Not simple


Update: this probably needs a trigger warning. It is indeed very upsetting.

Speaking of girls, and bullying, and sexualization, and bullying, and name-calling, and bullying…

A girl in Coquitlam, BC, couldn’t wait for it to get better, and killed herself on Wednesday. She left a video telling the story.

“In 7th grade I would go with friends on webcam,” the card in the teen’s hand read.

The next few cards reveal that the teen began to get attention on the Internet from people that she did not know. People who told her she was beautiful, stunning, perfect.

“They wanted me to flash. So I did one year later,” the cards said.

The teen then got a message on Facebook from a stranger who said she needed to show more of herself or he would publish the topless pictures he had taken of her.

“He knew my address, school, relatives, friends, family, names …”

And it went on from there. Anxiety, depression, withdrawal, self-cutting. Bullying. More and more and more bullying. So she killed herself.

The weird thing about this (weird to me) is that I saw it via a tweet by Al Stefanelli, a tweet which was (kind of) aimed at me, in the sense that it quoted something I’d said on his (new-old) blog. I said it as a comment on his post Free Speech, Being Offended and the Role the Internet Plays in the Exchange of Ideas, which (I think) makes the whole thing much too simple.

For fuck’s sake, if something is being said about you or about a subject that you are sensitive to on the Internet in a way that is going to cause you extreme duress, stress you out, or trigger a reaction that will cause you to have a psychological breakdown, the stay the hell away from those spaces. Really, it’s that simple.

No, really, it isn’t. So I commented to that effect. (It wasn’t meant as a hostile gesture. On the contrary, it was meant as a conciliatory one – a maybe we can still keep the conversation going despite your sudden departure gesture.)

But it isn’t that simple. Suppose what is being said about you is both false and defamatory? Suppose it could do you real-world damage? Then just staying the hell away isn’t really a solution, is it.

So you’re over-simplifying, Al. Quite drastically. It’s just not the case that the only harm ever done by any kind of speech including written speech is that it “offends” someone.

Al’s tweet a couple of hours later said

THIS is what ‘real-world damage’ from digital bullying looks like: Teen leaves behind chilling YouTube video

Quoting me, see. But it’s odd, because that’s what I was saying.  Just staying the hell away isn’t always really a solution.

Anyway…the gesture didn’t work, to say the least. Al is angrier than I’d realized. I frankly don’t know why. But the point remains – no, it’s not that simple. This subject isn’t simple.

 

Comments

  1. Beatrice, anti-imperialist anti-racist Islamophobiaphobic leftist says

    Here’s the transcript, if someone doesn’t want to/can’t watch the video.

    It’s heartbreaking, you’ll notice PZ put the text behind a white wall because it’s triggering content for some.

    This girl was harassed, assaulted and psychologically tortured (yeah, ok, maybe not the technically correct term but she was sent message after message about how she should have died after her failed suicide attempt, that’s fucking torture).

  2. says

    Another one, sad.

    I work at a University with 50,000 twenty somethings and a huge number of them seem to have a serious addiction to an electronic gadget, the symptoms are the same as a drug, and it is their whole life!

  3. says

    “Staying the hell away” can ultimately mean that the bullies get to decide where you can go, where you can speak up and hear others, and how much benefit you can get from the public Internet. Of course you should avoid places where untrustworthy people hang out, and of course you should be careful who you confide in; but if decent people “stay the hell away” from any place where they come under attack, then after awhile we will pretty much lose everything.

    This girl lost her life because the “neighborhood” where she hung out was not sufficiently protected by people who may have been able to keep some sort of order.

  4. Rodney Nelson says

    THIS is what ‘real-world damage’ from digital bullying looks like: Teen leaves behind chilling YouTube video

    No, Al, in this case digital bullying left behind a dead woman.

  5. Beatrice, anti-imperialist anti-racist Islamophobiaphobic leftist says

    So, how exactly could this girl stay away? She tried to leave, but those little shits followed her to the new school until they drove her over the edge.

    How on earth is this story something from which you are supposed to get the message “if people are bullying you online, leave”!?

  6. Aratina Cage says

    So Al takes the slimepitter line (sorry Al, but that is the line of thought they tout!), and you point out to him that it is wrong, and he then responds by saying that a teen who committed suicide after being bullied is how bad this can get. It looks like he is agreeing with you whether he realizes it or not.

  7. screechymonkey says

    I think that one of the useful criteria for separating true bullying from waah-you’re-saying-things-I-don’t-like-so-I’m-going-to-exploit-the-term “bullying” is whether the aggressors will allow you to just avoid their attacks.

    So that, for example:

    writing posts on your blog in which you disagree with another blogger; commenting on their blog in compliance with their commenting rules; asserting your position in a face-to-face conversation that the other person initiated = not bullying, at least not without more aggravating factors

    morphing to post personal attacks on a blog where you’ve been banned; creating sockpuppet Twitter accounts to tweet at someone who’s blocked you; approaching someone face-to-face to have an argument that they’ve already told you they don’t want to have = bullying

    It’s not a perfect rule, of course. There are situations where I think it’s ok to seek “real world” consequences for something that has been said online: I don’t think that either the petition to remove Rebecca Watson from SGU or the one to remove Justin Vacula from SCA-PA was “bullying” behavior in and of themselves. (Though I would say that the Watson petition was silly, and part of a broader campaign.)

  8. says

    You know, it’s kind of unfortunate that this horrible example of cyber-bullying is being used as a comparative to my paragraph about an adult making a choice to visit a spot on the Internet that they find offensive.

    What happened to this girl is indicative of a rampant problem that is obviously not being dealt with nearly enough in the home and in the schools, and comparing what someone says about an adult on an internet forum they willingly engaged to this incident is disingenuous. On top of that, using it as a dig against me is childish.

    This does nothing to highlight the problem of real bullying and it’s effects, especially on our youth.

  9. says

    Mom and Dad can only do so much (FFS, they did move her to a new school!). Socially, teenagers live and move in the environment of their peer group. What can a high school pariah do, except lock herself up at home and enroll in correspondence courses?

    I’ve been angry about this ever since I saw the story, yesterday I think. I want the people who sent her hate-grams on FB exposed and publicly shamed. I want their classmates to walk up and say to them: You killed Amanda. OK, that’s probably counts as reverse bullying, so I guess not — but that’s my impulse. And the guy who got her to expose himself — presumably an adult — I want locked away.for.a.long.time.

    The “good” news is the cops are taking an interest:
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2012/10/12/bc-port-coquitlam-suicide-youtube.html

  10. screechymonkey says

    But Al, wasn’t it you who chose to make that link, by referring to “real-world damage” and implying that this was somehow a counter to Ophelia’s point?

  11. Beatrice, anti-imperialist anti-racist Islamophobiaphobic leftist says

    Her mom and dad? Maybe they could have done something more, maybe not. I’m not really keen on blaming them. She moved schools, so they obviously gave her support in that way. Since there doesn’t seem to be any sort of neglect on their part, I don’t think it’s ok to blame them.

    We know exactly who is to blame. Those little hateful shits.

    I’m not wondering about her parents, but about the parents of those little assaulting shits. Their parents or guardians or whoever… how the hell did they raise them? I know that sometimes a shitty person can come out of a perfectly fine family, but we are talking about a lot of different kids here. How the hell were they raised? Why the hell weren’t they taught some fucking empathy!?

    Where were the fucking school authorities, teachers? School, where kids spend most of their time!? That’s the one I’m wondering about the most. Schools are hot spots of bullying. Obviously, not enough is being done about that.

  12. says

    Eamon Knight @ #13…

    I know that. I get that.

    I’m just…

    I can’t…

    As for those students… yeah, I’m sorry, but I agree with you. They basically did this to her. It may not be first-degree, but those fucking sick monsters had a hand in her death.

    Fuck them all.

    Every single fucking one of them.

    Amanda just needed someone… one fucking person… and not a single one would stand up and be that person. I know what it’s like to be suicidal… but to be suicidal and not have anyone?

    For fuck’s sake…

    And fuck society, just for good measure…

  13. Stacy says

    Al, you’re the one who chose to make this horrible story a “comparative” to what Ophelia said. You quoted her.

    On top of that, using it as a dig against me is childish

    I didn’t read Ophelia’s post as a dig against you. She’s been addressing the topic of bullying for a year now.

    You quoting her in relation to this awful story–that could be interpreted as a dig. Or it could be simply you agreeing with her.

    It’s hard to tell.

  14. says

    I didn’t read Ophelia’s post as a dig against you. She’s been addressing the topic of bullying for a year now.

    You quoting her in relation to this awful story–that could be interpreted as a dig. Or it could be simply you agreeing with her.

    It’s hard to tell.

    Stacy, are you serious?

    Did you even read the post? Her entire post is a comparative of what I wrote and the story of this girl. As well, the whole bottom half of it is mainly quotes of ME.

    The only way I knew about this is because I got a pingback notice in my email.

  15. tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach says

    Bullying is a major issue in many of the things that any decent human being should be fighting against. Bullying is at the core of what A+ is aimed at; misogyny, racism, all those issues of social justice and equity, they are all centred on one (group of) people bullying another and claiming that they have a right to do so.

    Pretty much all the gods I have read about are presented as bullies. All religions I know about are bullies. Rather a lot of political movements are bullies. Most governments spend their time bullying.

    A solution to bullying would surely be major leap in solving many other problems. Any ideas on how?

  16. Aratina Cage says

    What happened to this girl is indicative of a rampant problem that is obviously not being dealt with nearly enough in the home and in the schools, and comparing what someone says about an adult on an internet forum they willingly engaged to this incident is disingenuous. –Al Stefanelli

    Yeah… no. It’s too easy for you to say that. Too simple. Too full of privilege. Free hate-speech is still hate speech whether the target engages the haters or not.

  17. julian says

    On top of that, using it as a dig against me is childish.

    There was no dig against you. You used this example of bullying to counter criticism of your position (meaning you introduced it) and it was pointed out this example actually contradicts your point. Bullying isn’t something that can just be walked away from (as others have pointed out). The case you brought up is bullying taken to its extremes, where the victim is almost entirely isolated and her depression continued to worsen.

    In this case the victim committed suicide. That isn’t unheard of but it isn’t the conclusion of every case of bullying. Even those that involved physically traumatizing abuse often end with a living victim (however messed up emotionally they may be.) To limit examination of bullying behavior and the effect it has on people to only cases like this does us a disservice. We learn less and are therefore less capable of tackling the problem in all its manifestations.

  18. Stacy says

    Al–why did you quote Ophelia in relation to this story?

    Since you did, why shouldn’t she respond?

    It’s not unfair for Ophelia to use this story to illustrate her point that victims of bullying can’t always

    stay the hell away from those spaces [where the bullying happens]

    –because they can’t. And even when they can physically stay away from those physical spaces, the bullying can defame and spread lies and otherwise have real world consequences.

    And that point is bigger and more important than any fight between the two of you.

  19. says

    Suggesting this was her fault for not staying the hell away is literally telling her to stay away from a stalker.

    Being the victim of a stalker is not something that one becomes magically immune to on their 18th birthday, so I’m baffled by the suggestion that a stalking victim’s age is relevant.

    It betrays such a rejection of basic aspects of reality in favor of an ideological commitment to misogyny that I’m just dumbfounded anyone could withstand the cognitive dissonance long enough to even type something so moronic.

  20. Steve Schuler says

    Ophelia, do you seriously believe that you’ve only recently coined the phrase “real- world damage”, and that Al’s use of it can only be attributed to you only recently exposing him to it?

    Almost Amazing!

    Except that it is coming from you, a person who is capable of using something as tragic as this poor girl’s suicide in such a callous fashion in such a ridiculously pathetic attempt to smear Al’s reputation.

    Too Much!!!

  21. No Light says

    I was bullied. horrifically at school. I was abused at home. There was no way to avoid home or school, the bullies or my family.

    I started to self-harm at six. Suicide attempts began at ten. By eleven I was cutting, pulling out my hair, and overdosing on some medications and not taking others.

    I wanted to die, but I didn’t want God to punish me. My life was a living hell. Just because I didn’t manage to kill myself, that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to. Some incidents that may have seemed trivial affected me far more than more serious things like sexual assault or beating.

    You don’t blame the victims of bullies. You don’t get to quantify what’s “real” bullying if you’re not the target.

    I’m glad that little girl isn’t hurting now. There are days though, even now, that I envy the dead and their escape from the mindless idiots that get their kicks out of hurting other people.

  22. says

    (Answering Yessenia) And this business of staying away – I’ve just realized that Al’s post itself, ironically, demonstrates why that’s impossible even if we try. I posted a comment there, as I said, thinking we could still have a discussion. I thought he had left FTB on friendly terms, albeit very abruptly. I disliked that podcast with Reap Paden and I said so, but it was mostly RP I talked about, and I didn’t think bridges were burned.

    But what do you know, after I commented the thread quickly filled up with some of The Usual Suspects – so you see? We can’t just “not go there” because they follow us.

    The thread quickly filled up with them, and they’re accusing me of lying about Al’s departure, of hoping to hasten it, of being gleeful about it, of all sorts. No. I posted about it to get out in front, because I figured otherwise there would be bullshit about it all over the place.

    But there will be anyway. Leaving was totally Al’s idea, but the Usual Suspects are saying it wasn’t, was it, Al, and he’s not contradicting them.

    How are you supposed to ignore harassers when they follow you or pop up suddenly right next to you? It can’t be done.

  23. says

    You know, it’s kind of unfortunate that this horrible example of cyber-bullying is being used as a comparative to my paragraph about an adult making a choice to visit a spot on the Internet that they find offensive.

    What happened to this girl is indicative of a rampant problem that is obviously not being dealt with nearly enough in the home and in the schools, and comparing what someone says about an adult on an internet forum they willingly engaged to this incident is disingenuous. On top of that, using it as a dig against me is childish.

    This does nothing to highlight the problem of real bullying and it’s effects, especially on our youth.

    First- If you post as a woman online then there isn’t anywhere safe really. By your definition women shouldn’t be on facebook or youtube or any website that includes social interaction. Women should never blog either since it will virtually always attract sexism in some form or another.

    second- if your advice was taken then guess what? The creeps of the internet get to be the majority online, and establish behavioral norms that other people adopt. What would be much better is a big positive show of support in places (or in response to places) where there are problems, like Shit Reddit Says or Manboobz.

  24. says

    There’s one of them now, @ 27.

    Ophelia, do you seriously believe that you’ve only recently coined the phrase “real- world damage”, and that Al’s use of it can only be attributed to you only recently exposing him to it?

    Do I think I’m the first person ever to say “real-world damage”? Of course not. But I don’t think it’s a particularly commonplace phrase either, and I said it at Al’s and then he put it between quotation marks in his tweet – so yes, I think he was quoting me in that tweet. He hasn’t said he wasn’t, either.

  25. Steve Schuler says

    Well, you just put that phrase (real world damage) in quotation marks yourself, so who are you quoting, yourself, Al, or, do you think that, just maybe, they are “scare quotes”?

  26. says

    Yes of course I think they’re scare quotes, but quoting me. Quoting me in scare quotes. Why else would they be in scare quotes? It’s not a catchphrase.

  27. Stacy says

    Steve Schuler, do you have anything substantive to add to the discussion, or did you just come here to attack Ophelia?

    (Rhetorical question is rhetorical, when the answer is obvious.)

  28. says

    I find all of Al’s responses, including the penultimate post he wrote, to be extremely confusing. I didn’t read a LOT of his writing before, but I read a bit, and he seemed otherwise lucid. But then he’s been on this Paden fellow’s podcast for a while now? Yeah, wow. I don’t quite know how to process it.

  29. says

    Yes, I’m extremely confused. I didn’t know he was mad…I hadn’t read his post on Atheism+ or seen his Twitter feed, so I had no idea he was mad. We had a friendly exchange less than a week ago. When he left FTB I thought it was amicably. I thought the podcast was horrible, but mostly because of RP. (I guess I hadn’t really taken in that he was RP’s co-host of longstanding.) I didn’t know he was mad, so I didn’t know my commenting on his post would be seen as a hostile act.

    So I’m clueless. Ok, I’m clueless – but I don’t go around assuming people are furious unless I have a good reason to.

    So now I think he’s been an asshole about the whole thing. He appears to be blaming us for the fact that Reap Paden is a nasty shouty bully. That’s not my fault, Al.

    And to top it all off, somebody just tweeted “RIP #Malala” and damn near gave me a heart attack. Don’t do that.

  30. Steve Schuler says

    @Ophelia

    Okay, now I understand better (if not entirely) what is going on here. I just went and looked up Al’s twitter record and have seen the conversation that you had with Al. I was not able to parse out from your OP (both links go to Al’s blog) what all had transpired between you and Al and was misunderstanding that there were both blog and twitter exchanges between you and Al in which he tweeted the link to you of this poor girl’s video as an example of “real-world damage”.

    Okay, now I better understand my misunderstanding, my apologies.

    @Stacy

    An ‘attack’?

    Hmm, I guess that’s a fair enough way to put it, but I’d probably use ‘warranted criticism’ instead. But I do think that Ophelia’s use of Amanda’s suicide video as a gateway subject in a post that was primarily an assault on Al, particularly in light of the consideration that Al provided her the link to the video, is a pretty low-down thing to do. I suppose each of us will have our own perspectives on the virtue or vice of that.

  31. says

    But it’s not an assault on Al. Read it again. How can you possibly say that? It’s all about a disagreement about a specific claim. How is that an assault?

    My god. I get called a liar, ugly, prune, and god knows what fucking else 90 squillion times every day by people who monitor my every fucking move online, and you claim that I’m “assaulting” Al just because I dispute something he said?

    I would have had the discussion on his blog but it filled up with people who harass me after I posted my first (and last) comment there, so I can’t.

    How can you not see that?

  32. Stacy says

    Calling Ophelia “ridiculously pathetic” and “callous” is not an attack.

    Calling women bitches, cunts, and twats is brave dissent, not attacks.

    But Ophelia’s post above is an assault on Al.

    Got it.

  33. jenniferphillips says

    Steve Schuler:

    Ophelia’s use of Amanda’s suicide video as a gateway subject in a post that was primarily an assault on Al, particularly in light of the consideration that Al provided her the link to the video, is a pretty low-down thing to do.

    Please indicate what parts of Ophelia’s OP you consider to be an assault on Al. I read puzzlement, both about what the video shows in terms of the consequences of bullying and about his discontent circa his departure from FTB. If you are truly reading an attack in there somewhere I am genuinely interested in hearing where that is, exactly.

  34. julian says

    Ok, someone is going to have to explain to me why “sorry but that thing you just linked to contradicts your point here” is some how underhanded. This is not new. A number of atheists (Coyne, Myers, Orac) have done similar when discussing quack medicine or religious paranoia with equally horrific cases. Why is OB’s usage so problematic?

  35. Pteryxx says

    Slightly OT, but this story outing the caretaker of Reddit’s worst spaces seems oddly familiar, in many ways.

    (Trigger warning for stalkery photos, violent misogyny, racism, and so forth at original article)

    (bolds mine)

    http://gawker.com/5950981/unmasking-reddits-violentacrez-the-biggest-troll-on-the-web

    This is how Violentacrez, Reddit’s creepiest user, also became its most powerful. Sure, he was responsible for the absolute worst stuff on Reddit, and by extension, some of the worst stuff on the internet. But Violentacrez was also seen to be, as Chris Slowe put it to me, “a trustworthy and a positive member of the community.” He moderated more than 400 subreddits and had many high-profile friends, amassed over many years. His stable at times included hundreds of popular mainstream subreddits, like Funny and WTF, that reach audiences of millions. Violentacrez further solidified his reach by becoming a mentor to other moderators.

    (…)

    So it was no surprise that when news got out earlier this week that I was working on a story that would expose Violentacrez’s real identity, other moderators on Reddit rallied to defend him. The popular politics subreddit led the charge, by banning all Gawker links.

    “As moderators, we feel that this type of behavior is completely intolerable,” they wrote. “We volunteer our time on Reddit to make it a better place for the users, and should not be harassed and threatened for that. We should all be afraid of the threat of having our personal information investigated and spread around the internet if someone disagrees with you.

    Some have taken this as an expression of Reddit’s users’ fondness of Violentacrez’s pornographic generosity. In fact the ban was probably more an expression of friendship by the Politics subreddit moderators. Violentacrez probably trained some of them. They were mad that their buddy was going to be outed for simply, in their mind, exercising his free speech—his unalienable right to anonymously post stalker shots of women.

  36. Rodney Nelson says

    julian #44

    Ok, someone is going to have to explain to me why “sorry but that thing you just linked to contradicts your point here” is some how underhanded.

    Let me see if I can reason like a slymepitter.

    If someone is making a point then they’re using “free speech” to make that point. So someone contradicting them is denying them proper use of free speech. But wait, there’s more. If the evidence the free speaker uses doesn’t support their point then the denial is even more thorough. If the evidence contradicts their point then the use of free speech is totally nullified. So Ophelia should go back to [your choice of totalitarian country she should go back to, even if she’s never been there] for her total nullification of Al’s free speech.

    It sounds absurd to me too, but this is genuine slymepit thinking her, straight from the horse’s rectum mouth. If you like, I can probably come up with something even more farfetched, but it’ll take me a while.

  37. williamshart says

    PETER G (3)

    I work at a university with 50,000 twenty somethings and a huge number of them seem to have a serious addiction to an electronic gadget, and the symptoms are the same as a drug, and it is their whole life!

    Yes, toxic and soul-killing. Thank you, Peter, for the warning. It needed to be said.

  38. mildlymagnificent says

    A solution to bullying would surely be major leap in solving many other problems. Any ideas on how?

    I think I’ve sold or given away the book, but there was an excellent idea on managing bullying and teaching schoolchildren about it. The central concept is “There’s no such thing as a bystander”.

    The writer used a circle around a bully/victim pair to describe the mindset and the apparent/potential roles of 6, maybe 8, witnesses to an incident. Are you an ally of the bully secretly egging them on? A fearful ally of the bully glad it’s not you in there. A fearful ally of the victim. A brave but hesitant/guilty observer not knowing what to do. Everyone who “stands by” has a role in bullying whether they like it or not. Each person has to decide what they will do about a position they didn’t volunteer for in the first place.

    Lots of stuff giving students a chance to see themselves in the various roles at different times. Apart from being a bully yourself, most of us have ‘been’ practically every one of these onlookers at one time or another.

    The whole thing is geared to getting students into “moving around the circle” away from openly or secretly supporting bullying. Then the whole thing is linked into school policies which encourage students to get a responsible adult involved rather than trying to manage the situations themselves.

    Of course, this requires the school to have a policy in the first place. And to have every. single. teacher. fully committed to implementing it – or at least getting another teacher involved rather than dismissing students’ concerns as so many do.

    I think they had a similar approach for workplaces but that wasn’t what I was interested in at the time.

  39. mildlymagnificent says

    Whoops. Didn’t make the link I meant to. If students know of another who is being bullied by anyone, even if they’re outside the school, they’ll be better prepared by such an education program to find an appropriate someone to intervene on the victim’s behalf.

  40. iknklast says

    Women, stay off the Internet, you’re not wanted here except as sex objects, so if you don’t want to be sex objects, stay home in your long sleeved, high necked, floor length dresses and scrub the floor. Because if you go out in the world of men, it’s your fault that the men are harrassing you. Because you shoudl stay away from where they are harrassing you. Because it’s that simple.

    So I should avoid my entire family? Quit my job? Stop my evening walk? Not go to restaurants? Not take my car in to have the oil changes (of course, if I stay away from where men harrass women, I won’t need a car, because I won’t go anywhere!). And, most of all, I shuldn’t go on websites where men might act all macho and bullying – so, the only place I can go is freethought blogs? No, wait, the men come over here and bully. OK, bye everyone. I’m gonna be locked up in my room without any external stimulation for the rest of my life.

    Yeah, that’s workable. For the men, who can safely assume that any woman they see who has actually ventured into “their” territory is fair game, because she wants to be objectified, assaulted, rubbed up against, whistled at, called rude names, and otherwise made to feel like a non-person.

  41. Lyanna says

    I have nothing but boiling rage for people who say “just leave” or “just stand up for yourself” or any of those other “justs”–they are, ultimately, collaborators. Collaborating with the bully. Enabling the bully.

  42. Select says

    Things weren’t like this years ago when I attended high school. Bullies have always existed, of course, but the internet has served to greatly enhance their reach to the point where some victims simply can’t escape.

    There was another horrible case in Vancouver a few years back, that of Reena Virk whose ‘friends’ pummeled her to death in a ravine not far from her home.

    Imagine all the things this young girl could have accomplished had she lived

  43. williamshart says

    My eyes were starting to glaze over until mildlymagnificent jolted me awake at #48 and #49 by returning to the topic with a vengeance. Putting forward pragmatic measures for addressing bullying on school grounds garnered from a book he (she?) had read, he seconded proposals by the author to engage kids in role playing from diverse “bystander” perspectives in order to build networks of empathy and activism among peer groups. Secondly he advocated for school programs which involved all teachers/administrators proactively in responding to bullying and enforcing strict rules prohibiting inappropriate conduct. Most importantly each student would know that a sympathetic zero-tolerance adult was available for her or him to turn to for relief. (Needless to say an anti-bullying culture would emerge GRADUALLY from diligent involvement of all stakeholders; from ongoing cooperation among teachers, administrators, parents and students).

    We all recognize that cyber-bullying though often related to what’s going on in the victim’s peer group will often fall outside school jurisdiction. Young Victims may interact in private at a keyboard in a bedroom with their abusers and may be ashamed or afraid tell anyone else including their parents. These situations would most effectively be deterred through systemic child rearing from around age 8 and on in which parents make conscientious efforts to educate-socialize their children to recognize the context, language, practices and patterns of bullying; that bullying can snowball out of control overtime with devastating effects; that finding oneself a target in no way is the “fault” of the victim. The parent should make their child aware that they will always be there for them to respond to their children’s reports and concerns with decisive action under an umbrella of unconditional love.

  44. mildlymagnificent says

    Thanks william.

    It didn’t occur to me until I read your response but there’s something else that applies to everyone, not just schoolchildren. Recent behavioural observations have shown that, at any age level, people are much more likely to step in and perform CPR, or call emergency services when they’re on their own rather than when there’s a group.

    It’s quite common for people to gather around an injured person and no-one calls an ambulance. Training for first aid teaches people that the first thing to do is to step up and tell everyone that emergency services must be called. Then tell people what they need to do.

    So that reaction of ‘standing by’ is not a moral failing of schoolchildren, it’s a universal tendency. Which means that we must teach everyone how to call for help, go for help …. and, most importantly – that if you set an example, people are likely to follow your lead. The only reason most people hold back is that everyone else is holding back.

  45. mildlymagnificent says

    Finally did the sensible thing and looked on Amazon. Found The Bully, The Bullied And the Bystander straight away. Anyone who has a school student in the family or is a teacher would benefit from reading it.

  46. No Light says

    I’d like to thank everyone who replied to my comment. I am truly. touched by your kindness.

    I have the most wonderful partner, and she has put a ton of work into convincing me that I am worthy of love. I have PTSD as a result of my past, and she acts as a sounding board for my hurt and confusion, holds me until I feel safe, and usually stops things getting to that point by redirecting me.

    The effects of bullying and abuse do not just go away once you. leave that situat.

    People who write it off as harmless kids stuff help to stoke the fear-fire. The Fear of people traumatised by bullying, that they’re stupid for still being affected by incidents that might’ve been decades ago. The fear that they deserve their pain because they’re “weak”. The fear that disclosing what’s happened/is happening will lead to ridicule and abandonemt.

    That anyone would hijack the tragedy of another child killed by online bullying, in order to have a dig at someone experiencing online bullying, makes me angry and sad. When that person is someone I respected and had divulged very personal info to, then that weakens my already shaky trust in humans.

  47. iknklast says

    “People who write it off as harmless kids stuff help to stoke the fear-fire.”

    When I was undergoing bullying as a kid, my mother used to give me the old “sticks and stones” line, or tell me just to ignore them, they’ll go away. They didn’t. I spent 10 years in therapy, required electric shock treatments, and didn’t smile until I was 35. I suffered from anorexia, anxiety, and agoraphobia. I attempted to kill myself. Why? Because we are social beings, because our society is set up to insist we be social, because we can’t just ignore it, and it won’t go away. And we can’t just leave. We have to be part of the world, and this goes on everywhere we go.

  48. tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach says

    No Light – I’m glad you have found a partner that can help. I wish every bullied person could. At the very least I wish every bullied person luck in finding something that helps them survive, whether that is a way to escape, a way to stop the abuse, a way to cope, whatever works. Most of all I wish the damn bullies would stop but history is not on our side in that. It seems to be a basic need in too many people to find someone to kick around.

    I wasn’t bullied to the point of self harm but that might because I was too lazy to take the trouble. Eventually I got sufficiently annoyed and fought back, which was something I could do by virtue of size and strength. I know a lot of people don’t get that chance and given the damage I caused I’m not sure it is a moral response anyway. It wouldn’t stop me doing it again though.

    At no point did any adult take any notice, just as iknklast notes, until I got into trouble over the amount of blood spilled. Years of torture and then I got the blame; how many times do we hear that sort of story? The *only* benefit of my getting into trouble was that bullies finally got that I was dangerous. That thin hope isn’t even possible for small children, physically weak or disabled people, too too many others.

    Perhaps worst of all is that many bullies are simply continuing the pattern they have been taught. Bugger.

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