Too Little Too Late

Published March 17, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

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.

18 comments on “Too Little Too Late

  • Girl, I can’t watch the video. I don’t think I can take it. But, I say….Casey, kick their asses!!! Like you, I was bullied mercilessly and every once in awhile I would lose my shit and hit people who were bullying me. It’s not nice – I know – but, it felt SO GOOD!!!!!! My best one was this boy who would taunt me constantly. One day, I was walking down the street and there he was on the other side – he started calling me all sorts of names. Well, I snapped…picked up a rock, threw it at him and WHAM…right between the eyes. He had to get stitches in his forehead. It was horrible for it to make me feel good, but it did. It was even worth the ass whipping my parents gave me later for doing it. I don’t condone violence, but when a kid is backed into a corner and nobody is helping him, sometimes it’s the only way to handle things. For Casey, like you and me, the damage is done. What really pisses me off is that he is going to be damaged further with all this international attention (yes, they are playing the video on the U.S. news).

  • I was also punished for defending myself after nearly two years of constant bullying. I was taught to be a pacifist. It hurt me to fight back and I still can’t believe that I was punished for it.

  • I think the worst scenario I ever had was when a girl was teasing be while we were lining up from recess to go back into class, and to show her that she wasn’t bothering me, I blew at her in the face. I didn’t touch her or raise a hand at her, or even say a thing to her. She told on me and I had to sit out the next recess and write an apology to HER. This was only one of several occasions where the adults in my life either down played the hurtfulness of my peers actions, did not antiquity punish them, or down right shifted the blame on to me.

    It’s little wonder that by the time I was 13 I snapped and wound up body slamming a kid who had shoved me from behind in the crush to get in before lunch bell. I wasn’t even rightly lashing out at just her; I was lashing out at every injustice I had ever experienced.

  • I’ve been there too, and was punished for it.

    I was pretty disgusted to read one article with extensive quotes from experts about how Casey should not have been violent, with zero mention of the fact that he’d just been PUNCHED IN THE FACE and likely had been many, many times. I agree it wasn’t ‘right’ for him to be so violent but I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in what made his bullies so confident that they would film themselves physically and verbally assaulting him on school grounds in a relatively open area. I’m more interested in why people find the retaliation in the video surprising, even thrilling, but the initial scenario not at all remarkable.

    • Yes, there are repeated recommendations of what Casey should or should not have done, with no acknowledgement that he is being punched in the face, and that this assault is being recorded on video to share, with references as to who is watching, and how humiliating it is to Casey.

      I have read this in many articles. And seen it as countless facebook statuses, blog posts and tweets. Again and again, the onus is put onto Casey to change his behaviour, with no focus on the perpetrators. It’s disgusting.

  • I wholeheartedly agree with your post! I am 36 years old and I am horribly disappointed that our society has not figured out how to deal with this problem by now. I was bullied in both elementary and high school. In elementary school I tried all of the so-called suggestions for defending yourself against bullying: I ignored them, I reported them to the teachers, I told my mother, with my mother I confronted my bullies and their parents…and IT DID NOTHING. It didn’t stop it at all. No amount of prevention on the victim’s part will ever cure this societal disease. The most vivid, and the most injust, memory I have is of being physically abused/bullied (same thing in my mind) and I got in trouble for swearing at them. What kind of bullshit is that? What did I learn from my bullying experience? That to defend yourself will only result in YOU being penalized, not the offender. To this day I still have difficulty standing up for myself. The saying goes, “Once bitten, twice shy”; so what happens when you are repeatedly “bitten”? Most people retaliate. I tried and failed to do so. Instead, I flinch. I am so thoroughly conditioned to flinch that as an adult I still flinch around people I trust who have never harmed me. When I saw the video, I was my 10-year-old self again and knew how Casey felt. I believe that the people who say that what Casey did was wrong are people who have never been bullied, people who can’t sympathize with him or understand what it’s like to live in fear every day of your life. I am not a violent person and I do not condone it. But if a person, particularly a child, feels that violence is the only way to make the bullying stop, it is a sure sign that we have a lot of work to do in order to fix the bullying problem, regardless of the age of the victims.

  • Have not watched the video, but I’ve got to admit, one of my regrets from my middle school years is not retaliating more when I got bullied. And I didn’t even get bullied very badly! It never got physical for me.

    Not only should the onus be on the bullies, not only should we as a society hold the bullies responsible, but instead of saying what Casey could have done better, we should say to the bullies that it’s their own damn fault if their victims retaliate and they get hurt.

  • Another thing I keep seeing over and over are people sharing their stories, mostly from some significant time ago, of being in a similar situation to Casey. In my case, it was 25 years ago. And yet nothing has changed. In fact, it’s getting worse.

    There were THOUSANDS of people saying that it had happened to them on the Facebook page for Casey. How are we as a society not learning from this?

  • bullying is a hard topic. i have two young boys. one was caught as part of a group who bullied another boy and they were all appropriately punished, had things explained to them, and have never done anything like it again. my son was truly remorseful (he was 6 at the time) and had just gone along with the crowd as he likes to be part of the group (a totally different problem, in my opinion, but probably part of the issue in many if not all instances of group bullying). he has also learned that being part of the group has a responsibility to the group and if he feels something they do is unacceptable he must speak out and not join in.

    my youngest son is now 5 and is aggressive. im not trying to make up excuses but he has a super high pain thresh hold so doesn’t really understand how punching someone hurts them (he recently broke his arm and didnt even notice anything except a mild discomfort) – so we need to work with this and try to get him to understand what pain is like for other people. we have sought out professional help for him, he gets punished (mostly time out or losing out of enjoyable activities) if he hurts someone (as well as has things explained to him). he knows it is not acceptable. his school has seen his behaviour and they are helping us and we are all working together to end this. if he hurts someone, he is removed from the immediate area and the attention goes to the victim. the school has a zero tolerance philosophy as regards to bullying. he is now being sent home if he is violent, where he gets put in his room (his toys are removed from his room) where he remains on his own for the rest of the school day)- this has happened once and it seems to have been rather effective as two weeks later he has not been violent to anyone else. i think that many (usually smaller) schools are taking bullying seriously and trying to solve it from teh side of the bully as well as helping the victim.

    • It worries me that children so young are behaving like this, but I’m glad to hear that it is being taken so seriously. When they are this young, the responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of the parents of the bullies to take action.

      I read this story yesterday and am very impressed with how this particular father is taking his children being bullies so seriously:

      Though my heart goes out to him – how heartbreaking it must be to have been a victim of bullying yourself, to discover your own children are behaving like that.

  • The bad teachers won’t do anything to stop it and the good teachers usually can’t, parents have little influence over school policy or any way of making kids safe at school ): Kids have to attend school and they’re completely helpless there-they have no authority, no justice, and kids can’t even be legally homeschooled in some places. There needs to be someone in schools that has the power to intervene and is accessible to students and has their best interests at heart. School counselors are the closest to this but school’s are lucky if they even have one full time non-scheduling counselor.

    I completely agree that a change in attitudes toward bullying could change this all. So long as people think of bullying victims as weak or cowardly kids who could have always done something better the problem will always be shoved away. It can lead to dropping out, suicide, substance abuse, not to mention mental and physical anguish… you’d think we could at least get motivated by the financial fallout to do something right.

  • I saw on the news this morning that both the boy who started it and Casey have been suspended from school. I think it’s ridiculous. The bully needs to be punished – and punished consistently. I couldn’t be a school teacher because God help the bullies that I would come across. They’re so sneaky….they know how to look innocent when they have started the whole thing. I’m still just as angry about this as I was the other day. What should have been a horrifying sight to me (Casey picking that kid up and slamming him down), actually made me want to stand up and start clapping. Again I say….go Casey!!!!

  • Thank you for writing up a blog like this, fellow blogger. I too was bullied and I wished I could have done something just like what Casey did. It was never his fault to begin with and the school is partly to be blamed for doing nothing and allowing Casey to be bullied for so long. The ones at fault are Casey’s bullies and Richard Gale. To the Casey and his family, stay strong and I hope that Casey’s bullying days will meet an end so that he can go to school to study, learn and play in peace. Casey, you are never at fault and I want you to know that you deserve better than being bullied. To the bullies’ parents, wake up and parent your kids properly before they get worse. To Richard Gale, shame on you for being a bully to Casey and I don’t condone what you did to him. Last but not least, to the kids who bullied Casey, you ought to be ashamed of yourselves and you all have an attitude problem, not Casey.

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