Posts Tagged ‘Violence and Abuse’

Little girl isolated

Originally posted in 2012, now updated

As we hear the news that a 16-year-old Australian boy who had been bullied so much that he tried to kill himself has finally died from his injuries, and of an Ohio school student who was marginalised and bullied and who tragically took a gun to his classmates, we are again reminded of the awful dangers of bullying.

The events in Ohio are too recent and too unclear to comment upon in any detail. But we know the story of Dakoda-Lee Stainer who two years ago tried to end his own life: bullies at his Kempsey school had tormented him mercilessly for months, and on this particular day he had been accosted by a gang of teens.

He survived the suicide attempt, however was clinically dead for 30 minutes.

Dakoda-Lee suffered irreversible damage to his windpipe and was left terminally ill with severe brain damage. He was unable to speak or walk and had to eat through a tube in his stomach.

The high school student was raised in Toowoomba but moved to northern NSW in 2007.

His mother, Tess Nelson told the Toowoomba Chronicle in November: “We live every day as we can and we help him as much as we can. If his windpipe collapses it might be his last breath.”

On Valentine’s Day this year, Dakoda-Lee passed away in Caboolture Hospital. We pass our heartfelt admiration and sympathy to his carers, family and friends.

Ever since his tragic accident, his mother, has been campaigning to give a voice to her son who had lost his own.

The Facebook group ‘See justice done for Dakoda-Lee Stainer’ says “Please join my group and we can speak for him. justice must be done, criminal charges laid and compensation given. And maybe together we can help make a change.”

According to News Limited and Yahoo, Dakoda-Lee’s stepfather Bill Kelly, is suing the NSW Department of Education and Communities for damages. The family claims it breached its duty of care.

What can you do?

Re-blog this page, re-post it to Facebook, email around this article to your friends. Especially, but not exclusively, if you’re an Aussie, because on Friday 21 March, schools throughout Australia will join together to celebrate the annual National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence.

For more information, please visit Bullying No Way or their Facebook page.

A lifetime ago, and for many years, at boarding school near London, I was mercilessly bullied.

Brutally. Repeatedly. Continuously.

In what amounted to nothing more nor less than emotional, psychological and physical torture, I was ruthlessly teased, beaten, humiliated, and marginalised.

I was picked on primarily because I was creative – a writer, singer and actor – and unusually intelligent and sensitive in a school environment that largely mistrusted those qualities. And because the pack or the mob always seems to need a victim to unite against, and because once a child at school is accorded victim status it takes an earthquake to turn things around, this lasted from the age of about 11 until about 16.

I came from a middle class home in the south of the country, most of my classmates came from working class homes in the north.

I was obviously from Welsh stock. Not very tall, and slightly overweight. (This later helped me be an effective rugby player, playing hooker in the middle of the pack, which re-aligned my community status a little.)

I missed my home and didn’t hide it.

I also had bad breath which no amount of tooth brushing seemed to cure. (In later life I discovered I have sleep apnea and have probably had it all my life from birth due to a combination of nasal and soft palate deformities – as a result my mouth would dry out at night.) Needless to say, no social or medical intervention was offered.

Teachers can be bullies, too. You know who you are.

Complaining to teachers about the treatment meted out to me was usually met with advice to “toughen up” and “fight back”, and often a sneering assumption that I was somehow responsible for my own bullying. One teacher in particular would deliberately curry favour with my pupil cohort by bullying me himself. He is probably dead now, which is a shame, as I would like to land just one mighty blow on his ugly, smug little face. I hope he rots in the deepest most lonely corner of hell. I’m sorry that those thoughts are ignoble, and beneath me. Walk a mile in my shoes.

At stages in my life, when reacting to stress, I have struggled with both depression and obsessional compulsive disorder.

(I am reasonably well at the moment, thank you, and have been for some time.) I ascribe both, in overwhelming measure, to my school experiences. I still have nightmares: I am now 54.

That I have grown, eventually, into a moderately well-adjusted adult with a working quantity of cheerfulness, stoicism and self-esteem cannot hide the scars I still carry from this experience.

I am, for example, by nature, somewhat “conflict averse”. In a conflict situation at home or at work I will commonly either over-react with anger, frustration and fear, or under-react, with acquiescence and grudging agreement. I have had to learn, step by painful step, to assert my point of view quietly and good-naturedly in these situations, and not to take any opposition personally (as it rarely is personal), and to laugh off minor setbacks. I expect to have mastered this skill by the age of about 80, which will leave me just enough time to get on well with the bossy busy-body nurses in my retirement home, and even my killjoy gerontologist when he tells me that a road-trip grape-grazing in the Yarra Valley would probably be counter-productive at my age.

I eventually managed to bring the bullying under some sort of control by one day losing my cool altogether and belting two tons of shit out of a couple of big kids who were the ringleaders.

I surprised myself. I certainly surprised them.

This didn’t fix the problem entirely, but it ameliorated it. Needless to say, this was an antiquated, barbaric response to a barbaric problem, and it should never have come to that. It was probably fortunate that I was not living in a country with free access to firearms, or the place might have been minus a few students and at least one teacher. Perhaps two, thinking back.

Many school bullies, interviewed later in life, express bitter regret at their behaviour, and talk of how they too felt isolated and frightened, and how they fell into leadership of the pack and a cycle of poor behaviour that they felt unable (or unguided) to leave. Some of them report carrying those behaviours over into adult life, causing themselves and others great sadness.

The victims of bullying frequently take their own lives, or suffer the torments of hell trying to re-establish the self-esteem and sense of safety that should never be stripped away from a child.

So what can you do?

Make the world a better place. 

At the very least, click now and get behind Bullying No Way in your school community: as a start, ask what your school is doing to participate. Consider in what ways the principles involved could be utilised in your family and workplace, too.

If you are overseas and reading this, ask your school or education authorities whether they should be running similar programs.

And above all – above all – if you’re a parent – ask your child if they are ever bullied. Including “online” bullying, now, a horrible new phenomenon. And listen to their answer with fierce attention.

Or find out if they bully anyone else.

And if either is true, do not ignore it, or hope it will go away, or brush it off and dismiss it. Work out what action to take to correct the situation. Get professional help if necessary.

Because sooner or later, bullying is a problem for all of us. And it maims – and even ends – lives.

There has been a lot of hoo-hah in Australia in recent days over an Elle McPherson Intimates catalogue that shows a woman in what some women argue is a demeaning position. The photo in question is here:

Elle McPherson shot creates uproar

The assumption is that the woman on the floor has been the subject of domestic violence, although some have also wondered if she was doing a “line” of coke or simply trying to get a stain off the carpet.

The furore reminded me of this billboard from a couple of years ago:

Voodoo Men Dogs

At the time, a complaint against the billboard (one of some 60 received) was dismissed because the powers that be regarded it as a “satirical comment on a patriarchal society”.

Which I frankly call “bullsh*t”. The billboard is clearly sexist, and in our view fighting fire with fire only results in, er, bigger fires.

For what it’s worth, I think the McPherson pic is yet another example of “Dom-Sub chic” neo-porn, which given the runaway success of a book (I use the word cautiously) like Fifty Shades of Grey seems hardly a surprising tactic, and which is popping up everywhere.

Fashion? Porn? Erotica? How do you tell? Does it matter?

Fashion? Porn? Erotica? Just great photography? How do you tell? And does it matter? Why?

The recent story from the fire brigade bemoaning how many times they’re called on to free people from handcuffs where they’ve left the key out of reach would seem to imply that what might once have been considered extreme has become more mainstream, albeit somewhat incompetently.

Heigh ho, Whatever gets you through the night.

What is clearly impossible to ascribe to any such image, of course, is any sense or understanding of “consent”, or otherwise. Because a woman (or man) assumed to be adopting a consensual submissive role might be acceptable, whereas a depiction of a rape or other anti-personal violence clearly would not. (Well, not in our opinion, anyhow.) But how does one know from a still image?

How on earth the reader or viewer is intended to work out the difference, sometimes, is quite beyond our ken.

Any thoughts or suggestions?

weapons

This is a deadly weapon ……….. and so is this …………… and so is this.

There is a lot of discussion in the world currently about guns. The recent events in Colorado make that inevitable. And the arguments on both sides in favour of the Second Ammendment to the Constitution in America, and in every other country in the world, will rage on. We do ourselves a dis-service if we do not concede that there is sincerity on both sides, although not in the case of everyone doing to the arguing.

Try to pick this issue apart, I have always said that in my opinion it is the attitude – the desire to carry a weapon, and the acceptability of that – that determines the likely outcome, and the question of an innate a preparedness to engage in violence. Even if that preparedness is momentary, fleeting, instinctive. The effects can last forever.

There is little doubt in my mind that some countries are inherently more violent than others, with less concern about the potential for human injury or death. I have opined many times that the real problem with guns in America, for example, is their casual acceptance of violence – not to mention poverty, disconnectedness, crime and lack of social justice – that leads that nevertheless great country to suffer even more gun violence than even its vast number of weapons in circulation would assumptively lead to.

It’s not just the number of guns in America that matters. It is people’s preparedness to use them.

But guns are only part of the story. We have seen recent high-profile cases in Victoria and New South Wales – but they occur regularly – where a single punch has killed a young man.

I have thrown punches in my life. The thought now horrifies me. A single punch can kill. When will we learn?

So it is surely the duty of all parents, all teachers, and all law enforcement officers, all social workers, all churchmen, all imams, all politicians, to promote one simple fact.

Violence – other than, PERHAPS – in self-defence (a matter for another article) – is unacceptable, under any circumstances, because violence, even minimal violence, even violence without serious intent, can maim or kill.

Another tragic case today

Today, the Victorian Supreme Court has heard the story of a 15-year-old boy, who fatally stabbed a mother of three after “egging” her home, and that he would be considered just “a naughty little boy” had he not been carrying a knife.

However, he was. And the teenager has pleaded guilty to manslaughter, after he killed a 43-year-old woman with a single stab wound to the chest. She died of severe blood loss.

Prosecutor Mark Rochford told the court the teenager targeted the house with his friends, after he told them the woman’s son was bullying him after school.

The court heard that the woman, her husband and 11-year-old daughter gave chase after eggs were thrown at the roof of their house, carport and cars in July last year.

The boy, who was 14 at the time, ran away and was hiding in a nearby driveway when the woman confronted him.

He was armed with a knife that he had been given by his friend. It was described as being “no bigger than a pen.”

Mr Rochford said the woman said “we’ve got you” before running at the boy, who then stabbed her.

The teenager asked his brother to get rid of the knife. It was found by police divers in a lake.

Friends gave him up

The prosecution said the boy shaved his head to try and avoid detection, but he was arrested at his home after his friends went to police.

The boy’s lawyer said causing the death of a person was hard for a 14-year-old to digest and his client was deeply remorseful.

“He is not a child who was off the rails at the time,” he said. “He is no rat-bag.”

Indeed, the court heard he is a very timid, quiet and withdrawn boy with no history of violence. The defence submitted the boy should be sentenced to three years in youth detention.

Justice Paul Coghlan questioned whether it was enough, given that he was armed with a knife. “Apart from the knife, they were just naughty little boys,” the judge said. However, he said, the boy had chosen to take a knife to what was a childish prank. The boy will be assessed by youth justice and will be sentenced at a later date.

“Why would anyone think it necessary to have a knife?” the judge asked.

Why, indeed?

Marissa Alexander … if you want to defend yourself in Florida, you’d better be white and wealthy.

The jury took 12 minutes to convict. 12 MINUTES.

No one died. No one was even hurt.

A woman defended herself against abusive violence by firing a warning shot, in a state where such action is explicitly permitted by law.

Today, she faces 20 years in jail. TWENTY YEARS.

Read the story, and weep that the American justice system still acts like this.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/02/marissa-alexander-florida-stand-your-ground_n_1472647.html

A petition has now been set up to address the case. I urge you to sign it.

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/503/600/056/dont-imprison-marissa-alexander-for-standing-her-ground/

Marissa could have got if with 3 years if she accepted a plea bargain but she refused in the hope she could convince the jury and judge her firing the weapon was self-defense.