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Bullying and death – it can’t get much worse

February 9, 2013

Bullying is nasty, insidious, undermining, humiliating behaviour. At a relatively low level it can make you feel bad about yourself, has an impact on your confidence, and makes you suspicious of other people so that you find it difficult to form trusting relationships; at worst it undermines a person so much that they feel they have no worth, no value, no one likes them and they kill themselves.  Whether this is a result of behaviour meted out by students  at school or the cross-examination of a survivor of sexual abuse in a courtroom the tragedy is enormous.  How can we allow children to ‘torture’ and bully a child in their class, the playground, their cohort, football team or street? How can we allow a person to be bullied and mocked publicly and call this acceptable judicial process? 

The first tragedy I am referring to is of a child who killed himself in the West Midlands this week as reported in a national paper.  He was a fifteen-year-old with special education needs who had had a girlfriend for two months. He hanged himself. His mother claims that his death was due to being bullied by classmates. He was taunted and called a paedophile (the girl he was going out with was two years younger than he was) and he was humiliated for not being able to keep up with his schoolwork.

Shall we learn? Do professionals who work with adolescents learn from these tragedies and provide better counselling services, the opportunity for children to speak openly and confidentially with an adult who can help bear the load, change the perspective, and sort out the issues carefully and properly, protect the bullied child for a period until the excesses of the bullying have worn themselves out, and teach those doing it to reframe, rethink and relearn social behaviours?   Or, heaven forbid – even refer the child (because the case is too complex) to a specialist bullying provision, such as Red Balloon, where the child can recover gradually, putting themselves back together, learning new social skills, different strategies for dealing with unwanted behaviour and catching up with their academic work.  And people tell us at Red Balloon that there are no such children – there is no need for our provision – mistakes just happen!

So are we fighting a losing battle?  I shall take you now to where, in January this year, people sat and watched (I hope with horror) a respected person of power, wearing a wig and gown (a disguise) being paid to undermine, humiliate and tear apart a person already fragile from her experiences of sexual abuse.  For a two-hour period the victim was told that she was a fantasist, that she was making the allegations up!  Reported in the paper were some of the questions, statements or rhetorical questions asked by the prosecution barrister.  “It’s utter fantasy, isn’t it?”, “You’ve told this jury a complete pack of lies. Your evidence to this jury is a skewed version of the truth.” The alleged abuser was allowed to call her – publicly –  “depressive, hysterical and a fantasist” and his defence team accused her of making up a “pack of lies”.

How can we condone this behaviour, which looks like, sounds like and clearly feels like bullying. Or perhaps we don’t want to call this behaviour bullying?

And what of the other high profile case in the press this week – Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce – accusations, incriminations and confessions exposing undisguised brittle, unrestricted hate. Who is bullying whom?

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3 Comments
  1. A very valid point.

    Personally I don’t think we’re fighting a loosing battle, yes bullying comes in all shapes and forms, including the example you gave of in the courtroom. That example is very much like what I experienced with the teachers in the school I was bullied out of. But this is not a loosing battle for as long as there are people fighting for it, and for as long as more awareness id being raised, I see it as a battle that can be won

  2. A losing battle? Yes – especially when those responsible (namely schools) are never held accountable for their lack of ‘duty of care’, and yet parents are hauled before judicial systems , threatened, fined etc , while all the time their child is crumbling before their eyes……..to eventually see their own child attempt to take their own life. Schools (more so staff ) should be held accountable and the ‘cover your own back and stick together’ culture schools harbour, should be quashed – by adults who need to grow some and speak out. Parents attempts to solve bullying is met with poor excuses……and no-one, including LEA’s, listen properly. Maybe they’ll listen, and battles will begin to be won, when the judicial system holds THEM responsible for breaking laws….ie SEN ACT, Childrens ACT etc. Too many lives are being totally destroyed by this ‘you’re making a fuss’ mentality. I suggest a name and shame facility – but then no doubt there’ll be some law protecting the perpetrators not the victims – again. As soon as these wishy-washy systems are brought to justice and held accountable fore turning a continuous blind eye – then we’ll start winning. Because a child hasn’t succeeded in taking their life, that doesn’t mean we’ve won. What life are they living when the bullies and inadequate schooling system has done this to them? Who’s won? There are no winners. Schools continue as before, and our children continue to suffer beyond belief.

  3. and one more thing!……Mistakes don’t ‘just happen’. A system/individuals make mistakes happen…. If they are never held accountable, they will never change the culture. As parents, we are always held accountable (as we should) for our children. However, a school who fails to meet their legal obligation of “Duty Of Care”, gets off scott free time and time again. THAT mistake is allowed to happen, THAT mistake is continuously ignored. The victims are blamed, excuses are made – those mistakes don’t just happen. People decide to make those mistakes and inadequate systems encourage it……..all led by PEOPLE. I want to stand outside the school and the LEA with one of those cone/loud speakers and shout what they did. Except….that would upset people and be a mistake…..not one that just happened though…..one where I would be made to be accountable for my ‘disruptive’ behaviour. A much tougher stance on those adults/schools who ALLOW the bullying culture to continue. THEIR mistake.

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