There are moments in our lives that change the way we think forever.
With a spotlight on anti-bullying this week, a ROC staff member shares one such moment that took place in a cold scout hut one evening in 2006…
That night had started off like any other scout troop meeting – we played games and had then been building fires outside. But in the midst of toasting marshmallows on the fire, there was something stirring in the conversation.
You see, some of the scouts had been joking about how quiet David was – but the jokes were now getting out of hand. The banter that we had once laughed about was becoming more & more abusive towards David.
Andy, our ex-military, battle hardened Scout Leader had been watching from the distance. And as we were getting rowdier, our banter getting worse and worse, something was beginning to rise up in Andy. You could see it in his face – his once always calm expression was getting angrier until suddenly his booming voice cut through our juvenile banter “Right lads, everyone needs to get back inside right now and line up”.
Inside the Scout Hut, Andy told us the story of someone he had known at school, someone he too had teased, had had banter with. But just like us on that night, things had escalated. The banter had moved to bullying.
It was then that Andy dropped what felt like a bombshell on us. This friend Andy had bullied had taken his own life. Andy had been forced to live with the guilt that, as a direct result of his actions, his friend was no longer with us.
Banter, defined as ‘the playful and friendly exchange of teasing remarks’ is seen as a form of bonding and humour. Bullying, on the other hand, is defined as using ‘superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone)’ and deemed to be hurtful or offensive.
The seriousness of that night had really hit us as we realised that our words and actions had been more dangerous than the fire we had been stood next to. We had crossed the line of what had once been jokes between friends to saying things that were actually hurtful. We had crossed from banter to bullying.
This week (13th-17th November) is anti-bullying week. A week dedicated to raising awareness of bullying and helping children and young people understand how important it is that every child feels valued and included in school, able to be themselves, without fear of bullying. In a study in 2011*, it was found that over 16,000 11-16 year olds are absent from school because of bullying, and last year alone there were over 24,000 Childline counselling sessions with children about bullying**.
Earlier this week the children of the Junior Club, at The FUSE (ROC HQ), created posters to help raise awareness of bullying and how they can play their part in stopping it
We know that raising awareness doesn’t in itself stop bullying, but showing the scale of the problem is the first step to stopping bullying in our schools and workplaces.
Anti bullying week is a great opportunity to get involved, take a stand against bullying and help raise awareness in your school, college or organisation.
Join the conversation and share your stories and on Facebook, Instagram & twitter using the hashtag #stopbullying and help take a stand against bullying.
*Brown, V., Clery, E. and Ferguson, C. (2011) Estimating the prevalence of young people absent from school due to bullying (PDF)
**Bentley, H. et al (2017) How safe are our children? The most comprehensive overview of child protection in the UK 2017