Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Answer to The Answer

Yesterday I wrote about teaching about bullying and teasing to people with intellectual disabilities and I mentioned a moment. After identifying reasons that I was bullied, the class had been struggling with this question:

I'm fat all the time and I'm in a wheelchair all the time and I'm disabled all the time, but I'm not bullied all the time. Why not?

In what I wrote I didn't give the answer that they worked so hard to get. There were three reasons I didn't write the answer, first, I'd written about this before - with answer included and didn't want to be repeating myself, second, I wanted to demonstrate - for those who hadn't read the previous post that it really is a hard question for people to get, third, yesterday afternoon I was going to talk about this question in my session on supporting someone who is being bullied and teased and didn't want to give the answer away here. So ... the answer.

People guess all sorts of reasons why I'm not bullied all the time. Yet no one has ever questioned the initial reasons ... when I'm asked why I'm bullied, everyone, disabled or not, accept that 'fat' and 'disabled' and 'wheelchair user' and any other attribute to be almost self evident. When in fact the answer gives the lie to that. The reason I am teased only some of the time, not all the time, means, in fact IT CAN'T BE ABOUT ME. Because if it was, teasing would be constant.

The reason I'm not teased or bullied all the time is because, very simply, the times I'm not bullied are the times that a bully isn't there.

Bullying happens because of bullies.

Bullying doesn't happen because of difference, or disability or perceived weakness. Bullying happens because bullies bully.

This might not seem like a big revelation but in fact, to many who have experienced bullying, who have identified aspects about themselves as being the REASON for the bullying, this is huge. Because the reason isn't anything about who you are.

When I ask people, "What's the greatest single predictor that you will be sexually assaulted?" A lot of people identify, gender, clothing worn (!), time of day, place you are ... all things that the victim might be doing.

The answer?

The greatest single predictor that you will be sexually assaulted is ... nearness to a perpetrator.

That's it.

We look for behaviour or attributes of the victim to blame when the blame lays elsewhere.

What's the greatest single predictor that you will be bullied?


The greatest single predictor that you will be bullied is that there is a bully nearby.

I've always loved watching audiences of people with disabilities get this, really get this and really take it to heart. They finally can stop being angry at themselves for the behaviour of another.

I've always loved the effect that this has on me, as a teacher or a trainer, because ... simply, I need reminding.


Princeton Posse said...

Thanks Dave, we all need reminding every once in a while. Such a powerful message and presented so well.

Anonymous said...

EVERYBODY needs reminding about this!!! Thank you so much for sharing how your group got to this answer with us!

CapriUni said...

Now here's the question to be answered next:

What drives someone to become a bully? And how can we counter whatever influences there are?

Okay -- that's two questions.

Cynthia F. said...

Great answer to a great question! Really helpful way to think about violence.

Anonymous said...

Glad I guessed the answer. Maybe, among other things we need a "take back the day' march much like the take back the night march to prove that it isn't people with disabilities that need to disappear or change, it is the bullies. Melodie

Vlad Drăculea said...

100% True! It's either because the bullies aren't around, or because people choose not to bully (in the case of recovering bullies or people who are just learning that their unintentional behavior could come off as bullying and choose to stop). Either way, it's never about the victim.

Of course, knowing on an intellectual level that this is true and knowing it on an emotional level are two different things: I'm still in the process of internalizing this and forgiving those people who once played too rough with me but didn't actually mean to hurt me and after being notified of their behavior's impact have stopped behaving that way around me. And because I have PTSD, I've found myself (entirely without meaning to) yelling at people in situations where I'm overwhelmed, and I know this can come across as bullying, too, so I've been carefully learning which activities to avoid doing so I don't hurt people I care about (or even strangers).

Anyway, thanks so much for posting this. I've just retweeted the tweet where I got the link to this post: I hope it gets around because this message is so important!

Belinda Burston said...

So good. I didn't guess the answer, and it's such a good one.