They may as­sume that per­son has a bet­ter life than them but they don’t know how their vic­tim feels in­side and what in­se­cu­ri­ties they might have. Noth­ing jus­ti­fies putting some­one else through con­tin­u­ous pain. I think it’s im­por­tant that in­stead of judg­ing each other based on what peo­ple post, wear, look like, or the grades they get, we should only de­cide what we feel about some­one after we have met them in per­son, with an open mind, and formed our own opin­ion.

There are some tech­niques for cop­ing with bul­ly­ing. Firstly, ig­nore it. Of­ten I’ve ended up in bad sit­u­a­tions be­cause I have re­tal­i­ated, putting my­self some­what in the wrong as well. If you have to re­spond, don’t say any­thing that could get you into trou­ble. Also, show­ing the bul­lies how up­set you are of­ten only en­cour­ages them to go fur­ther and shows them how to pro­voke you. Be po­lite and con­struc­tive and maybe even witty while get­ting your point across. Rather than re­spond­ing on­line to cy­ber bul­ly­ing, if you have some­thing to say, do it in real life, be­cause bul­lies of­ten delete their side of the mes­sages and post only your re­sponses, mak­ing you look like the bully. Find a hobby or club and meet peo­ple out of school to re­mind your­self that there are kind peo­ple out there. And the hobby it­self can be a great way to feel bet­ter about your­self, whether it’s sport, mu­sic or any other thing that you en­joy do­ing. School isn’t the be all and end all, and it’s healthy to have friends from other places who may have a com­pletely dif­fer­ent out­look or back­ground from your own.

Fi­nally, I want to talk about by­s­tanders and the peo­ple who didn’t start out as bul­lies but found them­selves caught up in it. Per­fectly nice peo­ple of­ten join in with bul­lies for fear of be­ing re­jected by their group of friends. Some have even ad­mit­ted this to me. They

Some vic­tims turn to self­harm, al­co­hol or drugs.

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