Sunday, 23 August 2015

BULLYING: THE TRUE VICTIMS

Author Eve Ainsworth writes about how looking at bullying from both sides has helped to inspire her new book 7 DAYS…

Eve says:
'It's just banter, Miss!'

I wasn't getting very far with the student I was talking to. Incidents had occurred at school and on social media that she had either incited or been a part of, but she wasn't willing to talk. Another student, vulnerable and isolated, was being targeted and getting increasingly distressed.

'It's just banter,' she repeated, daring me to challenge her. I tried. I talked of the damage bullying can cause and the fact that banter was not the same as ongoing verbal assaults. She stared back at me, bored. She saw her target as weak and pathetic for not fighting back. Our meetings ended badly, usually with sanctions being put in place that I knew would have no impact on her behaviour.

But one day, something changed. She talked about other stuff, things that mattered to her. She lived with a mum who was ill and struggling to pay the bills, she worried that her mum would collapse because she was existing on a pot noodle a day. My student broke down in tears and admitted she had started shoplifting so she could sell make-up and bring some money home. She was exhausted, worried, stressed. Lashing out at someone else had been her way of coping, of gaining some control back. She could see it was wrong, but somehow she'd become blinded. Bullying had made her feel strong and powerful again. After a long talk, she began to see this was a false and damaging belief. The bullying stopped, and a year later this girl had become a peer mentor, helping other pupils who were feeling overwhelmed.

The truth is, teenagers have never been under greater pressure. Not only do they have exam and school pressures, many have other demands, such as being young carers, dealing with stressful home conditions or struggling with low body confidence and self-esteem. There are so many stresses socially - if you set one foot wrong, say one word out of line, it will be posted on the internet for the world to jeer at. Many teens shy away from being the person they really want to be, for fear of ridicule or abuse. Some cope and some do not - that's the stark reality.

There are no clear-cut answers. Bullies don't bully because they are nasty, unfeeling humans, just as their targets are not pathetic, soft-centred cowards. We still need to break down the stigma that this word carries and address openly why someone would chose to target another. Perhaps worse are the onlookers, those who stand by as incidents escalate, and do nothing. Just as you would turn off a TV programme that disgusted you, you need to be able to walk away and report a situation that is causing harm.

I wrote the book 7 Days because I wanted to show the idea that there isn't just one victim in bullying. I felt compelled to explore both voices - the bully and the target, to explore their respective pressures and understand both sides of the story.

Cathy says: 
Eve Ainsworth's book 7 DAYS is available now in all good bookshops and online suppliers. I've read it and it is a very thought-provoking and powerful book. Do YOU agree that the bully can be just as much a victim when it comes to bullying? COMMENT BELOW to have your say.

4 comments:

  1. it depends on the person, I think... some people just bully because they're plain nasty, some people pretend to be tough when on the inside, there's a scared, lost person inside. it definitely depends on the person.

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  2. Hey Cathy, I emailed you about 5 times with blog posts and you have never replied ? ahaha could you please check? Thanks xx

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  3. Bullies do what they do because they feel unwanted, alone or unhappy in some way. They do it because it gives them some form of power. I've been picked on by many people, and at the time I thought it was because they were awful people, but since then I've learnt their stories. There was the girl whose best friend forced her to bully or else she'd ditch her, maybe even bullying her too. There was the girl who was slightly overweight and was laughed at, so she hated people who were thin(like me). There was the girl who'd moved from Holland and had no friends, so was thrilled to become popular even if it meant picking on the geeky kids. There was the girl whose parents were going through a nasty split, making her jealous of people who had seemingly perfect families. Yes, what these girls did was wrong, but if you take a look it's clear why they did it. They were victims too.

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  4. Bullying is a way of expressing pent up emotions that a bully may find hard to express after being kept bottled up inside of them for so long.
    I was bullied by a girl at cadets who had been abused, and while it hurt me that she bullied me, I tried hard to make sure she found the right help for her. It was quite hard, because this girl didn't think she was vulnerable and in need of help, and was adamant that her bullying was what I deserved for being weak and ill.
    I don't think this girl knew how to cope with feeling afraid and vulnerable, and her way of making herself feel better was to exploit my own vulnerability to make me feel weak and her feel strong, because she had power and control over me. I knew it was all just a false face she would put on for show, but I still knew I had to report her, even if it did hurt her in the process. I could understand why she would choose to bully someone like me, and once I told her so. Her only reaction was to look at the floor, almost in an ashamed kind of way, so I think I was right in guessing she was looking for an external vent for her internal pain.

    To her, it was just banter.

    To me, it hurt and it still hurts today.

    The odd thing is, I don't regret trying to help the girl, even though she did not accept any of the help. I would do the same again if I needed to.

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