Unseen pain of ‘minor’ bullying

BULLYING can happen anywhere. What matters is what we can do to reduce its prevalence and impact.

From a young age, I have been exposed to anti-bullying campaigns and talks.

My teachers made sure I knew help was readily available whenever I needed it. Everyone I knew asserted that bullying was “not cool” and should be prevented at all costs.

I learnt a great deal about how to recognise and prevent bullying. However, I didn’t realise at the time that everything I had been taught only applied to situations where bullying was extremely noticeable and had got out of hand.

I have heard of many cases of bullying that were classified as “minor”. These cases were considered not dire enough to warrant attention; and comments from third parties often dismissed them as “misunderstandings”.

As victims of such cases have proven over and over again, these “small” actions have a terribly huge impact on people. This applies not only to the victims, but to the bullies too.

From my observations, people who love themselves don’t go out of their way to hurt other people. The more arrogant or miserable they are, the more they want others to suffer. As the saying goes, “Hurt people hurt people.”

I am not proud to say that I never noticed the victims of these “minor” cases until I found myself on the receiving end of such treatment.

Although I was reassured time and again that assistance was available, my teachers’ indifference towards my case made me feel discouraged from seeking help.

I began to question whether I was being bullied, as people around me – even the teachers I had believed to be the pillars against bullying – chose to ignore it.

Wouldn’t they have helped me, if I had truly been bullied? Maybe I was just being “oversensitive”.

Maybe if I ignored the bullies, as I was repeatedly told to do, they would stop. But they didn’t. And help never came.

Another pattern I have noticed in bullying cases that have gone unaddressed is a certain connection or relationship between the bullies and the victims.

My bullies used to be my closest friends. My teachers turned a blind eye to my reports because they assumed it was simply a small argument that would eventually be cleared up.

I began to distrust authority and question its seeming bias.

Why did my teachers refuse to help me? Why do we continue to ignore such cases in front of us? Would sweeping things under the carpet make things better?

Verbal bullying is often dismissed as “just jesting between friends”, while shoving or pushing another person is brushed off as “just an accident”. When will actions be taken?

It was reported that the Education Ministry had received 4,994 reports of bullying cases as of October 2023, which was an increase from 3,887 cases in 2022 and 326 cases in 2021.

Despite efforts to address this issue, some teachers continue to let their subjective judgements to determine whether bullying is “serious” or “minor”.

Only when we realise that victims of “minor” bullying also need help and support, can we truly turn the tide against bullying.

Jia-Rae, 15, a student in Selangor, is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team. For updates on the BRATs programme, go to facebook.com/niebrats.

With the theme of the article in mind, carry out the following English language activities.

1. What are some subtle forms of bullying? List them. Are you guilty of any? How do you think you can practise kindness in your interactions with others, and why is this important?

2. Imagine that you have a friend who has had to put up with some subtle forms of bullying. Write an informal letter to the friend, offering advice and encouragement.

The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) programme promotes the use of English language in primary and secondary schools nationwide. For Star-NiE enquiries, email starnie@thestar.com.my.

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BRATs , Star-NiE , bullying


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