Private Australian school's bizarre message for bullied kids

By Lana Hirschowitz

A post to the school website is going viral, with many saying it's victim blaming. Photo / iStock
A post to the school website is going viral, with many saying it's victim blaming. Photo / iStock

Be the victor, not the victim is the message of a bizarre post on Victorian private school Brighton Grammar's website that is quickly going viral.

It's not the kind of inspirational message doing the rounds of the internet that you would normally see from a school, rather it's a stark affront to kids being bullied.

The author of the piece, Melissa Anderson, a counsellor, director of SHINE Academy for Girls and Longford and Fraser Leadership Academy for Boys writes:

"If your son is currently being bullied, in the spirit of cleaning up your side of the street:

Is he part of the problem? Even five per cent?

"Is he a whinger, a complainer, self-absorbed, an exaggerator, loose with the truth, a passive doormat, displaying negative body language, an approval addict, a try hard, critical or a bad sport?

"Of course, you might say but how can my son clean up his side of the street if he is the target of cruel taunts because he has buck teeth, acne, a disability or a lisp. That's not his fault.

"Of course, it's not his fault, but owning his small part of the unpleasant problem may be learning to stand up for himself, developing grit, steely self-belief, strong self-esteem, choosing his friends wisely and reminding himself that the bullies are dealing with their own demons and that the problem lies principally with them and not him.

"Time to own your part, and stop playing the victim. Be the victor, not the victim."

Unsurprisingly people weren't happy with this message labelling the article "awful", "disgusting" "self absorbed and dangerous" on the school's official Facebook and Understanding Boys page.



The school responded with a message saying "We believe that Melissa's article contains an important message of empowerment, however we hear the comments of some followers calling for articles with more practical tips for those experiencing bullying, and we are looking to publish content on this issue that does just that."

Bullying is a significant problem in Australian schools with research suggesting up to one in four students has experienced some level of bullying face-to-face and one in five has experienced bullying online. But to blame the victim seems absurd.

Clinical Psychologist Dani Klein, who has extensive experience in working with kids in the school environment, says blaming the victim starts one on a very slippery slope.

"There are circumstances where people are the victim of more sociopathic or anti-social behaviour," she says.

"And in that scenario one has to understand that the victim may be exactly that, in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Klein goes on to say that it is always important for us to educate and empower young people to defend themselves as they navigate through the treacherous waters of adolescence.

But there are times when they may be in the clutches of a very anti-social or manipulative relationship and in these instances we need to be cautious that we don't diminish what is going on for the victim nor encourage parents to minimise the situation.

Trying to convince me that Ms Anderson's words may not be all bad Klein says, "there is something to be said for people finding themselves in patterns of behaviour where there is what we term a 'repetition' so perhaps what Anderson is trying to say is, if you find yourself time and time again in a scenario where you are being victimised, it is important to try and recognise there is a dynamic where the common thread is you and as such it would be important to understand the role you play."

To me the whole issue skirts too closely to victim blaming. We have a responsibility to our kids to teach them that they are responsible for the way they respond to people who, using Ms Anderson's words have "buck teeth, acne, a disability or a lisp". We need to teach our kids to be resilient of course, but it's just as important that we teach them to be compassionate.

As we endeavour to find a solution to the domestic violence epidemic in Australia where, on average, one woman is killed every week at the hands of a current or former partner and one in three women has been a victim of physical or sexual violence since the age of 15, we need the lessons at all our schools, Brighton Grammar included, to be about taking responsibility for your actions, about learning to communicate and never blaming the victim.

Being the winner is not always the answer.

- news.com.au

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