Real-life tales of terror (Poll Inside)

Power trip: Photo posed by models to illustrate an example of bullying. — AZMAN GHANI/The Star


PETALING JAYA: Jamie (not her real name) never expected that rejecting a boy at school when she was 15, could lead to a barrage of online harassment.

The bubbly lass was popular at her secondary school in Melaka due to her outstanding performance in sports.

“One day when I got out of the washroom, a boy from another class came up to me and cornered me against the wall.

“He put his hands against the wall between my face and told me that I was cute when I run, and asked me to be his girlfriend.

“I said no and pushed his hands away before running back to my class,” said Jamie, who is 17 now, in an interview.

Thinking it was the end of the incident, Jamie went on with her life as normal and would sometimes bump into the boy, who was in Form Five then.

However, her ordeal began about a week later, when the boy began spreading rumours that she was a lesbian and liked open relationships at school.

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“He also shared pictures of me hanging out with my other female classmates with captions containing derogatory remarks to his friends, who then shared them on their Instagram accounts.

“Some schoolmates and even teachers made fun of me.

“I also received messages on my Instagram from strangers asking me for a date and calls from unknown people using sexual expletives,” she said, adding that she felt overwhelmed and disturbed, and could not focus on her studies.

“I tried to explain to my teachers, but I was merely told I should shrug it off because it would go away soon,” she added.

Jamie’s mother, who only wanted to be known as Madam Yeoh, said she was both angry and upset about the incident.

“It was regrettable that this type of bullying is happening, and it has gone beyond school to affect my daughter’s life and studies,” she said.

After having a word with the class teacher, Yeoh said she also confronted the boy and his parents outside school.

“I gave the boy an earful about his bad behaviour that has affected other people’s lives.

“He said he only did it for fun because he was not happy after he got rejected.

“His parents and he apparently had no idea that his actions could land him in more trouble with the law,” she said.

Yeoh added that she also told the boy to remove the malicious online posts and make a public apology, and that she reserved her right to lodge a police report should he disturb Jamie again.

“With the help of his parents, the boy did what was asked, but the damage was done,” she said, adding that the rumours were still going around in school and there were random messages and calls to Jamie.

Jamie eventually changed schools in Form Four, deactivated her Instagram account and got a new mobile number.

What she went through is just the tip of the iceberg, according to a survey by the Health Ministry.

An 18-year university student who only wanted to be known as Luck said he was often inappropriately harassed by other students in the school toilet.

“They used to push me around, hit my private parts and insulted my family, and I did not know what to do other than just wait until they left,” he said.

Andurai, 18, said he often came back home from school with bruises all over his body.

“They used to pinch me really hard especially my nipples and arms. I did not know I was being bullied until I left school and took the time to reflect on my experience,” he added.

Danial Marican, 20, admitted that he used to bully students in school because it made him feel momentarily powerful and in control of his relationships with his peers.

“My parents used to have a very turbulent relationship at home and I had a lot of anger and frustration then.

“I would take out that anger on people I thought I could push around.

“I realise now that I was only making my situation worse by bullying others and transferring my pain onto them.

“I would like to say sorry to all those that I had bullied back in secondary school and that I have learned from my mistakes,” he added.

The Health Ministry’s Institute for Public Health’s National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS): Adolescent Health Survey (AHS) 2022, which involved 33,523 secondary school students aged 13 to 17, found that one in five adolescents in Malaysia had bullied and harassed somebody through the Internet, mobile phone or other electronic devices.

The perpetrators made up 22.7% of the male population and 13.9% of the female population.

Among the most common cyberbullying methods, the top three were making rude comments online (11.3%), spreading rumours about someone online (6.9%), and sending or posting embarrassing photos of others online (4.8%).

Others included making threatening comments to harm someone online (2%), asking someone about sex online (1.8%) and asking others to do something sexual online (1%).

Also, 8.6% of the surveyed adolescents reported having been bullied, involving 9.1% of all boys and 8% of girls, with high incidences among Form One students and young adolescents.

The most common bullying methods included mocking someone’s appearance at 26.7%, making fun with sexual jokes, comments or gestures (16%), intentionally isolating individuals from activities or ignoring them (13%), ridiculing someone’s race, nationality or colour (11.7%), and other forms of bullying (20.2%).

Meanwhile, the report also revealed that 14.8% of adolescents had been physically attacked, and 16% had been involved in a physical fight.

A total of 7.5% of them had been physically abused at home while 41% said they had been verbally abused at home.

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