Thursday, May 5, 2011

Author Guest Post: Aimee Said on bullying.

Today I'm pleased to host Aimee Said on my blog as part of a mini blog tour for the release of her second book, Little Sister! Check out my review of Little Sister here.

So here's Aimee with a guest post about bullying, a major theme in Little Sister:

Breaking the cycle of bullying
When I started writing Little Sister, even though I pretty much knew what was going to happen in the book, I didn’t realise that bullying was going to play such a large role in it. But once I got into the action of the story, I began to notice instances of bullying everywhere in the text: on Facebook, in text messages, on cars and, of course, from the characters’ mouths. Don’t get the wrong idea: Little Sister is not a complete bully-fest.
What changed while I was researching and writing the book was my understanding of what bullying is. When I was at school ( 20 years ago), we thought of bullying as stuff like beating kids up for their lunch money, or flushing someone’s head in the loo ‘to teach them a lesson’. Name calling, gossip and cruel pranks were just, well, spirited adolescent hijinks.
Of course, to those who were subjected to these things, there was nothing funny about them, but the general feeling (in my experience, anyway) was that you could either suck it up and hope your bully turned their attention to some other unfortunate soul, or return fire with something worse (i.e. become a bully yourself). There was no such thing as a school bullying policy, no guidelines about using inappropriate language, such as calling someone ‘fag’ or ‘retard’ (aside from swearing, of course, because we were meant to be learning how to be nice young ladies) and – as long as no one was seriously injured – no punishment.
As I discovered in the course of my research for Little Sister bullying is much more clearly defined now, which makes it easier to identify. We also understand a lot more about the damage – both immediate and ongoing – it can do. Sadly, neither of these facts is doing anything to decrease bullying, particularly in schools. In fact, last year the Australian Institute of Criminology estimated that one in three Year 9 students has experienced some form bullying. And, much as I love the interwebs, cyberbullying is making up more and more of that statistic.
So what can we do to change things? Without giving away too much of the plot, this is one of the challenges faced by Al, Little Sister’s main character. Like the vast majority of us she’s not a bully herself, but she doesn’t try to stop others around her being abused because she’s scared of becoming a target herself. As Al finds out, standing up to bullies – whether their actions are aimed towards you or someone else – can be a hard risk to take, but sometimes it’s the only way to break the cycle.
Bullies rely on our fear stopping us from standing up to them; and collective silence in the face of bullying can give the impression that we don’t disagree with what’s going on. In other words, our silence makes us complicit in the act. If you want to find out more about what you can do to stop others being bullied, Reach Out has a great article about being a supportive bystander, and info about services that can help if you or someone you know is being bullied.

Aimee Said was raised in Sydney and is now living in Melbourne. She is a freelance web content writer, editor, proofreader and author. Check out her website and blog.