From Issue #8
Talking About Bullying
By Jim Agapito
Lang, a 17-year-old student from Taber, Alberta, was "everybody's
best punching bag," until he was gunned down by a bully.
Perhaps Reena Virk, the 14 year old from Victoria, B.C., was
"too brown in a predominantly white society," so she
was attacked, brutalized and beaten unconscious, and left to
drown by 7 of her schoolmates.
All Dawn-Marie Wesley wanted were the taunts and threats to
stop. She was terrified of the "toughest girls" in
school and felt suicide was her only escape - and said so, on
her suicide note before she hung herself with a dog leash. In
a historic, precedent-setting case, one of the 'toughest girls'
has since been convicted of criminal harassment or bullying.
The Montreal based punk-pop group, Simple Plan, best known for
their mega-hit, "I'm Just a Kid," had a lot to say
on the topic. Lead guitarist, Jeff Stinco, remembers when he
was bullied, "To get home from school I had to go through
a rough neighbourhood and sometimes I got pushed or made fun
of because I was such a small guy." Stinco eventually realized
that the bullies were probably just frustrated with their own
Bassist, Sebastien Lefebvre believes, "it's really the
bully who is the loser because he thinks he needs to do stuff
like that to bring himself up." Lefebvre feels that bullies
get off on the power it gives them, that is, feeling they have
power over someone else.
According to Professor Dan Olweus, a bully researcher and specialist
at the Canadian Health Networks, individuals who tend to be,
"stronger, more aggressive, bolder and more confident than
average, typically bullies other students who are weaker, timid
and who tend not to retaliate or act in an assertive manner."
It creates a power imbalance, which gives the bully more satisfaction
as they ascertain power over the victim.
BullyOnline, a website on bullying, states that, "Reasons
for being picked on include being fat, thin, tall, short, hair
or skin colour, being quiet, wearing glasses, having big ears,
small ears, sticky-out ears, crooked teeth, being from a different
culture, having different likes or dislikes, the 'wrong' clothes,
unwillingness to use strength to defend him or herself, or any
perceived or fabricated 'excuse'." More importantly, the
site goes on to state that, "The target is simply a useful
object onto whom the bully can displace his or her aggression.
In other words, if someone is picked on because they are allegedly
'fat,' then losing weight will make no difference; the bully
simply invents another justification."
So, forget about trying to 'fix' whatever the bully thinks is
supposedly wrong with you. Get help. "You've got to stop
caring about what people think about what you look like or your
image. Don't get caught up in how 'uncool' it might seem, just
talk to someone about it," says Chuck Comeau, Simple Plan's
drummer. "You've got to go out and find someone you trust,
a friend, a parent, just someone you can talk to because that
could be the difference between suicide and staying alive,"
Comeau says. He feels that no one should have to burden something
like this alone.
Often people who are bullied are quiet or shy and aren't willing
to defend or stand up for themselves and will need someone else
to intervene. So, "If you're a 'popular' person then you're
also a person of power in high school and you should do something.
Maybe talk to the bully and let them know it's not cool,"
states Pierre Bouvier the lead singer.
"When you see something like that (bullying) happening
you feel kind of weird inside, you know something's not cool
Comeau adds, "Something is wrong and you have to make a
choice to either do something or watch it happen."
Lefebvre recalls, "I saw someone being bullied and went
up to him and told him to come hang out with us. That was the
end of his being bullied days." Sometimes all it takes
is for an outsider to step in.
Bullies are very often people who have been bullied or abused
themselves and are experiencing life situations they cannot
cope with, and this leaves them feeling helpless and out of
control. They may have poor social skills, have problems fitting
in and probably cannot meet the expectations of their family
or school. They bully to feel competent, successful, to control
someone else, to get some relief from their own feelings of
That's why Jeff Stinco says that, "I don't think people
should be put in jail for bullying. They should be getting some
kind of assistance, some psychological help," and continues
to say, "The bully who caused [Dawn-Marie Wesley] to hang
herself probably never thought things would go that far."
However, bassist David Desrousiers disagrees, "Yeah. I
think bullying should be a criminal offence 'cause it's just
not cool to be a bully."
If you have been bullied or seek
check out some of these sites:
Alberta-based Web site
Campaign against workplace bullying
Safe Child Program,
Coalition for Children
British Columbia-based group
Citizens Against Bullying Association of Northern Alberta