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Bullying: Have you been bullied at school?

Bullying, No Way!

It has been a while some time since I wanted to write an article on bullying and, reading this article this morning Aussie children are some of the ‘world’s worst bullies’, report shows motivated me to take action. The figures* are so concerning that we all need to do everything we can to change this situation.

For me, it starts with communicating about this terrible problem, to raise awareness and invite everyone to be more attentive to the signs of distress linked to bullying. Another action I can take is to visit the Australian children in their schools to facilitate interactive and engaging workshops around bullying prevention, compassion and emotional intelligence for kids. In those workshops, I will also share my personal story, yes, I was bullied with no mercy, but I was also a bully once…

« Australian children are some of the world’s worst bullies, report shows »

An article published this morning by Benjamin Graham on revealed that Australian children are subject to some of the highest levels of bullying in the world. In this article, the youth legal services CEO David Kernohan, said, “Up to 50% of young people had experienced cyberbullying at some point in their lives – including his own son.”

The shocking figures reveal that 1 in 4 Australian children experience bullying! The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) surveyed 10 million 15-year-old students worldwide. Its report shows:

  • 1 in 10 Australian teenagers have been bashed or pushed at school.

  • 30% of Australian high school students are victims of bullying.

  • 10% of Australian kids were hit or pushed around by other students, compared to the global average of 7%.

  • 1 in 7 Australian teenagers said fellow students had taken or destroyed their belongings.

  • 10% were threatened and 12% were the targets of nasty rumours.

The findings from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report are shocking.

Bullying is a common issue across the globe

“ Do you know what Steven Spielberg, Christian Bale, Taylor Swift and Bill Clinton all have in common? Well, aside from the fact that they are all famous and successful, every one of them was bullied growing up. If you are being bullied, you are in some pretty good company.” Extract from the YouTube video, ways to stop bullying.

YouTube video: Ways to stop bullying

Some of the qualities that make a kid be seen as a target to be bullied are being too nerdy or too submissive, and liking the wrong activities or clothes. Being too different or extravagant can also make a kid a target, even though it will be an amazing asset in the future! Kids are trying to fit in when they will have to stand out in the future…

What happened in my personal story is called karma and probably opened me to the personal and professional development journey I followed. I have been unkind to one of the girls in the year preceding my difficult experience. I was teasing her from time to time and I was not really welcoming her in my circle. The following year, she decided to make me pay a heavy price with some heavy interest as she made me try my own medicine 10 times harder.

Some people and kids feel that being aggressive or unkind will keep them safe from being bullied, in reality, they may find a stronger person to make them try their own medicine.

My personal story with bullying: Yes, I have been bullied, but I was also a bully once…

Like many people across the globe, I have been bullied growing up. I was born and raised in France, but I could have experienced the same situation here in Australia. What happened to me is pretty common, after being unkind and unfriendly to a girl, she strengthened up, surrounded herself with an army and decided to make me pay a heavy price for my past actions.

In short, the persuasive ‘mean girl’ became ‘mean girls’ plural who managed to have the entire class turning their back to me. They didn’t stop there and started to harass me daily, while everyone else was just ignoring me. It was pretty intense and hard on the 12-year-old that I was. Every day I could hear how stupid and bad-looking I was. Every time I was doing something they were behind me, ready to make fun of me. When I was wearing something new that I was proud of, they were making me feel terrible about my looks and myself.

With their strong influence, they managed to have everyone in my class ignore me. Everyone but an excellent and strong friend! This supportive friend was often pressured to let me down with the threat of becoming a pariah just like me, but she never gave up on me. When everyone was pushed to avoid me, she resisted hard and stayed by my side. I could never thank enough this amazing friend, Marion, for her amazing loyalty and support back then.

The situation lasted for way too long. No adults at home or school had any idea of what was happening. It was becoming so ugly that I even thought of taking my life. It became too much for me to hide and I started to confide in my sister. I was lucky enough to have my family's support and an older sister who took action. Unfortunately, it didn’t solve all the problems as I was now called names for reporting my bullies. It took almost a full year of resilience and distress before other kids decided that it was a very cruel treatment and that they could be friends with me.

Impact of bullying

An environment characterised by disrespect, bullying, victimisation or violence can act as a barrier to learning. It results in low self-esteem, impacts on physical health and increases the likelihood of dropping out of school. The consequences are disastrous for the kids’ mental health and their academic achievements. It also goes further with way too many kids hurting themselves and taking their own lives because of bullying.

Another result of bullying is for the bullied to become bullies or violent. I remember a time when my bully pushed me way too hard verbally, it was too much, and I physically pushed this girl down the stairs. Nothing bad happened then but it could have been terrible and she could have hurt herself considerably. Of course, at that time, I couldn’t think it through and I only reacted, which represents a high risk for victims of bullying. After being passive for too long, the natural survival instinct is making bullied people and kids become aggressive.

The role of adults in children bullying

I can’t say that my parents didn’t get my back growing up, but they were not the kind of parents to step in on any occasion either. I was already pretty independent and I was not the kind of kid that would share a lot about personal feelings and experiences at school. It is probably a reason that made them react when I finally opened up.

It was not an easy process and it took time, a lot of time. From hiding my distress to staying quiet, I was not making the task easy for any adult who would try to help. When they finally noticed my pain, I was very vague and unclear, finding excuses instead of sharing the truth. It was only when I felt cornered with unhealthy thoughts that I decided to open up to my older sister.

She handled the situation brilliantly, acted as an intermediary with my parents and organised a meeting with the bullies and their older siblings. I was really against the idea; scared that it would make it worse, but I couldn’t take it anymore, and I couldn’t stay alone in this battle anymore. I will not say that the discussion solved all my issues but it definitely opened the girls’ eyes and they realised that they were going way too far. They teased me for reporting but they never pushed me hard again, they started to ignore me, before leaving behind the grief they had against me and welcoming me into their circle again.

A piece of advice for kids who are being bullied and the parents of bullied kids.

The reason I am deciding to share my own story and open up is to assist other kids and other parents with this struggle. We need more stories, more testimonials and more people to speak out to address the bullying issue.

To all the children being bullied, I want to say, please speak out! You are not alone; you are surrounded by people who love you and care about your well-being. No matter how complicated your story is, no matter if you feel that adults will not understand, try them! Speak, share your story, tell your friends and family, and share with them your battle and worry. That will be the only way to move towards a solution. You are not alone, you are not responsible, it is nothing you should be embarrassed about, and speaking will not make things worse!

To all parents, please look out for the signs of misery in your children. No kid should navigate this experience alone. Question your kids, invite their friends, observe their behaviour and get ready to act if anything changes. The adults just developed the “R U OK” initiatives to open conversations around mental health and well-being; we need to do the same with our kids.

To the parents of a bullied kid, be patient, be kind and be considerate. Do not rush your kid into talking or acting, and please, do not feel guilty for missing it. It is very easy for a kid to hide distress. Focus on the things you can change now that you know, and let go of the fact that you only found out recently. Open discussion, present ideas and possibilities, and let your kids decide on what is best for them. If you feel overwhelmed or if the bullying went too far, you can request some external assistance through the school or mental health specialists.

Strategies to face bullying

We can list a few keys from “don’t bully back”, to “get support from friends” and “talk to an adult you trust”. I am not saying that those keys will not work, however, in many cases, they might not be enough.

Personal development is about self-awareness, resilience, confidence building and relationships. An important key to preventing bullying at school is to teach teenagers and children from an early age about how to stand up for themselves and how to have respectful relationships. By introducing emotional intelligence at school, we assist the future generation in becoming better human beings able to handle their behaviour through great management of their emotions.

The video Ways to Stop Bullying offers a 4-step method to boost your self-confidence, protect yourself from harm and find help.

1. This is not your fault

Bullies have their reasons that have little to do with you and a lot to do with their personal issues. Unless you have done something very wrong, it is not your fault. Stop viewing yourself through your bullies’ eyes or you will see an inaccurate self-portrait. Instead, write down a list of your skills, qualities, competencies and accomplishments: this is the person that you really are. The next time a bully is trying to make you feel less than these amazing traits and talents, remember this list.

2. You are not alone

Surround yourself with people who care about you and who appreciate you for exactly who you are. You don’t have to go through this experience without backup. If you are facing trouble in finding people, try to find friends with similar interests. Join groups, clubs and communities linked to your passions and hobbies.

3. Ignore the bully

This one might sound easier said than done, although, the more attention you are giving to a bully, the more energy you are giving him/her to bully you. On some occasions, all the bully wants is attention, by ignoring the negative behaviour, you are not reinforcing this tendency. Travel in packs to try not to get caught alone with your bully. Get out of there! Do not stay in the same area or location with your bully. If you feel unsafe or overwhelmed, find a way out, go get your friends or ask for help.

4. Find someone you can talk to

Speak out! Nobody has the right to make you feel unsafe, uncomfortable or unhappy. Find someone you can trust and tell them what is going on. There is no reason for you to have to tackle this problem all by yourself. There are people out there who will drop everything to help you.

Final note: Bullying is not only targeting our children and teenagers, it also concerns adults. #Bullying – You are not alone

When thinking of bullying we always think of kids being bullied and bullying at school when in reality bullying is not exclusive to children or childhood. Adult bullying is a very common issue that is well-developed in various environments and forms. At work and home, many adults are experiencing bullying and will need to take the same steps as the kids to overcome this issue. Adults who are being bullied will need to focus on developing their assertiveness, avoiding and ignoring inappropriate behaviour and finding support by speaking out to someone they trust. You will find additional resources and links at the end of this article.

If you watch episode 4 of the first of Good Girls (Netflix TV show), you will see several examples of bullying across generations. In the first minutes, the episode shows that bullying travels across generations and from one generation to another. The full episode is filled with examples of bullying towards adults and kids for various reasons. This particular extract also points to the power of a group. Most bully will act differently alone; they feel empowered by the group, they like having an audience and feeling stronger when their friends surround them. The goal of sharing such examples is to show that bullying is widely spread, however, it is never ok. Violence, harassment and bullying are never ok; check out the resources below to find support if you are a victim or if you witness a situation of bullying.

Emergency Links in Australia

To members of the public who may be struggling, know that help is available 24/7.

In case of mental health emergencies or immediate support needs, here are essential links and contacts in Australia:

Emergency services: Dial 000 for immediate assistance in life-threatening situations.

  • NSW Mental Health Line: Call 1800 011 511.

  • Lifeline: Call 13 11 14, text 0477 13 11 14 or chat online.

  • Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 (24/7 support for anxiety, depression, and suicide prevention)

  • Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800 (24/7 support for children and young people)

  • Headspace: 1800 650 890 (Mental health support for young people aged 12-25)

  • 1800RESPECT: Call 1800 737 732, text 0458 737 732 or chat online.

  • 13 Yarn: Call 13 92 76.

  • MensLine Australia: Call 1300 78 99 78.

  • Report cyberbullying to



If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call Triple Zero (000).

Maud Vanhoutte

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