Helen Nianias | Contributing writer | Friday, 20 November 2015

Hate Bullies? Stand Up For The Bullied.

Hate Bullies? Stand Up For The Bullied

The Debrief: Not everyone will be bullied, but everyone can take these steps to stop those around them feeling isolated by harassment and insults…

The thing about bullying is that the people who think they can get away with it, go on to repeat their insults and tirades, thinking it’s acceptable just because the object of their bullying just hasn’t got the effort to fight back any more.

And once they’ve consigned themselves to a school year/office life/commute home full of harassment and insults, the person being bullied can then feel isolated. There’s a joke they’re not in on, and the joke’s on them.

This week is Anti-Bullying Week and there’s no time like the present to examine not only how all-encompassing bullying, but how we can all give a hand in stopping it.

Some new statistics from LGBT charity Stonewall show just how flippant people are with homophobic bullying. One in five people have admitted to making offensive remarks about LGBT people in the last year. Thirty per cent have heard offensive comments, or words like ‘poof’ or ‘dyke’, in the past month and 49% have heard this sort of abuse in the past year.

And it’s not just LGBT people who are suffering at the hands and mouths of bullies. Hate crimes against Muslim people in London have gone up 70% in the last year, with women – particularly those who wear headscarves or hijab – more likely to be targeted. And following the terror in Paris at the beginning of this year, teachers said that their Muslim pupils were much more likely to be bullied, with 112 incidents of physical or verbal abuse in schools following the January shootings.

Additionally, anti-Semitic crime in the capital has also shot up by over 60% over the same period, and it’s been found that 30% of 18-20 year olds bully someone every week.

Those most at risk of being bullied tend to be people with ‘all types of disability’, being LGBT and coming from a low-income background making up the most likely targets. And it’s not just minorities affected by bullying, as four in 10 young women in London have been sexually harassed in public spaces.

So yes, the problem is depressingly universal, but so is the solution. Not walking on by when you see something bad happening is vital.

When Marie*, 28, from London was harrassed on a public transport, nobody came to her aid. ‘I was sitting on the top deck of a bus, minding my own business, and this man four rows away started shouting that I was a “white bitch”,’ she says.

‘The bus was pretty busy but absolutely nobody stepped in to ask if I was OK. It went on for about 10 minutes, and it only ended by me getting off well before my stop, shaken – not by the abuse, but by the absence of compassion from the people who witnessed it.’

That’s just one end of the spectrum. Ashley Powys was plastered all over the internet this week after he intervened when a Muslim woman named Yara was being verbally abused on the tube. In a Facebook post that was shared thousands of times, Ashley explained that what he did was ask for the woman’s name, stand between her and the abuser, and make small talk with her until her stop.

He said that since his post went viral, Yara found him and got in touch to say that his actions had given her confidence to wear her hijab for the first time in six months. We often talk about solidarity, but this is it in action.

Intriguingly, despite the prevalence of bullying, very few people surveyed by Stonewall actually comforted the victim. In fact, just 3% offered support.

‘These shocking statistics show we have a lot to do before we live in a society where everyone is treated equally,’ said Ruth Hunt, Stonewall’s chief executive.

‘To change this, we need people to step in and stand up. We need people to be brave, be heard and be kind. Challenging bullying requires courage but it does make a difference. We’re not asking people to step into situations that are dangerous or to put themselves at risk – not being a bystander can be simply offering support to someone who has been bullied.’

Here, we need to be the change we want to see. The belief that bullying is bad isn’t quite enough – we need to look out for the people around us and make sure that we are doing all we can for others, while staying safe. After all, you don’t have to be Muslim to be horrified by Islamophobia and you don’t have to be gay to think it’s really not cricket that people are being ridiculed for who they date.

Stonewall has launched a No Bystander pledge, which involve these three actions:

Be Brave – help the person being bullied

Be Heard – confront the bully if you can

Be Kind – support the people around you

It sounds simple, but it can be vital to other people’s wellbeing. Plus, the tips above could be rolled out in any situation, not just bullying or harassment. So much good could come of a little more alertness in our every day lives.

Here’s to taking care of each other, and creating a society we can all be proud of.

Like this? You might also be interested in:

How Teenage Bullying Made Me The Person I Am Today

I Quit My Dream Job For My Mental Health’ 

Why Is No-One Talking About Depression Among Graduates? 

Follow Helen on Twitter @helennianias