For many young people, the issue of bullying is seen as something that they have to deal with themselves. They feel adults are not going to take them seriously and will most likely make things worse. However, we know that bullying has enduring impact on children right through to their adult life and should be taken as seriously as other allegations of abuse or neglect.
The Government’s definition of bullying is : “Behaviour by an individual or group usually repeated over time, that intentionally hurts another individual or group with physically or emotionally”.
Bullying affects lots of people and can happen anywhere: at school, travelling to and from school, in sporting teams, in friendship or family groups or in the workplace. There is no legal definition of bullying. But it is usually defined as repeated behaviour which is intended to hurt someone either emotionally or physically, and is often aimed at certain people because of their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation or any other aspect such as appearance or disability.
Bullying can take many forms including:
- physical assault
- social bullying
- threatening behaviour
- name calling
Cyberbullying can also be referred to as online bullying which is via social networking sites, gaming sites, chat rooms or anywhere online. Being bullied online can have a devastating impact on anyone experiencing it and it can be really hard to get it to stop.
Body language tells us a lot about other people. Think about the last time you walked into school. How did you feel? Confident and powerful? Or anxious and worried? If you’re trying not to be noticed and looking at the ground a lot while darting into school it can make you more noticeable. You look defensive and vulnerable. If you step out boldly you send out a quite different message of confidence. You may not be very confident but you’ll certainly look it. It can be really hard to do this and perhaps you can practice at home or with your friends first.
Try to stay in safe areas of the school at break and lunchtime where there are plenty of other people. If you are hurt at school, tell a teacher immediately and ask for it to be written down. Make sure you tell your parents. As hard as it is, do not retaliate and hit them back as you may get into trouble too.
Bullying can have a massive impact on your mental health, both now and in the future. In fact, recent research has shown that if you’re bullied as a child or teenager, you might be twice as likely to use mental health services as an adult. It doesn’t matter if you’re being bullied at school, at home or online, bullying can mess with your head. But you’re not alone, and you deserve support. Read our article about how to get support if bullying is affecting your mental health.
It is not uncommon for people to experience some form of verbal bullying (being called names or insulted) at some point in their lives. Many young people we speak to hear insults on a daily basis when they are in school or socially. Whatever age you are being called names or insulted can have an effect on your wellbeing.
Is it bullying or banter?
It can be confusing for someone to try and work out whether the name calling is banter or bullying. A young person going through something like this might feel intimidated or feel under pressure not to make a fuss because others are saying it is just a joke. If it is a one off incident then it may be that it is banter. However, if the name calling becomes persistent and regular, then this is bullying. It is equally about how you feel too, if it makes you uncomfortable and you have told them to stop but they are still name calling, then this is what we call verbal bullying. The verbal bullying can be anything about weight, appearance, racist, sexual or homophobic. Name calling has been around for what may seem forever but for someone who is on the receiving end of this, it can often have devastating consequences.
Why do it?
It is very difficult to understand why someone would want to use insults towards others on a regular basis, especially if they have been told or asked to stop. There may be various reasons why someone acts in this way towards others:
- They might be doing this to impress their friends or build up some type of reputation
- They may have been bullied themselves and to deflect the attention or because they are angry, they go onto bully someone else.
- They might be enjoying the attention or reaction
- They might be having problems at home or at school so they are taking this out on someone else
- Lack of self – esteem of confidence so they act in a negative way
- They might be angry and frustrated and looking to take things out on someone else.
Clearly, there are many more reasons why someone might be bullying others. Each individual who bullies others in this way will have their own reasons or excuses. They might be copying the behaviour from his or her friends and might feel more accepted if they join in with the name calling and bullying. Young people we have worked with often say when they speak to the bully when they are alone, they act differently. Whatever motivates someone to bully another person, their justifications offer little comfort to those affected.
How does it make you feel?
Someone who is being bullied in this way may feel lots of different emotions. Often a young person might act like they are ok on the outside but inside they may be feeling very low. They might not want to show how they are really feeling in case others think they are making a big deal out of nothing, or cannot take a joke and perhaps they are even worried it might get worse. They may also start to believe the verbal bullying and this will knock self-esteem. To understand how a person feels on the inside, it is important to try and see how they might be feeling if they are being called these names day in and day out. Many young people say to us that they often the feel some of the following emotions:
- Start to believe it or blame themselves
A person might bottle up their emotions and try not to let it show to their friends or family. It can be hard for someone to feel all those things and try to keep it to themselves and often as a result their behaviour may change. They may show their feelings in other ways and know the signs to look out is really important. We often ask young people how they think the behaviour would show itself if someone bottled up how they really felt. They felt that a person may:
- Feel depressed
- Withdraw socially and stop going out
- Avoid social media or messenger
- Feel anxious about going to school
- Be very angry and be aggressive
- Bully others
- Develop an eating disorder
- Turn to drinking or taking drugs
In extreme cases, a person may feel so low they may attempt to or actually take their life. This is sadly a reality for some families who have lost a loved one through bullying.
How can you get the verbal bullying to stop?
It is never easy to try and get the bullying stop. It can take a lot of courage to try and take a stand against bullying. You may have reached a point where you feel unable to take any more or you may be trying to get it stopped before it goes too far. You may be worried if you do report the bullying it might get worse, but you have to also ask yourself, can you really take much more or how will you cope if it escalates. To try and get the bullying to stop you can try to do the following:
Report the bullying to a teacher or someone at school you feel safe with. They may be able to take action and get the bullying to stop. If you are worried that it might make it worse, perhaps you can ask the teacher to just keep an eye on it as they then might see it themselves and take action.
Tell a parent or a family member. This can give you lots of strength and a parent or family member can help you to get the bullying to stop. They can also give you lots of emotional support. It is important to try and tell someone in your family what is going on so you are not bottling things up. Talking about what you are going through can give you courage to get it stopped.
Be assertive with the bully and say their name calling is boring or making them look stupid. However, it is important to ensure that this course of action doesn’t cause them to become aggressive or make the bullying worse. You may think a quiet chat with them when they are on their own might work, but if you do so, please take a friend with you for support.
Ignore it and walk away. Quite often the bully stops when they are no longer receiving attention or a reaction from the bullying. It is always difficult to try and ignore it especially when it is so upsetting or if it is constant but if they don’t get a reaction, it can stop.
It is really important to try and keep your cool in these situations even though the name calling bullying might be making you feel very angry. It is natural to feel this way but if you get aggressive and things turn nastier or physical then someone could get seriously injured or into trouble with the police. This is why it is important to get some help to get the bullying to stop.
Verbal bullying can and does affect people’s feelings. If you see someone being called an insult then you may think they are just taking it as a joke, but inside how a person feels may not show on the outside. If it becomes regular, they may change their behaviour as a result of the bullying. It can also affect other areas of their life, including friendships, school work and family life.
Advice for parents and carers to help support your teenager
Peer to peer sexualised bullying and harassment can and does happen at school, college, socially or online. Children and young people may find it hard to talk about what is happening to them because they may feel fearful, embarrassed and ashamed even though whatever is happening to them is not their fault.
- Understanding sexualised bullying and harassment
- Understanding the forms of sexualised bullying
- How to start that necessary conversation with your teen
- Where to get further support
What is sexualised bullying and harassment?
Sexualised bullying is a behaviour, physical or non-physical, where sexuality or gender is used as a weapon against another. It is any behaviour which degrades someone, singles someone out using sexual language, gestures or violence, and victimising someone for their appearance. Sexual bullying is also pressured to act promiscuously and to act in a way that makes others uncomfortable.
Sexual harassment is unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature which: violates your dignity. Make’s you feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated and creates a hostile or offensive environment. These behaviours happen inside and outside school, in social groups and online. It is as serious as any form of hate crime and should be treated as such by parents, teachers and society in general.
Understanding the forms of sexualised bullying
Sexual bullying includes a wide range of behaviour and can often cause distress and devastation to a person. Some examples of sexualised bullying include:
- Abusive, sexualised name calling and insults. This includes using homophobic language and insults towards others
- Spreading rumours of a sexual nature online or in person
- Unwelcome looks and comments about someone’s appearance or looks, either face to face or behind their backs
- Inappropriate and uninvited touching without consent.
- Pressurising someone to do something they do not want to do, using emotional blackmail such as ‘you would do this if you loved me’ or comparing previous encounters to make someone feel obliged to do something sexual
- Upskirting – where someone takes a picture under a person’s clothing without their permission. It is now a specific criminal offence in England and Wales
- Pressurising someone to send nudes and using emotional blackmail, for example threatening to end a relationship if they don’t send an image or video
- Sending the image to others without consent is a form of sexual bullying too and depending on age, illegal too
- Inappropriate sexual innuendos that is persistent and unwelcome
- Sexism in all its forms and gender stereotyping roles
- Graffiti with sexual content or display/circulation of inappropriate material of a sexual nature, such as pornography
- In its most extreme form, sexual assault, or rape
Sexism and gender stereotyping
Sexism is a behaviour, language or prejudice, which expresses institutionalised, systematic and comprehensive discrimination. It is based on a stereotypical view of masculine and feminine roles. Sexism limits the options of women and girls and can lead to discrimination or less favourable treatment. It is learned behaviour, however, and can therefore be ‘unlearned’.
Unfortunately, there are many instances where sexism and this form of stereotyping comes into play. Rated and slated is when boys are encouraged to be sexually active and have multiple partners and if they achieve this, they get ‘rated’ by their peers. However, if a girl makes the same choice as the boy, she gets ‘slated’ for the same thing and bullied. We all have a responsibility to teach children and young people to break the barriers of being stereotyped for their gender.
The impact of sexualised bullying and harassment
There is evidence that sexual bullying is increasing and it is linked to domestic violence and other gender-based violence such as rape and sexual assault.
In June 2021, Ofsted carried out a review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges and they found that 9 out of 10 girls and half the boys who took part in the review said being sent unsolicited explicit pictures or videos happened a lot to them or their peers. 92% of girls and three-quarters of boys complained of recurrent sexist name-calling. “The frequency of these harmful sexual behaviours means that some children and young people consider them normal,” the report said.
Sexual bullying can undermine someone’s dignity and safety as well as affect their emotional wellbeing and lead to depression, isolation, eating disorders and self-harming. It is very common for sexual bullying to go viral both offline and online with no let up for the person on the receiving end. Boys are just as much victims of sexual bullying as girls. Boys too feel powerless to stop it, pressurised to do something they do not want to and called names if they choose not to be promiscuous or are not perceived to fit their peer’s ideals of masculinity. The scars of these effects can last a lifetime if not supported and encouraged to address these feelings.
In the Ofsted review they found that children and young people, especially girls said that they do not want to talk about sexual abuse for several reasons, even where their school encourages them to. For example, the risk of being ostracised by peers or getting peers into trouble is not considered to be worth it for something perceived to be commonplace. They worry about how adults will react, because they think they will not be believed, or that they will be blamed. They also think that once they talk to an adult, the process will be out of their control.
Why talking to your teen is crucial
It is important that children and young people are educated on the issues of sexual bullying from a young age to help them make positive choices. Talk to them about rising above what their peers expect of them and being responsible and resilient is essential.
Create a safe space for you and your teen to talk about things generally and openly. Ensure that there are no distractions and keep it casual. Keep your questions open and find out more about what is going on for them and the people they spend time with. Reassure them that you are there for them and will always be there to listen without judgement. It may help to use scenarios from a show on the TV or in a magazine to explore what they would do and what they could do if they were in a difficult situation.
It may be hard for them to open up to you straight away as they may be worried that as a parent you will react and respond in a way, they don’t want you too. Therefore, keep your emotions in check and let them guide you on what they need from you. Avoid belittling, punishments, blame or shame as that will be a sure-fire way of them shutting you out.
If they have experienced any form of sexualised bullying or harassment, they will need plenty of warmth, love and reassurance from you. They will need to feel safe and reminded that this is not their fault. It is important to go through all the options they have such as reporting it to the school or police.
Overcoming bullying can be one of the hardest things to do. We often speak to adults who bear the scars of bullying and it has affected them in one way or another. They may have trust issues, low self-esteem and self-worth. We have seen how the effects of bullying can determine someone’s behaviour and actions. For those who have experienced bullying, it may be difficult to do the everyday things we take for granted, such as meeting new people, trying out new challenges and more.
Finding the strength
If you are dealing with the aftermath of bullying, you could be feeling drained and low on batteries. Trying to find the strength to understand, process and overcome what you have experienced might feel like the hardest thing to do. Often, finding that strength can be through the support of your family and friends and this can give you the helping hand you need to understand what you have endured. It is important to give yourself as much times as you need, don’t set yourself unrealistic limits as you need to go through this process in a manageable way.
“I was bullied at school and have never fully got over it (I’m 43 now). I’m so petrified that my kids will go through it too – my 9 year old came home last week and told me that some boys had been really nasty to him and those feelings just came flooding back. I can’t bear the thought of him going through it too.”
It’s not me it’s you
The first step of overcoming bullying is understanding the roles of the people involved in the bullying. If you can try to visualise the experience but look at the situation from an outsider’s perspective, this can help you see how the person who was bullying you was perhaps motivated by their own reasons and actually you never were to blame or responsible for what you had to go through. Bullies often have very low self-esteem and low self-worth and will bully others to try and compensate for their own negative emotions. This does not excuse their behaviour but goes a long way to explain why they act in this way. What happened to you, was the consequence of the action and choice of the bully and it certainly was them and not you.
Accepting your emotions
It is natural under the circumstances to feel a mixture of emotions. You may be feeling sad, anxious and very low or possibly you may be feeling angry and violated. As a result of the bullying, you could be feeling depressed and want to withdraw from the world. These feelings are what many others feel when they have been bullied and accepting and understanding why you feel the way you do, is a part of the process of understanding what you when through and leaving those emotions behind. It is important not to make any negative choices or decisions when feeling this way as they may not be choices you would ordinarily make. Take your time, speak to the people you love and trust so they can help you move forwards. You may want to find out if you are able to get counselling or support as this is a positive step in helping you overcome bullying. You may be able to access counselling through your employers. If you are at school or college, speak to your student support or pastoral team. Your GP can give you support and may be able to refer you for NHS Talking Therapy. The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy have a list of therapists that are registered with them if you are looking privately.
Managing the stress
We understand how bullying has a knock on effect on mental health. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. When your body is hurting, you go to the doctor so shouldn’t it be the same with your mental health? There are many stress-busting things you can do to help yourself, such as not isolating yourself, even though you may want to. Try to lean on your friends and family and do the things you normally would with them. Take up something different that is good for you inside and out, often yoga or meditation is great for all ages and can really help you heal traumatic events. It is essential to do the things that you love to do and enjoy as this can help you get back on track.
When you have experienced such trauma as bullying, you may feel a need to use the knowledge and understanding you have gained to help others who are being bullied. There are many ways you can do this whether it is volunteering, setting up a peer support group at school or raisin awareness about the issues of bullying. If this is something you have considered, it is worth checking online to see what support is available and what contribution you can make. This is another way of leaving the scars of bullying behind.
“The bullying started in grade 1. They were times when there was a real and significant chance to be cornered by upwards of half a dozen kids, ridiculed, and usually beaten up. The administration were informed and did nothing to stop it. I was extremely lucky to have awesome parents who went above and beyond to be there for me, including things like volunteering in the school to be within earshot to ensure said teacher could not continue her pattern of concerted verbal abuse. If it were not for their support, I’m not even certain I would be here today. The damage done by the experience did not “toughen me up for my own good”. It damaged me in deep and profound ways that decades later still haunt me. The only good that came of it was a deep appreciation for my parents who had my back to the absolute best of their ability throughout the whole thing, and my activism. The instinct for the strong to prey on the weak is pure is wrong. I have also learned that the very last and best inch of us cannot be taken, only surrendered, and while there is still hope, while there is someone to remind you that even if every other voice around you says you are worthless, they are WRONG, and they cannot take that last, best inch of who you are.”
Leaving the scars behind
Anyone who has been bullied will find their own way of healing and leaving those scars behind. Unfortunately, there are many people whose adult life is still affected by the bullying they experienced earlier on in life. If you seek the support and go through that process, hopefully there are ways of healing and moving forward. You could write about what you went through, as writing down what you have gone through and seeing how far you have come can give you such strength. Another idea is to make a loose plan in your life and steps for overcoming bullying and every time you have achieved a goal, you tick it off and know that you are one step closer to leaving the scars behind. It is important to do what feels right for you as you know yourself better than anyone else. Empower yourself and regain control as this is your life, your future and your choices.
People who are being bullied can feel really distressed and it can have a serious impact on their life and health. In very serious cases bullying could lead to self- harming, or even suicidal thoughts. Often other people don’t realise the effect that bullying has when it goes on day in day out. You may be wondering how you can help someone who is experiencing bullying.
Bullying can be so upsetting and caused such distress that people may need to seek help from a doctor. Bullying can sometimes lead to self- harm or eating disorders, particularly if the bullying is focused is relentless. In some cases bullying can also lead to suicidal thoughts.
There are usually quite a lot of pointers that someone is being bullied and if you see or hear any of them you’re in a good position to help.
How to tell if someone is being bullied
- Is anyone in your class or workplace taking a lot of time off, getting to school or work late, trying to avoid being in situations like the toilets, communal areas or changing rooms?
- Do you hear someone calling them names, not loudly, but so that they will overhear?
- Are rumours being spread about them, in person or online?
- Are they being left out of things socially?
- Are they spending breaks on their own?
If so then you already know someone who is being bullied. You might be worried that if you do something about it, the bully might pick on you next but there are lots of things you can do to help.
What you should do to help someone being bullied
- If you are at school, let a teacher know what you suspect
- If you are in a workplace, maybe let your colleague know that you are there for them
- Go with the person being bullied and back up what they say to the teacher
- Tell the person being bullied that you’ll can help them to tell their parents
- Tell your parents or an adult you trust
- Agree with your friends that you will all make it clear to the person doing the bullying that you don’t like what they’re doing
- Keep a diary of what you see going on so that you can give a reliable account of what has been happening
If you tell a teacher what has happened then the bully shouldn’t find out that you’ve done that. The teacher should be able to quietly alert other teachers and keep an eye on the situation so that the bully is caught red handed and has only themselves to blame.
If the bullying is at work, you may be able to take the person to the side and let them know that you are there to support them. If it is possible, ensure they are not left along during breaks and show solidarity. We do appreciate if the bullying is from management, it can be really hard to tackle this but you can show them our advice on workplace bullying so they can feel empowered to get some help.
Bullying out of school hours can be really distressing. It can often by people they know from school but sometimes by people who live nearby.
What help can you get?
Bullying outside school is any incident of bullying that occurs anywhere off the school premises. Headteachers have the legal power to discipline their pupils for bullying incidents that occur outside of schools premises, as described above. The headteacher is only permitted to discipline the pupil to a reasonable extent, in line with the school’s discipline policy.
The Department for Education’s guidance for preventing and tackling bullying states that “where bullying outside the school is reported to school staff, it should be investigated and acted on.” The guidance also states that the headteacher of your child’s school should also consider whether it is appropriate to notify the police or anti-social behaviour co-ordinator in your local authority about the incident.
Please note that if the bullying behaviour could be criminal or poses a serious threat to a member of the public, the police should always be informed. This will include online or offline harassment, threats of violence, physical violence, sexualised behaviour, etc.
Bystanders have a vital role
Unfortunately, young people who witness bullying like this are often afraid to tell the police what they saw in case they get bullied too so it can be helpful if you know the names of adults who have seen this happening to you.
There are now police community support officers and they often help in cases like this by talking to both sides and trying to sort it out before it gets out of hand. In serious cases the police will take statements and might recommend that charges are brought against the bully. If the bully admits what they have done the case might not go to court but the bully might get a caution instead which is an official warning. There are other people who can help apart from the police.
Trouble with neighbours
If there is trouble between families who live in council or housing association homes then the council might arrange mediation to see if the problem can be sorted out or take action if the their is anti-social behaviour. In serious cases where young people are violent and abusive the police or council can apply for an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) or their parents could be warned that if they keep misbehaving the family could be made to move out of their rented home. If you are renting privately or own your home, it is important to get some help from your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
Is it bullying or banter?
We often hear from individuals or parents/carers about their concerns about bullying in a sports environment. We understand that bullying can happen anywhere at any time and that it does happen in sports clubs in and out of school. Often people taking part in the sports clubs do not feel able to express how they feel if they are being bullied in case they get told that they are weak or they are worried they may get kicked off the team. We often hear that some people who fear reprisals or the bullying getting worse.
Are you being bullied in sports?
If you’re a young sports player and you’re feeling upset at the way you’re being treated on the field by your team mates or adults involved in the game then there are things you can do about that. If your team mates make fun of you on the pitch or in the changing room, or try to upset you to put you off the game so that you don’t want to take part in training sessions, that could be bullying if it keeps happening. It is important to try and trust your instincts as to whether it is bullying or something that is just a joke between all the team. If it upsets you or it is become persistent then this could be bullying.
There are a number of types of bullying that can occur in sport clubs. You may find name calling and verbal bullying where someone is being given cruel nicknames, taunted, threats and intimidation. A person may be subject to physical bullying which could be hitting, slapping, tripping and anything else that causes physical harm. We also hear about social bullying in sports where players will gossip about others, leave someone out or embarrass players in front of others.
What action you can take?
- Speak to your parents or carer or an adult who you feel able to confide in
- Ask your parents to contact your team coach and explain the situation
- Keep a diary of what happens including dates, times and witnesses of the incident
- Ask friends on the team to back up what you say if this is possible. Sometimes others may not want to get involved as they might be worried the bully will bully them.
If the problem isn’t resolved, your parents should ask the coach or team manager for a copy of the complaints and/or bullying policy.
Advice for parents
It can be really difficult for a parent to tackle bullying in sports if they are concerned their child is going through something like this. Your first instinct may be to protect your child or get involved but that may not help your child in the long term. Signs to look out for:
- Has your child suddenly lost interest in the club/sport?
- Has your child refused to attend or make excuses not to go?
- Do they say they are feeling unwell or look anxious about going?
- Have you noticed a change in their behaviour such as more snappy then usual or perhaps feeling low?
- Do they get agitated before going to their sessions?
If your child has confided in you, it is important to listen to what they say and allow them to have a say in the action. They may want to take their time as it may be a sensitive situation, so as important as it is to go at their pace it is essential to also encourage them to get this sorted sooner rather than later before it escalates. Understand and respect their concerns and fears which are very real to them and need sensitivity. They may be worried they will get further bullied or kicked off the team or perhaps substituted all the time.
Agree a way forward with your child, and plan to meet with the coach as a united front. Speak to the coach, let them know you understand that banter can be high-spirited in sports but now it is becoming persistent it is damaging confidence and increasing anxiety and this is bullying. Be assertive with the coach if you need to be as we have heard from parents that a coach or sports leader had attempted to sweep things under the carpet. Ask the coach for a copy of the anti-bullying policy too.
It is important to support your child through this process too. Give your child a listening ear, space to talk and reassurance. Please read our advice on what to do if your child is being bullied.
Bullying on the sidelines
There have been many reports and accounts of bullying amongst parents and supporters who are watching from the sidelines. This has resulted in extreme cases, parents or supporters being banned from watching their children participating in games. Some of the bullying reported has been parents abusing other people’s children during the games, threats and even physical violence. There has also been reports that the bullying has escalated on social media. This should not be tolerated by the clubs and coaches in any shape or form. If you have experienced this, speak to the coach and ask for them to intervene and take necessary action.
Advice for sports clubs and coaches
We understand how there can be lots of high spirited behaviour and banter within sports teams. Quite often we appreciate this is encouraged to help a team bond and allow team members to get to know each other. However, there is a fine line between bullying and banter. If the banter targets one person and becomes persistent, this then becomes bullying. If it upsets the individual and has potential to damage their passion of the sport, self-esteem, confidence or ability to take part then this becomes bullying. It is said to get the most out of the team or individuals it is important to encourage praise, support and unity rather than negative behaviour.
Has your club got an anti-bullying policy? If yes, it is important to review it regularly and ensure it is up to date. If you haven’t, then it is important to write one that works for your club, the players and supporters. Once you have an anti-bullying policy, everyone involved in the club needs to be aware of it and perhaps even sign a declaration they have understood it and adhere to it. This will give everyone some responsibility to act in a positive way in sports.
Develop a clear strategy to deal with negative and bullying behaviour with clear consequences so team members and their families understand that the sanctions. It is important that all policies are transparent and available for everyone so they know what to expect and what is expected of them. It may help to have posters in the changing rooms to show your club is against bullying in any shape or form. Also it is crucial that you remain vigilante and know what signs to spot of any bullying behaviour within your team as it may not be always obvious. Leaders and coaches of the sports clubs need to take a strong stance against bullying and let the members of their clubs know that this is not going to be tolerated. By having clear policies and strategies in place, the culture of bullying in sports can be changed for the better across the board. Coaches should work on building character and confidence as well as the sport as this will in turn give the children a fun and competitive experience.
Advice on LGBTQ bullying
Homophobic bullying is when people behave or speak in a way which makes someone feel bullied because of their actual or perceived sexuality. People may be a target of this type of bullying because of their appearance, behaviour, physical traits or because they have friends or family who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning or possibly just because they are seen as being different.
“Telling everyone in the dining hall, class, individuals, family at community events/school events that I am gay (I am not gay), even going up to my parents telling them I am, and saying crude things, homophobic things, but I am not gay.” (Comment by a young person via our national bullying survey).
Like all forms of bullying, homophobic bullying can be through name calling, spreading rumours, cyberbullying, physical or sexual and emotional abuse. Young people have described to us how they have been subjected to hate campaigns against them which can start off within the classroom and then moved onto social media. This has devastated those being bullied in this way and some have moved schools and had their lives disrupted because of the actions of the bullies.
Not only does this affect a young person’s self-esteem, emotional health and wellbeing but it also can have an effect on their attendance at school and their attainment. This type of bullying can also include threats to ‘out’ you to friends and family about your sexuality, even if you are not gay, lesbian or bisexual. You can read more about sexual bullying here.
How common is it?
Homophobic bullying is the most frequent form of bullying after name calling. According to Stonewall’s School report, 96% of gay pupils hear homophobic remarks such as ‘poof’ or ‘lezza’ used in school. 99% hear phrases such as ‘that’s so gay’ or ‘you’re so gay’ in school. 54% of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people don’t feel there is an adult at school who they can talk to about being gay. Worryingly, 6% of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils are subjected to death threats.
“I can’t tell anyone because, basically, no-one knows that I am gay…I got punched in the corridor today for example, and I can’t tell the teacher because it will involve coming out.” Nick, 14(via Stonewall)
Tips on dealing with LGBTQ bullying
If you’re being bullied in this way you need to tell your parents and report it to a teacher. Keep a diary of the remarks or behaviour. If you feel unable to speak to your parents or a teacher, perhaps you can approach another adult you can trust to get some help. Hopefully if you have good friends, they can give you support to help get it stopped too.
If you feel able to, ignore the bullying so you are not giving the bully the reaction they are looking for. You can also be assertive and let them know that they are the ones that are looking stupid and ignorant. It is important to note, that if you feel they could get aggressive, then do not put yourself at risk as your safety is more important.
If this bullying spills over into threats or violence then it should be reported to the police as a hate crime. Many police forces have specialist units to deal with these incidents.
If you are being bullied online or via social media, take screenshots and keep them as evidence to show your parents, the school or the police.
Ask the school to do some work on LGBTQ bullying within your school if you feel able to, sometimes educating others can help enormously in making them realise their actions and consequences.
In many cases the people who are picking on you are projecting their prejudice on to others. They may also hear homophobic remarks being used by other people who hold outdated attitudes and think it is acceptable to act in this way when clearly it is not. This can often show their ignorance and closed minds.
What can parents do?
Parents and carers can play an important role in tackling homophobic bullying, says Stonewall’s Chris Gibbons. He suggests:
- Talk to your child. Ask how they are feeling and if everything is OK at school, rather than if they are being bullied. They may be embarrassed and worried that you will think they are gay, so might choose not to say anything.
- Remember that homophobic bullying can affect any young person, regardless of their sexual orientation. Just because your child is experiencing homophobic bullying does not necessarily mean that he or she is lesbian, gay or bisexual.
- Be supportive. Your child needs to know that if they do decide to talk to you about bullying, you will listen and that they can trust you with what they tell you. Let them tell you in their own time, and ask them how they want to proceed. Preferably approach the school together.
- Check with the school what procedures they have in place for dealing with bullying and in particular, homophobic bullying. Involve your child in any decisions that are taken on how to tackle the bullying. If you are not satisfied with how your child’s teacher responds, talk to the head teacher or bring it to the attention of the school governors – including your child at every stage.
Havering Education Services advises that you check that the school has a separate anti-homophobic bullying policy and not something tacked on to their general bullying policy. Ask to see it, and if they haven’t got one, ask why not and insist this is remedied. Go into the school and challenge them. They have a duty of care to all children. Research shows that in schools where children are explicitly taught that homophobic bullying is wrong, rates of such bullying are dramatically reduced, and pupils feel safer. Schools have a legal obligation to deal with homophobic bullying under the Education and Inspections Act 2006.
If the bullying doesn’t stop, go to your Local Education Authority and demand action. Changing schools can work in some cases but often a vulnerable child is vulnerable wherever they go. Encourage your child to take up judo or another form of self-defence. This will boost their confidence that they can defend themselves if necessary.
What should schools do about homophobic bullying?
Schools should deal with homophobic bullying by including it in their bullying policies. According to Stonewall’s Teachers Report 2014 survey, Nine in ten secondary school teachers say students in their schools are bullied, harassed or called names for being, or perceived to be, lesbian, gay or bi. Yet nine in ten primary and secondary school staff have never received any specific training on how to prevent and respond to this type of bullying. Stonewall has lots of educational resources for schools and teachers from free DVDS to classroom resources.
Some schools are also dealing with this by raising it in citizenship lessons, looking at how to tackle prejudice and discrimination. There are a number of organisations which help pupils with these issues including Stonewall, Diversity Role Models and Schools Out.
There are many myths surrounding bullying issues and some of these myths can often trivialise bullying and suggest the bullied individual is making a big deal out of nothing when actually that is not the case. This can undermine how a person feels if they are being bullied. Bullying should not be tolerated in any form. We believe it is important to address bullying whether it is in a workplace , school, or in a neighbourhood so that the message is clear that bullying is unacceptable.
The myths and facts below can be a great discussion point to raise awareness of bullying with children and young people.
Myth: Bullying is a normal part of childhood and you should just ignore it
Fact: Bullying is not “normal” or acceptable in any form and ignoring might not always make it stop. If you can, please confide in someone you trust such as a parent or teacher to help you get it stopped. Bullying can knock your self-esteem and confidence.
Myth: It is ok to hit someone who is bullying you, it will stop it
Fact: It’s understandable that you may be angry but if you were to get violent or aggressive it may make matters much worse as you may get into trouble too.
Myth: Bullies are born this way, it’s in their genes
Fact: Bullies often adopt this behaviour from their environment or sometimes, it’s a reaction from them being bullied by others. Whatever the case, it is not right.
Myth: Bullying only happens in schools
Fact: This is not the case at all, bullying can happen to anyone at any place. It may be out of school, at university or even college. It can happen when you are out with mates or on the way to or from school.
Myth: You can spot a bully from the way they look and act
Fact: There is no such thing as a way a bully looks or acts. There is no specific dress code or behaviour code.
Myth: Online bullying is just banter and harmless
Fact: People being bullied online is a very serious issue, the bullying can go viral very quickly and make the problem escalate quickly. It is important to take a screenshot of any conversations, messages or posts that you feel are bullying so that you have a record.
Myth: Cyberbullying doesn’t involve physical harm so what’s the harm?
Fact: Actually, some people have committed suicide as a result of not seeing any way out of the non-stop harassment, threats and abuses. The emotional scarring stays for a lot longer and sometimes a person will never get over this. Some websites allow people to post anonymously which can mean it is very hard to stop this abuse.
Myth: Cyberbullying can only affect someone if they are online and have an account too
Fact: This is not true, we often hear of pages and fake accounts being created without person’s permission or knowledge. This sort of cyberbullying is on the increase and just as serious as any other form of bullying.
Myth: It is not bullying if someone deletes the comment or post
Fact: Regardless of hitting delete, once something is posted online is gets its own unique URL which means that it can stay on cyberspace even if you hit delete.
Myth: If bullying was so bad, why don’t they have a law about it?
Fact: Some forms of bullying are illegal and should be reported to the police including violence or assault, theft, repeated harassment or intimidation, e.g.threats and abusive phone calls, emails or text messages and hate crimes.
Myth: Reporting a bully will make things worse
Fact: You may worry that reporting a bully might make the bullying escalate or they feel they are not believed. It is important to confide in someone you trust so that you can have some help in getting the necessary support to get this stopped.
Myth: It is easy to spot the signs of bullying
Fact: It is not always easy to spot the signs of bullying as it is not always physical and obvious. Emotional, verbal and online bullying can often leave scars that people don’t see.
Myth: Children grow out of bullying
Fact: Quite often children who bully may grow up to be adults who bully or use negative behaviour to get what they want, unless there has been intervention and their behaviour challenged by the relevant authorities, whether it be school or parents, etc.
Using these myths as a conversation starter can help manage difficult and awkward discussions. These myths and facts can also be used as a classroom resource.
Bullying is wrong and it affects the victim, impacts on our friends and family and the wider community, but also affects the perpetrator.
It is important that you do not struggle alone when you are being bullied, always tell a person who you can trust. This will then help you to access the support and guidance that you may need during a difficult time.
How to deal with bullying at school
If you are being bullied at school, tell a friend, tell a teacher and tell your parents. It can be hard to do this so if you don’t feel you can do it in person it might be easier to write a note to your parents explaining how you feel, or perhaps confide in someone outside the immediate family, like a grandparent, aunt, uncle or cousin and ask them to help you tell your parents what’s going on.
If you feel able to, please confide in a teacher you trust. You can ask a friend to come with you so you do not feel alone. If you don’t feel you can do that, then speak to the school nurse or the pastoral team. Don’t be tempted to respond to any bullying or hit back because you could get hurt or get into trouble.
- people calling you names
- making things up to get you into trouble
- hitting, pinching, biting, pushing and shoving
- taking things away from you
- damaging your belongings
- stealing your money
- taking your friends away from you or leaving you out
- posting insulting messages or rumours, in person online
- threats and intimidation
- making silent or abusive phone calls
- sending you offensive texts or messages
The websites and resources below have been put together to help you to get more information, help and advice.
- Childline: 0800 1111
- Kidscape helpline: 020 7730 3300
- Local Samaritans at 107 North Street, Romford: 01708 740000
- Anti-bullying Alliance
Drop in advice for secondary school pupils
- Youth Zone, 10 Headley Close, High Street, Romford
- Information Shop for Young People, 110 Petersfield Avenue, Harold Hill