Rachana Iyer’s journey to oust her molester -an athletics coach at a premier school in Bengaluru -had been tough. However, despite the resistance that she met with, the then 17-year-old student had stood her ground and sought justice for herself. But while she expected the fight for justice to provide her with closure, it was, in reality, only the beginning of an abominable journey which she vividly recalls even a decade later. “The coach in question was excellent at his job, and his exit had bothered those who were looking forward to learning from him.” While Iyer attempted to put the incident behind her, the repetitive taunts hurled at her from her classmates tugged at her wounds before they could heal. “Often, a group of guys would gather together and pass lewd comments on the molestation,” she reveals
Iyer’s business partner, Rohan Sabharwal, with whom she founded the innovation social enterprise, CraYon Impact, which hopes to encourage conversations around the subject, has also been a victim of Bullying as a teenager. “Grade 9 seems like a haze,” he confesses adding, “Bullying was the norm and we were thrashed with hockey sticks and horsewhips by our seniors for everything. I’ve stayed up through most nights penning notes for my seniors and serving as their alarm clock, even getting beaten up if I woke them up a few minutes late. We were like slaves, wrapping their clothes, and making their beds every day.”
Several studies have spoken about the long-term effects of being bullied, either as a child or adult. Iyer, for instance, loathed any kind of physical intimacy for several years, and this in turn affected her relationships.
AN UNINTENTIONAL Bully?
Yet, both Iyer and Sabharwal do not hold their bullies entirely responsible for the trauma they faced. “Ninety-nine percent of bullies are apologetic about their behaviour later,” informs Sabharwal.
Reshma Valliappan, a mental health activist, adds that most bullies are unaware of the fact that their actions can be detrimental to another individual. Low self esteem, says Valliappan, fuels the desire to control another person.”In such a situation, the child desires to place authority over someone else, in order to find his own identity.”
AN EASY PREY
Weakness, in any form, always makes for an easy target, says Dr Madhuri Singh, consulting psychiatrist and family counsellor at Nanavati Hospital. “Such kids react to being bullied in a way that the dominating individual desires, making the latter repeat the behaviour, with increased assertiveness,” she says. Often, children who stand out from the crowd due to specific characteristics (like a physical trait) may also be perceived poorly by their peers, which in turn can make them a victim of bullyin
CURBING A DOMINATING BEHAVIOUR
Valliappan says that an open dialogue, which addresses the reason for a child’s behaviour and attempts to understand what she wishes to achieve via the bullying, can bring about a change in behaviour.”It is, however, crucial for the person initiating the conversation to avoid taking an authoritative tone while dealing with the child.” Stressful life situations – like parents’ separation or divorce – could make a child more aggressive and prone to bullying. “Often, kids tend to bully others when they find themselves in situations that aren’t considered ‘ordinary’,” says Bhavna Lulla, a former preschool teacher of 15 years. “In such circumstances, it’s crucial for the child to know that the scenario isn’t common, but normal.
WHAT CREATES A BULLY
Shattering the popular notion that children of dominating parents tend to be shy and introverted, Valliappan says, “Kids who have been bullied by their parents, tend to be the biggest bullies themselves.”
Lulla adds, “Kids who’re intimidated by an adult figure, especially their parents, often terrorise others because they grow up believing that this is accepted behaviour.”
Valliappan further adds that children who are bullied by other kids, also tend to dominate those weaker than them, thus making bullying a vicious circle. “Working parents, who spend lesser time with their children, tend to miss the subtle cues that could be indicative of a dominating nature. If a child is bullied by his peers, and grows aggressive with others in the process, it’s critical for parents to recognise this
change and connect with the kid.
PARENTS CAN HELP
Parents, says Sabharwal, always make their kids aware of the expectations they harbour for them. “To confess to such hopeful parents that you are being bullied is extremely difficult for the children, who never wish to disappoint them,” he says. Valliappan offers a solution. “The best way to bridge this gap is to encourage a healthy conversation with the child daily. ” She adds that children always exhibit subtle cues which indicate that they are being bullied. “They might be unusually quiet, or unreasonably agitated all the time, especially with their parents. And while we may shun the behaviour as a `phase’ we should stop turning a blind eye to it,” she informs.
Dr Singh adds that boosting a child’s confidence goes a long way in enhancing his/her self-esteem.
“Often children submit to the demands of others when they are made to believe that they’re incapable of making the right decisions. Parents must give children the freedom to live freely, and make informed decisions, which can go a long way in crafting their identity,” she concludes.