Sometimes you don’t realise the consequences of your actions. If you push someone, they might fall; when you hit or kick someone, they could bruise. When you use words to make fun of someone, you won’t see what happens, but that doesn’t make the situation better. In fact, you might be hurting them more.
According to the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Section of the UK Royal College of Psychiatrists, ‘bullying’ is defined as “any aggressive negative behaviour carried out over a long time by a person or group of people to hurt those who cannot defend themselves”.
Here in Cambodia, most people are still very conservative, especially when it comes to appearance. We think that people who are tall, slim and white are beautiful, and those who do not look that way are often bullied.
Many people can be upset if they are called: ‘pig’, ‘fat’, ‘black’, ‘short’, ‘naïve’, ‘disabled’, ‘blind’ or ‘gay.’ In Cambodia, we might think these are just simple adjectives, but many people find these words insulting. We cannot judge people because they look different. You cannot assume that being gay is a ‘bad’ choice; some are simply born that way.
A national research study published a report titled “Stop Violence Against Us”. The study was directed at 1,314 boys and girls. Around 36 percent of the children said they had been bullied because they were different. 45 percent of them said that the case of bullying was extremely serious.
One of the children in the study said: “I am bullied [as a disabled child]. Every day I go to school and someone shouts at me ‘what do you go to school for?’ Sometimes my teacher gets angry because I come late but other teachers understand my situation. Some teachers ask ‘what do you study for?’ but others encourage me to study hard.”
According to www.stopbullying.gov, bullying comes in many forms: verbal and social bullying, such as name-calling, or spreading rumours and isolating people on purpose. But there is also physical bullying and even cyber-bullying: using the Internet, mobile phones or other digital technology to hurt and harm others.
Though there are no studies on the effects of bullying specific to Cambodia, but the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Section in the U.K. pointed out that “being bullied can seriously affect the victim’s physical and mental health. Victims tend to suffer in silence.”
If victims’ self-esteem continues to take hits, they may not focus on their work or have problems going to school, their grades could drop and they might even drop out of school. Others experience anxiety, sleeping problems, depression or even suicidal thoughts. Problems of this kind may persist long after the bullying has stopped.
According to the National Education Association in the United States, at least 160,000 students stay away from school to avoid being bullied. There are also national campaigns against bullying such as the ‘Stop Bullying Now’ campaign, which raises awareness to make people think about their actions. In schools where there are bullying programs, bullying has been often significantly reduced.
Bullying is a serious problem, one which is not discussed enough in Cambodia. If we want everyone to feel proud, confident, then we have to stop bullying. We have to learn to respect each other.
Don’t make fun of someone you think is different – don’t be a bully.