- Rose Hartigan
Silence is Compliance
In light of the UK's Anti-Bullying week (Monday 14th-Friday 18th November), Rose Hartigan utilises her own personal experiences to outline how one should best try and cope with the effects of bullying. Moreover, Hartigan also articulates the harm of being passive when in the presence of an act of bullying:
Artwork by Ruby Tait (IG: @Rubyt.art).
Selling Sunsets may not be intended to be a moral guide, but my Netflix vice has finally paid off. I think a moment in thisreality show has been of more service to me than three years of therapy. Watching this has given me the validation that no professional has ever been able to grant me. As a 20-year-old, still blasting Bebe Rexha’s F.F.F it is clear that I am still affected by my years at school. The introduction of Chelsea Lazkani, into a toxic group of women who are pitted against each other, has been so cathartic to how I view my four years of being a victim of bullying. In honour of anti-bullying week, this article will hopefully be of some help if you have suffered from bullying. Anti-Bullying week is arranged by the Anti-Bullying Alliance (https://anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk/anti-bullying-week/anti-bullying-week-2022-reach-out). As part of the week, people are encouraged to wear odd socks; a nice sentiment to celebrate the strength in differences (which are usually a breeding ground for bullying).
The label of bullying has felt too excessive for my experiences, but after watching Lazkani, state that ‘silence is compliance’ I feel validated to use such an emotive word. The isolation method, as I like to call it, is typically depicted as a feminine form of bullying, such as Mean Girls as a typical example. However the experience of teenage boys can't be boxed into physical as this would only aid the bully and diminish individual’s experiences. The main factor of ‘silent bullying’is that one can be a victim without any physical proof, so that it is one person's word against another's.
The effect bullying has on people can turn them into insular, withdrawn beings whose self esteem is so damaged that you can detach yourself and feel that you have lost all social connections, blaming yourself because it'sexhausting trying to go on. The worst part is that a victim of bullying becomes equipped with the tools to continue their own bullying campaign against themselvesfor years afterwards. The oversensitive label is quickly applied by teachers as a means of addressing the situation when there are no black eyes present. This creates huge self doubt that soon transfers to every aspect of the person's life.
I want to focus on this emotional bullying that serves to isolate, hidden behind a smokescreen of smiles and clever comments. It is relentless and yet cunning. It makes it hard to trust people, as an appearance of amiability can be used to mask the bullying. Moreover, one can never underestimate the power of the pack. Each person's preference to stay quiet is more powerful than the initial blow, it makes the person feel they deserve it. If no one stands up then the person suffering is less likely to speak up. Due to the nature of this form of bullying, that should be noted as a continual occurence of events, designed to target someone, it can often go unnoticed or minimised by teachers or school officials. Therefore, it is important that teachers are informed on how to spot this form of bullying, so that the person feels seen, without needing the classic blackeye that, in the media, seems to be the badge of bullying.
Let's talk statistics; according to anti-bullying alliance, 1 in 10 people experience bullying. The lone figure suggests the pack mentality and isolation tactics of bullying. This shows that by going with the crowd and not standing up for someone, can be treated as complicity, giving the bully free rein.
Being a victim of bullying can seriously alter the brain as it becomes robbed of all serotonin. If you are lucky and this pattern of violence is spotted then the school might churn out a counsellor conveyor belt. Yet it is only going to Uni, and hitting rock bottom that things finally improved for me.If you are fortunate enough to access a university counselling service, and actually be seen, take advantage of it. Making new friends isn't a fix. There is no quick fix, years after I still experience nightmares, and create problems that don't exist. My
brilliant Uni friends have to remind me that there is no hidden agenda behind our friendship.
Yet if you have been the victim of bullying and haven't made new friends, or have just started at uni this September then remember that viewing ‘university as a clean slate’ is optimistic, you will always carry the scars of bullying, but each year they will shrink. Whilst bullying becomes all encompassing as it infiltrates the person's sense of identity, making it feel that there is no escape, it is possible to move on. This was my school experience, but can be relevant to any group situation, whether that be university, in the workplace, etc. Here are a few tips, in my experience, that can help the process :
● Keep a journal of all instances, however insignificant; having proof can not only help to report bullying, but also to feel validated, to avoid labels of being'oversensitive'. This applies to cyberbullying as well ; keep a hard copy.
● Join an online forum, or website, check out Young Minds. They have real stories to read.(this really helped to show me that no one deserves to be bullied, you can find comfort amongst a shared hurt).
● Music can keep you company, especiallypodcasts, they silence the voices.
● Register for the University counselling services and CBT. The waitlist is very long, but it is important to address the issues as they can surface years later. (CBT can help to rewire your brain so you approach situations and thoughts differentlythan the altered state of your mind; try Silvercloud).
● Controversial, but medication can really help (years of bullying can alter your serotonin levels).
● Tell you’re friends, if you're comfortable with it; you need friends to check you when your carrying past feelings into new experiences
● Let's talk about the victim complex ; This is tricky but sometimes you need to acknowledge when you're hurting yourself by staying in the past, and occupying the role of victim. Yes, acknowledge it, but be aware when you're carrying it; being sad is comforting as it's your old normal but it’s not helpful. This is much easier said than done!
The phrase ‘forgive and forget’ can be very frustrating to hear, but the sentiment has actually been very helpful in my ‘recovery from bullying’. You will probably never forget , but forgiving (even faking it until you can really do it) is very empowering, it's exhausting being angry and hurt.The most comforting thing may be that a victim of bullying is always equipped with the tools to spot bullying, they will spot it in its early stages.
As Chelsea Lazkani says 'silence is compliance' so stopping something before it starts by simply not ‘going along’ with it, makes you an important person to have in any environment of friends. Therefore, the comparison with Christine is irrelevant but the point stands, silence is compliance and until the group mentality is eroded then bullying will always be inherent in schools. It only takes one person to stop the cycle, as feeling supported isthe most important prevention in bullying and can just save someone'slife.