Saturday, 25 April 2009

when people bully others...

it hurts.  Yesterday I was at the bus stop and there was a group of about 10 young women and around them 6 or so adults.  I immediately got the sense that something wasn't right.  All the young women were looking at one person and she didn't look happy.    She was being bullied about her appearance - body image again.   

After waiting to get a sense of the situation I interjected with something along the lines of 'come on guys give her a break'.  One of them turned and said 'she said she doesn't like us' as she looked me up and down to see what she could say about me and decided against it - I replied 'neither would I if there were 10 of you all teasing me'.  They disbanded slightly and threw odd spiteful remarks but with less intensity.  

By now, there was another adult at the bus stop who was inviting the young woman being bullied to go to a different part of the bus stop with her.  The young woman started to cry, and went with her. 

Having run the Anti Bullying Alliance and spoken to a lot of young people who are bullied I know that it is never easy having adults intervene and I do wish there was a right answer - but I could not stand there and watch this happen.  Too many adults do that.  And too many children get hurt without being helped.  

Everyone at the bus stop apart from me was Black African, and suddenly the woman who had helped the young woman turned to the rest of the young women and said 'this is bullying, you are bullying, this is as bad as racism, it makes me very sad that this is still happening to girls'. And I could see the pain on her face and I imagine that what was happening had clicked into something that had happened to her or someone she knew. 

I was telling my partner about it over supper and I hoped the young woman had a safe home to go to with an adult she could trust to talk to about it.  This morning I hope even more that even if those girls do not stop their bullying behaviour now, they will have had a very strong signal that lots of us don't like bullying of any sort and that we think it is wrong.

Gender and sexual bullying goes on every day in the playground, in the streets and in schools and youth clubs across the country.  There are many testimonies of it from young people.  As adults we must ensure that this doesn't go by unnoticed and that we safely challenge bullying behaviours wherever they are.

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