Many of you may have seen or heard about the case of Casey, a 16 year old boy from New South Wales (Australia) who having being bullied repeatedly, retaliated by body slamming the younger boy who had been hitting and taunting him, into the ground, while other boys taunted him and videotaped the bullying. If you haven’t, here is a link to an article (which includes the video, please watch with caution as it may be triggering to some).
I have written before about my own experiences at the hands of bullies, and like Casey, I had a moment where it simply became more than I could tolerate, and I lost control and got violent with the girls who were bullying me. And also like Casey, I was punished for that incident, not the bullies. Even though my parents, teachers and other adults knew that I was being bullied long term. I was punished at a moment when I hated myself more than ever, for resorting to the one thing that I never, ever wanted to do, but in desperation found myself with no other alternative.
Since the story went viral, there has been overwhelming support for Casey, but also there have been countless people weighing in on what should be done about bullying, what they think of Casey’s behaviour, and what they believe Casey should have done.
I think most of the advice being given, or the solutions being offered, are too little too late for Casey. And for countless others who have suffered, and are suffering, like Casey has.
The repeated message I keep seeing is “Violence is bad, mmm’kay?” Over and over, I hear things like “I feel for Casey, but he shouldn’t have resorted to violence.” I’ve seen people suggesting he take martial arts or self defence lessons. That he get counselling because of his violent retaliation to the bullies. That Casey should have behaved this way, or that Casey should have done something else.
What I want to know, to ask all of the people who are full of suggestions for Casey, is where were they when Casey was being bullied? Why does it take a young man of 16 to completely snap, before everyone jumps in with solutions to his problem? This false sympathy, this sense of “You poor thing, but you still did it wrong.” is to me, one of the main reason bullying continues to be a problem.
It boils down to two things for me:
1) Casey should not have suffered as he did.
2) The onus should have been on the bullies to change their behaviour, NOT Casey.
If it’s so all important to prevent violence, we need to be focusing on the bullies right now, not when the victim is finally pushed to a point of retaliation. We need to be teaching kids (and a whole lot of adults too) that the responsibility is on them to not bully anyone, that if they do bully someone, they are the ones who are going to suffer the consequences, and we need to follow through with that. This means a complete zero tolerance on bullying in all environments, coupled with real repercussions for those who do bully.
Over and over, we hear kids being told that they should learn to defend themselves, learn appropriate responses, change their behaviour, practices and routines to prevent bullying. Why is the onus on the victims, and potential victims to take action, rather on those who are, or might be, perpetrating the bullying?
This is a recurring theme in our society, that it is somehow a responsibility to take preventative measures against bullying, rape, and other acts of violence or violation, rather than it being a responsibility to not commit bullying, rape or other acts of violence or violation.
Why are the victims being expected to make changes, when all the victims really want, at the very heart of the matter, is for the violence/abuse/violation to cease?
To me, there is something fundamentally wrong with our society for this to be the norm. This has to change, or we are never going to see any improvement in the rates of violence, bullying, rape or any other kinds of assault/violation. So long as the responsibility lies on the shoulders of victims/potential victims, the perpetrators are going to believe no fault lies with them.
In short, we are going about it ass backwards.
So we end up with kids like Casey. Kids like I once was myself. Who in a moment of sheer desperation of wanting to just make it stop, take that step too far. They find themselves like cornered animals, lashing out simply to just end the abuse. They find themselves behaving in a way that they never wanted to behave, simply because they feel they have no other alternative.
Kids like Casey, don’t need lectures after the fact about what they did wrong, how they failed. They need to know that we, as a society, as a community, have failed them. That we failed to protect them, we failed to ensure that they can go through their young lives safe and without fear of bullying, and we failed to put the responsibility of preventing bullying on the shoulders of the bullies, instead of the victims.
It’s our responsibility as adults to stand up and make it very clear that there is to be no tolerance of bullies in our society, and that there will be real repercussions to those who do behave in this manner.