It’s Lisa’s heartwrenching story about her daughter, a victim of bullying in 2017 that must make us all think about how we can bring to an end heartless bullying in Australia.
How can we help Lisa and her daughter overcome the bullies, the bullying, the stigma, the outdated attitudes of the school and it’s staff?
Again, common bullying words
- kill yourself
Listen… Australia in 2017
- One in four children aged 8-14 experience bullying each and every day.
- Children with disabilities are at higher risk, 62 percent are victims.
- 10 to 20 percent of kids are victims of cyberbullying.
‘You’re worthless’ – Every day my daughter is attacked and I can’t stop it
This mother feels powerless as her daughter fades away in front of her. She doesn’t know how much longer it can go on.
Three years ago, I had everything a loving husband, three beautiful happy children, family memories of enjoyable holidays and time together.
Then everything changed.
My 13-year-old daughter, Emily, overcame a rough start in life to become a bubbly, happy child who lit up a room. Now though, she is a dark and withdrawn teen with no passions or interest in life. Those that have known her her whole life are shocked to see her now.
What changed? One word: Bullying
It started out minor with name-calling, flippant remarks but then it got worse. Girls ganged up together, she was physically pushed and shoved, hit, harassed and attacked on social media and text messages.
“You’re fat and ugly.”
“You’re stupid, you cry baby.”
“You should just kill yourself.”
Those are just some of the messages my daughter receives each day. The girls stole her photos and used them to mock her; they circulated her phone number and encouraged others to join in the bullying.
Now you’re probably thinking, why not approach the school instead of speaking out publicly? The truth is, I did. I approached them repeatedly, but every time I wonder why I bothered. They were quick to make excuses, but reluctant to make changes.
“They come from a bad home,” they told me about the offenders. “We’re also targeted, we get hit and abused.” “Why doesn’t she sit right outside the office away from these people?”
Blaming the victim
Emily isn’t perfect by any means, she has her moments but she isn’t nasty or mean. She’s a child with significant learning delays; she’s been diagnosed with global delay and now a possible intellectual disability. I believe these perceived weaknesses are what make her a target. Maybe if her disabilities were more visible people wouldn’t dismiss the bullying.
To me the school seems to have no care policy, for several hours a day, not just me but all parents trust that our children are kept safe – and this obviously isn’t happening. They blame the victim as much as they can, make up excuses for the bullies and they don’t punish the perpetrators until it’s too late. They do assemblies and classes saying bullying is wrong, but they don’t do much to stop it.
They don’t see the worst of it
What the schools and the bullies don’t see is life behind the scenes, the damage they cause on their victim. I watch countless days and nights, my daughter sitting alone in her dark bedroom, just lying there, unable to sleep as she is going through all the hurtful words that were said to her, wondering if they really were true, wondering if she really is worthless.
She cries hysterically, she cuts at her arm to release the emotional pressure she’s feeling. She rapidly gains weight as she uses food as a comfort. She sometimes says she doesn’t want to wake up. As a mother I shouldn’t have to check on her in the shower if she’s taking her time, I shouldn’t have to monitor any sharp objects in her room, yet I do. Her sister suffers too as she tries to protect her, her dad feels helpless and scared for his little girl. These are the behind the scenes, this is the reality of bullying gone on for too long.
Out of control
The Australian Institute of Family Studies says bullying is a systematic power of abuse – yet there are no laws in place to protect the victim unless it turns to violence. One in four children aged 8-14 experience bullying each and every day. Children with disabilities are at higher risk, 62 percent are victims.10 to 20 percent of kids are victims of cyberbullying.
What was more concerning during my research was a survey of schools in 40 countries which found Australia to have one of the highest reported incidents of bullying. This clearly is a problem that’s out of hand.
Bullying can affect a person’s mental health and wellbeing; it can lead to anxiety, depression and being suicidal. Bully victims are 2-9 times likely to consider suicide, but what’s more alarming is that suicide is the third leading cause of death in young people age 10-24 years old.
A person can kill someone, and be charged with murder, punished for this crime, yet a person who bullies someone to the point of suicide can go unpunished, they don’t need to accept responsibility.
To me, this behaviour is done with intent to cause harm, damage or worse death. Again, you can be charged with this over a driving offence, yet for bullying, there’s no significant law. This needs to be changed, people need to be held responsible for their actions.I’m just a mum, I’m just one person with ideas, but these ideas are from clear observations.I want schools to start to teach classes in self-confidence, lessons to teach them to feel positive about themselves and dismiss the negative comments from others.
Why not get the kids involved? Older students could be peer support, available to speak to younger kids who are struggling. Maybe they don’t feel comfortable talking to an adult, at least this way we’d know they are talking to someone. Why not get parents more involved?
We want to help, we feel pretty helpless.
Each year on the National Day of Action against violence and bullying, I’d like to see schools joining in. Fundraisers, badges, speeches. This cause should be highlighted.
Obviously, this isn’t something schools can just take on, it’s the education department, they need to accept that there’s a problem and find a solution. Schools themselves are powerless without that instruction and support. The Australian government needs to step up, needs to realise that more needs to be done and offer support, assistance and finances.My experience may be with my local school, but this is a problem at all schools. I’ve spoken with many other parents going through this.There are too many victims, too many families suffering. How many parents need to keep burying their children?
There are too many people afraid to stand up, in fear they too will be targeted, there are too many bystanders t due to peer pressure or in fear they will be labelled “not cool”, not enough to people to stand up and say, enough is enough.
I am only a mother, just one person with a voice, but ask yourself, if this was your child what would you do? Wouldn’t you at least try? Believe me, I wouldn’t wish this upon anyone. But it’s time to realise there’s a problem and admit this has to stop.
Bullying is not OK! It’s time to take a stand!