How bullied are you?

By Girija Govindaraju

December 19, 2018

Did you know that about 1 in 3 children in India are bullied? Don’t let this shock you, because there is more to come.

We all hear about stories of bullying in many countries. We sympathize, and start a lot of discussions on it, but we never realize that we have been a part of the culture since we were kids. I’ll tell you why. Because we were told that bullying is wrong, but never clearly told what bullying is. When you are six years old and the neighborhood kids didn’t let you play along with them, it meant that you weren’t friendly and you are asked to be more friendly with the kids. When you are twelve years old and teased for losing a sports match and you say that to your parents, you are asked to take losing more sportively. When you are a sixteen-year-old girl and your classmates start teasing you with a boy, it meant that you have a secret crush on that guy or vice-versa, because of no smoke without fire. (Could we get rid of this proverb, like seriously??)

The hard reality is that we never realize all this is a form of bullying. Teasing and getting teased by children of the same age group is always considered normal, and if parents somehow think against this preconceived notion, it would directly label them as being over-protective. “Oh come on, if you keep protecting your child like this for everything, how will he/she face the world on his/her own?”

Two things in the recent times urged me to ponder over the issue of bullying in India. Since bullying has always been something we see in English Young Adult series and movies, we always gave it little thought. Same was my experience when I watched “13 Reasons Why”. Though I strongly feel against the way in which the story was written, it made me think, “Are we missing out something just by saying that suicide is not the solution to bullying? Are we again bullying people after they die by branding them as cowards ??” While I was still searching for an answer to this, I read a book, “A Girl Like That“. This was when I realized bullying is a serious issue. This book gives you the subtle and small ways, as well as strong ways, in which bullying happens in schools. It’s a powerful book that says the story of a girl, who is an outcast because she is a-girl-like-that. It shows how a teen could feel inundated by the issues at both home and school. And when she tries to come out of it, she is put down every time. This led to another question. “Why isn’t there increased conversations of Bullying and its effects in India? Is it something that we have just reserved for psychologists and people who research behavioral patterns to deal with?”

Now let me give you some personal experience. I was always bullied at college for being “A Peter Who Always Spoke in English”.( This type of bullying is so common in schools and colleges that if someone called someone a “Peter”, you will immediately understand they spoke a lot in English.) I was bullied for being outspoken and strong. Within 3-4 weeks into college, I was branded as arrogant and I was asked to bring down my character a few notches down because it was too strong for the people around me. Especially boys. What did I do? Didn’t give a damn. And what happened after that? The bullying was taken a few notches up. Cyber-bullying crept in. I was teased whenever I went up and had to speak in front of the class. Eventually, the bullying started to take effects on me. I started feeling anxious when I was asked to talk something in front of a large number of people, secretly feeling some of them were laughing at me. It took me a long time to gain my self-confidence back, but I would be lying if I said all this left me unaffected. I am not playing the strong victim here. I am what I am. And I will never forget all the times I was bullied.

What we don’t realize is that bullying can leave long-lasting effects on both the perpetrators and the victims. If the bullying starts in school, it becomes a dominant part of their behavioral characteristics and starts building negative patterns. Continuous short-term impacts leave long-term consequences to be dealt with. One of the common effects of bullying is low self-esteem. And the quality of friendships one develops and maintains gets affected in the long haul. When a child trusts their parents or teachers and shares their experience of bullying, and when they don’t take it seriously, the child loses confidence in the people of authority and this might lead to a lot of negative consequences too. These are just very few of the many ways in which bullying affects children. In some cases, this type of pattern gets carried on to colleges and sometimes, workplace too. This is a subconscious behavior that stays on, until addressed, sooner or later.

The approach to addressing this issue is two-fold. First, there should be an increased awareness of bullying. We should draw a strong line between friendly teasing and bullying and we should make all education institutions clear on the laws of bullying and the consequences associated with it. We should strive to educate parents and educational administrators on the effects of bullying. More people should come forward with their stories and speak out loud because that’s the only way we could raise the alarm on the issue. Now that we have moved from joint-families to nuclear families, we should make sure schools and colleges know that they have the bigger responsibility of keeping the child safe. We should educate educational institutions on the laws in our country against bullying and make them take responsibility. Bullying prevention does not restrict only to put up boards with “Anti-ragging Policy” in colleges but necessitates actual action against it. The next step is being vigilant and keeping a close eye on the child’s behavior. When a child goes to a person of authority and complains of being bullied or harassed, it should not be taken lightly. It should not be assumed that the child can take care of the issue. Parents and teachers should build a relationship of trustworthy communication with the child so that the child is comfortable in sharing everything. Parents and teachers should teach children how to respect each others’ opinions and interests. Not only would this help in preventing bullying, but this has a wider scope of enhancing their future too. Any deviation from the normal behavior of the child should not be left unattended. And last but not the least, there should always be ready professional help given to the victims and especially bullies, because most studies suggest that more than the victims, its the perpetrators who need extra help. Talking about any issue is the best way to address it.

So, what’s your story that needs to be heard?

 

Photo Courtesy: Google

About Girija Govindaraju

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