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Posts Tagged 'Sexual assault'

How to say no to abusive workplaces, schools, homes, and circumstances

Wednesday, September 26th, 2018

I applaud our Prime Minister’s recent sacking of former Government minister Meka Whaitiri following allegations of verbal abuse and physical assault. Jacinda Arden acted quickly and with great strength—signalling that regardless of any possible political repercussions to herself, she would not, could not, will not tolerate abuses of power.

Workplace bullying and assault is reaching epidemic proportions and past experience has taught me that very often the perpetrators are adept at avoiding the consequences.

My own experience of workplace bullying included a former manager yelling at me in an open plan environment and threatening to “smash my fucking head in.” And no, he didn’t lose his job. And no, there were no consequences. But what I did learn was, in the absence of anyone else stepping in, was how to stick up for myself and no longer tolerate such abuses of power. It’s not easy, but it does become less painful to deal with, as life goes on.

In the case of my angry out-of-control boss, who was enraged because I wanted to keep a job seeker, who had applied for a role with us, informed, I simply said, “I know you’re angry, but I’m going to ask you one more time, is my candidate going to get an interview?” I was terrified, but somehow my voice was calm, despite the volcano of emotions exploding through my body. I took a calculated punt—he wouldn’t really act on his threat to smash my head in, not in an open-plan environment with 100 + staff, would he? No, he didn’t—but what he did begin to do was systematically attempt to derail my career. As I reflect back now, at the time of his outburst, not one person came to my aid.

A similar experience happened to me when I went to a new high school following my parent’s divorce. Prior to this, I had attended an all-girls private Catholic school. Now, I was going to a mixed, or co-ed, public school with kids from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds. A boy, perhaps around 14 or 15 years-old came up to me, scrunched up some paper he was holding in his hand and dropped it at my feet. “Pick it up,” he demanded.

At that moment, that moment of choice, I recall thinking, ‘I would rather die than suffer the humiliation of being controlled and bullied’. “No, I said, more calmly than I felt. “I didn’t drop it, so I won’t pick it up.” And at that moment he lost his power, and at that moment he, perhaps, respected me. He grinned, and tossed his head slightly, as if to say, “yeah, you’re okay.” And he left me alone after that.

Perhaps I was lucky. Lucky no one touched me. Perhaps, like animals and predators who can sense fear, perhaps my defiance, my determination, my refusal to disempowered or disrespected created an energetic field of protection. I don’t know, but what I do know, is that these bullying behaviors didn’t magically disappear from my life. I continue to face situations where bullying, aggression, rage, or silent manipulation are present. Sadly, it’s an epidemic.

I’m sorry to say, abusive behavior appears to have become ‘normal’ behavior and with that is the implicit belief that bullies are immune to prosecution.

But Jacinda Arden’s stand today is an important one. It sends a strong signal that bullying behavior will not be tolerated—and more than this, that it will be punished. My hope is that as our leaders take a stronger, united stand, people will begin to have less tolerance for nastiness.

 

Whose behavior are kids modeling?

Even more troubling is the prevalence of bullying in schools—and some of it is truly horrific, including the rape of children as young as five, by older students.

  If you’ve been following the #BelieveSurvivors, or # MeToo movement, sexual assault is very much in the forefront of people’s minds.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has accused Donald’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, of sexually assaulting her when they were in high school. Her disturbing but, as yet, unproven allegation is the cause of a monumental political headache for the President.

Equally worrying, is the news I received recently that in some instances of bullying, teenagers are spreading rumors that girls have been raped, when no rape has occurred, in an attempt to humiliate, control, or punish.

Of course, there is much goodness in the world to celebrate, people that fight for justice, and positive advancements that are being made by people who are waging war on abuse, but it’s important to continue to spotlight issues and importantly, to provide solutions and support to those who suffer needlessly.

I applaud the work of women like Jess Tyson, who at the time of writing this, is the reigning Miss World NZ. Tyson has revealed a childhood involving alleged sexual abuse at the hands of someone known to her family. She has made it her personal mission to help young victims of abuse.

“I know that the topic of sexual abuse or violence is hard for people to talk about or heal from and people are often too afraid or embarrassed to ask for help.

“I would like to share my story to young New Zealanders that if they have been victims of any type of sexual violence there is support available to help them heal from it and I want to be there to help them,” Tyson says.

So many people who have experienced bullying experience great trauma and this leave a lasting stain on their soul. Personally and professionally, I believe and aim to help others believe that we can refuse to allow ourselves to become victims. We can refuse to let others rob our power. We can refuse to allow bullies and sexual predators, to steal our lives.

“Bill Cosby took my beautiful, healthy young spirit and crushed it. He robbed me of my health and vitality, my open nature and my trust in myself and others,” a woman wrote in the impact statement.

It takes great strength of spirit, great resilience, great determination—as people like Oprah Winfrey model in bucketloads to refuse to be a victim. But we can do it. We must do it.

United we can stand up to bullying, threats, and tormenting—in all its guises. But to do this, we have to be the change we want to see and empower each other.

 

Are you, or do you know of someone being bullied at school?

D’Arcy Lyness, PhD, provides the following advice

Bullying is intentional tormenting in physical, verbal, or psychological ways. It can range from hitting, shoving, name-calling, threats, and mocking to extorting money and possessions. Some kids bully by shunning others and spreading rumors about them. Others use social media or electronic messaging to taunt others or hurt their feelings.

It’s important to take bullying seriously and not just brush it off as something that kids have to “tough out.” The effects can be serious and affect kids’ sense of safety and self-worth. In severe cases, bullying has contributed to tragedies, such as suicides and school shootings.

Why Kids Bully

Kids bully for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they pick on kids because they need a victim — someone who seems emotionally or physically weaker, or just acts or appears different in some way — to feel more important, popular, or in control. Although some bullies are bigger or stronger than their victims, that’s not always the case.

Sometimes kids torment others because that’s the way they’ve been treated. They may think their behavior is normal because they come from families or other settings where everyone regularly gets angry and shouts or calls each other names. Some popular TV shows even seem to promote meanness — people are “voted off,” shunned, or ridiculed for their appearance or lack of talent.

Signs of Bullying

Unless your child tells you about bullying — or has visible bruises or injuries — it can be difficult to figure out if it’s happening.

But there are some warning signs. Parents might notice kids acting differently or seeming anxious, or not eating, sleeping well, or doing the things they usually enjoy. When kids seem moodier or more easily upset than usual, or when they start avoiding certain situations (like taking the bus to school), it might be because of a bully.

If you suspect bullying but your child is reluctant to open up, find opportunities to bring up the issue in a more roundabout way. For instance, you might see a situation on a TV show and use it as a conversation starter by asking, “What do you think of this?” or “What do you think that person should have done?” This might lead to questions like: “Have you ever seen this happen?” or “Have you ever experienced this?” You might want to talk about any experiences you or another family member had at that age.

Let your kids know that if they’re being bullied or harassed — or see it happening to someone else — it’s important to talk to someone about it, whether it’s you, another adult (a teacher, school counselor, or family friend), or a sibling.

Helping Kids

If your child tells you about being bullied, listen calmly and offer comfort and support. Kids are often reluctant to tell adults about bullying because they feel embarrassed and ashamed that it’s happening, or worry that their parents will be disappointed, upset, angry, or reactive.

Sometimes kids feel like it’s their own fault, that if they looked or acted differently it wouldn’t be happening. Sometimes they’re scared that if the bully finds out that they told, it will get worse. Others are worried that their parents won’t believe them or do anything about it. Or kids worry that their parents will urge them to fight back when they’re scared to.

Praise your child for doing the right thing by talking to you about it. Remind your child that he or she isn’t alone — a lot of people get bullied at some point. Emphasize that it’s the bully who is behaving badly — not your child. Reassure your child that you will figure out what to do about it together.

Let someone at school (the principal, school nurse, or a counselor or teacher) know about the situation. They are often in a position to monitor and take steps to prevent further problems.

Because the term “bullying” might be used to describe such a wide range of situations, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. What is advisable in one situation may not be appropriate in another. Many factors — such as the age of the kids involved, the severity of the situation, and the specific type of bullying behaviors — will help determine the best course of action.

Take it seriously if you hear that the bullying will get worse if the bully finds out that your child told or if threats of physical harm are involved. Sometimes it’s useful to approach the bully’s parents. But in most cases, teachers or counselors are the best ones to contact first. If you’ve tried those methods and still want to speak to the bullying child’s parents, it’s best to do so in a context where a school official, such as a counselor, can mediate.

Most schools have bullying policies and anti-bullying programs. In addition, many states have bullying laws and policies. Find out about the laws in your community. In certain cases, if you have serious concerns about your child’s safety, you may need to contact legal authorities.

Advice for Kids

Parents can help kids learn how to deal with bullying if it happens. For some parents, it may be tempting to tell a kid to fight back. After all, you’re angry that your child is suffering and maybe you were told to “stand up for yourself” when you were young. Or you may worry that your child will continue to suffer at the hands of the bully, and think that fighting back is the only way to put a bully in his or her place.

But it’s important to advise kids not to respond to bullying by fighting or bullying back. It can quickly escalate into violence, trouble, and someone getting injured. Instead, it’s best to walk away from the situation, hang out with others, and tell an adult.

Here are some other strategies to discuss with kids that can help improve the situation and make them feel better:

  • Avoid the bully and use the buddy system. Use a different bathroom if a bully is nearby and don’t go to your locker when there is nobody around. Make sure you have someone with you so that you’re not alone with the bully. Buddy up with a friend on the bus, in the hallways, or at recess — wherever the bully is. Offer to do the same for a friend.
  • Hold the anger. It’s natural to get upset by the bully, but that’s what bullies thrive on. It makes them feel more powerful. Practice not reacting by crying or looking red or upset. It takes a lot of practice, but it’s a useful skill for keeping off of a bully’s radar. Sometimes kids find it useful to practice “cool down” strategies such as counting to 10, writing down their angry words, taking deep breaths, or walking away. Sometimes the best thing to do is to teach kids to wear a “poker face” until they are clear of any danger (smiling or laughing may provoke the bully).
  • Act brave, walk away, and ignore the bully. Firmly and clearly tell the bully to stop, then walk away. Practice ways to ignore the hurtful remarks, like acting uninterested or texting someone on your cell phone. By ignoring the bully, you’re showing that you don’t care. Eventually, the bully will probably get bored with trying to bother you.
  • Tell an adult. Teachers, principals, parents, and lunchroom personnel at school can all help stop bullying.
  • Talk about it. Talk to someone you trust, such as a guidance counselor, teacher, sibling, or friend. They may offer some helpful suggestions, and even if they can’t fix the situation, it may help you feel a little less alone.

Restoring Confidence

Dealing with bullying can erode a child’s confidence. To help restore it, encourage your kids to spend time with friends who have a positive influence. Participation in clubs, sports, or other enjoyable activities builds strength and friendships.

Provide a listening ear about difficult situations, but encourage your kids to also tell you about the good parts of their day, and listen equally attentively. Make sure they know you believe in them and that you’ll do what you can to address any bullying that occurs.

 

Are you being bullied at work?

Sometimes the best cure if to free yourself from a toxic situation and make a move to career nirvana You’ll find plenty of help in my book Mid-Life Career Rescue: (The Call For Change): How to confidently leave a job you hate, and start living a life you  love, before it’s too late.  Available in paperback or for immediate download for less than the price of a cup of coffee.

In Mid-Life Career Rescue I share my own personal story of career reinvention and the strategies that have worked for my clients.

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