The Dutch have a brilliant word for Bullying - they call it "Pesten". After all, bullies are like pests to start with, as they are allowed to continue they become more and more dangerous and start burrowing into the core of your being.
Bullying actually relies on two pronged laziness. After all, bullies go for easy targets to start with (but they never bother to look under the surface to really see their victim) - the other form of laziness is on the part of the "innocent bystanders" who do nothing to help the victim at the time, or don't bother to report it.
There seems to be a common misconception around bullying. Some people seem to be under the strange impression that bullying can only be deemed to have taken place when the victim is seen to be negatively affected by it (self-harm, suicidal, withdrawing from friends and family, etc), or have visible damage to their person as a result of it (bruises, ripped clothes, missing belongings, etc).
As a "survivor" (and I use that term very loosely indeed) of bullying myself I would say - if it gets to either of those stages it is far too late to prevent damage. In reality, bullying can start with an "innocent" remark - in my case it was "Oi - Four-Eyes" from some child who couldn't be bothered to dredge their memorybank to remember what my name was (worse was when people decided to try to use my surname to attract my attention).
Sometimes I could kind of see the funny side of the taunts - usually when some bright spark of a "gang" leader decided to try my glasses on for themself and give their friends a giggle. Why was this particularly funny to me??? Because I soon learned that - after their mates had had a laugh about what they looked like with my glasses on - their next word would invariably be a variation of "Ow", "Aye ya" (Leicestershire vernacular uttered when someone hurts themself or is caused physical pain), or "my head hurts", or even (and this is my favourite) "How can you see through these?" as the glasses were returned to their rightful owner - me.
A couple of years ago I was being patronised by someone who was fundraising for "Guide Dogs for the Blind" - they started on their spiel about how blind people and people who are Registered Partially Sighted have difficulty coping with everyday life, I let them waffle on for a few minutes then I took my glasses off and handed them to the chugger with the polite words "try these on". I had made no prior mention of my sight. The chugger's attitude changed dramatically after they had (a) handed my glasses back and (b) waited for their sore eyes to calm down and their sore head to fade slightly.
You could say that I am actually one of the "lucky" ones as far as bullying goes - after all, I have a bold and prominent signpost to the fact that I am defective (nowadays you maybe have to spend that little bit more time in my presence to find out the exact extent of my defect but, I would say that having a pair of glasses almost welded to your nose during waking hours might be a big clue).
However, what about those people who look perfectly normal on the outside but have a hidden disability or illness (for example - Mental Health issues)???
One of my friends (who I will not name out of respect for them - although they gave me permission to tell you my side of the story) gave me a taster of how bad that can be.
The first I knew something was up was when my friend posted a rather cryptic tweet on Twitter - something along the lines of "why don't people ask first before jumping to conclusions?".
When I asked my friend if they were OK I was absolutely horrified by what they told me. Some idiot had decided it would be a good idea to text my friend saying they seemed to be infatuated with someone - not only that but according to the idiot my friend was an embarrassment to someone else as a result of their apparent "infatuation". Of course, the idiot sent the text anonymously. (Good job too - I dread to think what I would have said to the idiot if I found out who they were!)
If the person who sent that vicious text to my friend had asked them for the reasons behind the so-called "infatuation" before sending it they might have had a shock. The reasons were two-fold - one, my friend genuinely wanted to support someone in their endeavours because, two, the person they wanted to support had helped my friend with their Mental Health issues in a variety of ways.
My friend had previously told me why the object of the so-called "infatuation" was so important to them - and I understood my friend's reasons because I shared them (all be it to a slightly lesser extent).
Thus began the attempt to drag my friend back from the edge (you have no idea how hard it was when the only physical connections between us were the same connections used by the idiot in the first place - Twitter and text messages).
I have to admit that there were times when I thought I was about to turn into the bad guy of the story as well - in my case it would have been unintentional - I was so scared in case I made the wrong move and made the situation worse.
Eventually, I managed to persuade my friend to contact the object of the so-called "infatuation" (who is, ironically, a mutual friend of ours) and explain the situation. After their conversation the change in my friend was remarkable - going from someone who wanted to walk away from Twitter to someone who was determined the bully wouldn't win. This meant that my friend's campaign of supporting our mutual friend was back on. It also meant that I could go back to being a friend instead of a kind of lifejacket.
So - maybe next time you want to comment on someone else's disability, actions, appearance, behaviour, etc, you would be wiser to ask that person about whatever you find odd, embarrassing, etc, about them instead? A little education goes a long way.
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