Anti-Bullying Week

Words by Ioanna Bagia, Harassment & Bullying Representative for The Dickson Poon School of Law.

Unfortunately there is currently no legal definition of bullying in the law of England and Wales. Quite apart from the law, bullying is a term that can be misunderstood, misinterpreted or simply not recognised as important. It is important to understand what bullying is, who the actors in bullying are and how those bullied can be affected.

What is a bully? According to the Oxford Dictionaries, a bully is: A person who uses strength or influence to harm or intimidate those who are weaker. While there are numerous other respected definitions, the aforementioned one captures the essence of what bullying is. An act of bullying usually consists of a person or group of people that exert pressure on an individual or group with the purpose of belittling, ridiculing and/or humiliating them. There absolutely is no one typical act of bullying, however, the traits highlighted above are common features.

It is important to clarify that bullying is a diverse phenomenon, in order to be able to dismantle the illusion that bullying is simply an infantile behaviour exclusive to the school playground. Bullying can, and does, follow some people throughout their lives. It takes place in a variety of contexts, including: the school and work environments as well as on the internet and social media. Most importantly, it is not uncommon for a bully to attack their victim on integral parts of the victim’s identity, such as: sex, ethnic and cultural origin, sexual and gender orientation, socio-economic background, family status, illness and disability. Bullying can be intentional, systemic and malicious and is certainly not a phenomenon confined to certain ages, particular people, areas of life or relationships.

Who takes part in bullying? There are 3 main actors, the: bully or bullies, victim or victims and bystander or bystanders. While bullies and victims are the main actors, bystanders are part of the act, whose failure to act to stop or prevent such bullying can be a form of consent to the act.

Finally, why care about bullying? 80% of young people who completed suicide did so because of peer victimization and bullying, according to NOBullying.com. 77% of students describe themselves as being victims of bullying according to BullyingStatistics.org and 75% of employees have been affected by workplace bullying, according to Forbes. Bullying genuinely can affect anyone and everyone, both in their public and private lives with impacts which can be as serious as contemplating suicide.

In conclusion, although it ranges in seriousness, bullying always involves bullies recognising and abusing their positions of power and influence over others. Many, if not most, people have been part of a bullying act either in the position of the bully, the bystander or the victim. It can and does affect everyone in some way, and therefore should not be disregarded as an issue no longer relevant or requiring significant attention.

Find out more about Anti-Bullying Week and the work being done at King’s by the King’s Wellbeing team.

Why we still need days like IDAHOBIT

Trigger warnings: Anti-Homophobic, -Biphobic and -Transphobic violence, suicide.

IDAHOBIT stands for International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, an annual event, this year celebrated on Wednesday 17 May, which celebrates the social and political advancements of the LGBTQ community (largely in the Western world), and reflects on the global work which still needs to be done in the plight for true LGBTQ equality.

The first thing that strikes me about this day is, incidentally, in its naming. Often when we talk about LGBTQ inclusion, there’s a tendency to focus only on the ‘G’, with some smatterings of the ‘L’. IDAHOBIT asserts its inclusivity upfront, ensuring that bisexual and transgender members of the LGBTQ community, and those who identify more broadly under these umbrellas, know that this is a day for them. So often, both within and without of the LGBTQ community, bisexuality and biphobia are overlooked and homogenised with lesbian and gay issues, though bisexual people report experiencing very specific microaggressions which are not always felt by those of other sexualities.

So, why are days like this still so important? Many would argue that LGBTQ issues have moved on so far and fast in recent years that the fight is almost done, and days like this are now becoming redundant. I, however, would argue the complete opposite.

Below are some statistics taken from UK-based LGBT charity Stonewall, who do a lot of research and policy work, largely focussing on lobbying government, education and workplace equality;

  • 48% of trans people under 26 said they had attempted suicide, and 30% said they had done so in the past year. 59% said they had considered doing so;
  • 26% of LGB people alter their behaviour to hide their sexual orientation in order to avoid becoming the victim of a hate crime;
  • 26% of LGB people are not at all open to colleagues about their sexual orientation, and 42% of trans people do not feel they can live permanently in their preferred gender role, as to do so may threaten their employment status;
  • 55% of LGB pupils have experienced direct bullying, and 96% hear homophobic and biphobic language used in their school;
  • Sex with someone of the same sex is illegal in 72 countries, and punishable by death in 10.

As well as these figures, there are also a string of continued homophobic, biphobic and transphobic attacks often reported about throughout the world, and there are likely many others that we never hear about (Stonewall research found that two-thirds of those experiencing hate crimes do not report them). There are also nations in the world where homophobic, biphobic and transphobic discrimination are not illegal, and so are less likely to ever gain international attention.

One such example is the current situation in Chechnya, which Prime Minister Theresa May addressed for the first time last week. We know so far that ‘gay torture camps’ have been established, and at least 100 gay and bisexual men have been detained and tortured. A number of these have been killed.

Aliv Karimov, a spokesperson for Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has said the following;

‘You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic.’

 ‘If there were such people in Chechnya, the law-enforcement organs wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.’

With situations and systems of belief such as this present just at the other end of Europe, it becomes easier to appreciate that we may not have moved as far forward in terms of LGBTQ equality as we would all like to believe. There have undoubtedly been advances; for example, 23 counties allow same-sex marriage, and a further 28 recognise civil partnerships. 26 countries also allow same-sex partners to adopt a child that is not the biological offspring of one of the partners.

There are legal advancements happening for LGBTQ people all the time, but these are mitigated by social and societal barriers and oppressions, by legal sanctions against LGBTQ in some parts of the world, and by a general lack of tolerance or acceptance experienced by LGBTQ all over the world, which can, as seen in Chechnya at the moment, still result in the genocide of LGBTQ individuals.

This is why days like the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia are still so incredibly important.

If you have been affected by the contents of this blog in any way, please feel free to contact School Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator, Jack Kilker, to discuss this further and seek support.

Remembering Your Wellbeing When Revising

Exam season is nearly always a stressful time, and no matter what shape your preparation and planning has taken, I’ll bet that there’s a really important part you haven’t factored in as much as you could have: looking after you.

Doing well in your exams is important. Feeling like you’ve covered every possibility, learned every case study, and reviewed every lecture and seminar is important. But you, also, are important. Yes, that might sound cliché, but a 2010 report by the National Union of Students in Scotland, found that 90.5% of students felt that exams and assessments were ‘reasonably or very stressful’, and while a bit of stress may get our adrenaline pumping and push us to do work, this is not absolutely not sustainable or possible for all.

So, what are we suggesting? First and foremost, you need to find time to relax. You can’t be revising for twenty hours a day, and you shouldn’t expect yourself to. There is so much research out there (just have a quick Google!) which tells us to take regular breaks, and that short breaks can even be useful for improving our memories. Most importantly, taking an evening to yourself and making sure you get a full seven hours’ sleep are key to maintaining a good sense of wellbeing and being your most awake and aware for your revision the following day!

If you don’t believe me, take it from one of our academics within The Dickson Poon School of Law, Senior Lecturer Jane Henderson; ‘allow yourself breaks – schedule them in, so you don’t miss them out; no one can study from dawn ‘til dusk! And having some fun is also a good idea – a relaxed person works better than someone who is tense.’ So there you have it – although everyone revises and learns in different ways, however you work best, a good nights’ sleep and some regular breaks are going to be more helpful than working solidly for three weeks with next-to-no sleep!

So, how can you use all this spare time I’ve just given back to you when you were planning to be revising? Well, my first recommendation would be to get involved with the #KCLWell campaign we’ve just started up within the School. Through the campaign, we’re putting on some short and sweet events for students to drop into, just to take ten minutes out of your revision day and do something fun!

fruits-82524So far, we’ve held a small pop-up with fruit smoothies and colouring in, and a film night, with more similar events planned over the coming weeks. Check out our Student Wellbeing page for more information on these, and also make sure to check out King’s Wellbeing’s Take Time Out campaign for more great events and advice over the exams season!

And if you don’t find anything you like the sounds of across either of these campaigns, you can take the advice of one of our undergraduates from our recent wellbeing pop-up; ‘go to a pub with friends and then go to Five Guys!’ Whatever works best for you, make sure to find something to do each day which helps you relax and think about something other than work!

Jack Kilker, School Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator