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Sunday, March 27, 2011

When being bullied gets too much: "... and then, I actually snapped!"

Deutsche Version dieses Blogs hier.

You will need to bring a few minutes of extra time for this blog.

It contains four video interviews that are crucial to the topic, and I need you to watch them first, before reading my final thoughts on them.


To give you an initial heads up:

Just a few days ago, the case of a boy who has been bullied for many years in school has become an object of massive public interest.

16 year old Casey Heynes from Australia fought back against another boy who attacked and punched him in the face and in the belly.

12 year old Richard Gale, who had been the attacker, all of a sudden found himself counter-attacked by his victim who is older and stronger than Richard.

Casey has been through many years of being bullied at his school.
And so it is that, when being asked
why he had done what he did,
Casey explained:

"... and then, I actually snapped!"


ACA News feature on Casey Heynes (16 years old)

ACA News Feature on Richard Gale (12 years old)

ACA Feature on the kid who filmed the incident
plus additional info

An interview with Richard's mother
plus feedback from neighbors and students
on Richard's and Casey's school's
anti-bullying policy


So, what are the real and serious problems here?

#1  -  Binary thinking 
... 0 and 1 ... Black and White ... Heroes and Villains ...

#2  -  People who look away
... I am there for you ... except if you really need me ...


The massive reactions on YouTube, Facebook and so on, as described in the News Features, that people utter for Casey's "heroic deed", startle and worry me.

A victim that
 has been abused and terrorized for years, and
finally "snapped", is not a hero.

Casey does not retaliate for (or on behalf of) all the other bully victims out there who suffer like he does. And even less, he sets an example and is a role model for others by his act of violence, of how to deal with situations of massive abuse!

Casey is a vivid and downright heartbreaking example of someone who was driven to the edge over and over again, and who got no help and support at his school, as he himself states. He even contemplated suicide a year ago. What he did when he fought back against Richard that day, was an act of desperation, and the massive power that was unleashed by him in those few seconds that are documented in the video could have caused major damage with the boy he attacked.

What Casey did was an act of self-defense, no doubt. More than understandable, seeing the situation he was in ... But how things happened then, was like if suddenly the lid of a pressure cooker (that has been sitting on a hell-hot stove plate for years! bursts off and  releases all the stored up pressure inside in one single blow!

Had Casey's "body slam" caused more damage than the bruised knee that Richard suffered, Casey would have had to face charges. And every judge would have ruled that by this massive attack of a 16 year old (who is much bigger and stronger than his 12 year old opponent) the appropriateness of the means had not been given, and Casey would have received a heavy sentence for sure.

And then, the victim, who tried to defend himself, to get out of a traumatic and massively embarrassing situation, all of a sudden would have become a perpetrator himself, without intention to do so ... but facing massive consequences, possibly.

Where would be the heroism in this?
I can only see justice backfiring,
and adding up to the torment of someone
who had to suffer for so long already.


The demonization of Richard on YouTube and Facebook etc. on the other hand makes me angry - for the ignorance of people, and their lack of ability (or willingness!) to see more shades than just Black and White here.

And it makes me  afraid  for Richard even, for the emotional strain that he has to go through now (by this massive amount of hate messages he gets), and possibly even for his physical safety, if we consider the amount of hate reactions Richard got from an innumerable mass of people who think they have something to contribute here ...

They don't.

Because Binary Thinkers,
who can only see and think in Black and White,
are not able,
and therefore not entitled,
to pass judgment on persons and events
that have more layers to them,
more shades than just Light and Dark,
that require sensitivity to understand,
and insight and compassion to deal with.

Richard, there's no doubt about this, has done wrong, by taunting, attacking and punching Casey. But it is not the task of an online mob to spread hate, and threaten a 12 year old by senseless and more than rude Facebook and YouTube comments.

In that situation we are talking about here, and that has been documented on video, Richard chipped in to something that obviously was well-established at this school: 

He benefited from the fact that Casey was a victim, who had gotten bullied over and over again, who had no friends, and who was completely demoralized, so that he would not dare to tell anybody or ask for help, and not even stand up to a kid who was several years younger than he and who is definitely no match to Casey, strength wise.

... Did Richard attack Casey because Casey had actually harassed him before?

... Was it an attack on someone who would not fight back, by which Richard wanted to have some "safe" fun, and look cool to his friends?

... Or is Richard a kid who also gets bullied by others, who feels the same pressure and pain as Casey? Was he searching for a vent, for a possibility to let off frustration, and feel strong for once, by acting up on someone who would not dare to fight back?

These are just a few of the questions that come to my mind when I think about this case. I cannot know, though, if any of these assumptions holds some truths.

And this is why I don't pass judgment. Because it is not my place to do so. Just as well as it is not the place of all the thousands and thousands of wind blowers who raise their voice now, bellowing spiteful comments and threats, and make themselves judges.

Sorry, judges ... But your affiliation with the term "justice" starts and ends with one single fact that you have in common with the figure of the goddess of justice:

You are blindfolded.

Yet, unlike with the goddess, in your case the cloth that blocks your view is made of prejudices, ignorance, contempt and arrogance.


The only thing that crystallizes out from all that happened in this case (that stands exemplary for so many bully victims all over the world) is:

Ever so often, they stand alone, and have no one to help them in their distress. No one stands up for them, no one shows compassion, no one supports them.

Casey was being asked in his interview how it felt to all of a sudden have 100,000 people in his corner who cheered for him in their online comments and now also in Casey's real life surroundings, who supported him now and called him a hero.

My question is:

Where were those people in his real life, who are cheering now, during the years while Casey was being bullied? Those who knew that he was the victim of abuse every day, because they saw it? His fellow students, and also the teachers at his school ... Many of them knew, of that I am sure - but no one cared. No one supported Casey then. Everyone looked the other way, no one offered help, or just stood up for Casey.

I'm not talking about some 100,000 people from the Internet now, who make more or less appropriate comments.

I am talking about real life people who were there, every day and who failed on Casey  -  but who now come out of their holes and carry him around on their shoulders.

A school where a boy gets harassed massively for many years in a row (as we heard in the interview with Casey), and neither fellow students nor teachers do anything to help, because they either don't notice, as they are not sensitive to see the signs  ... or, plain and simple, rather look the other way ...

Such a school is a hostile environment where kids are in danger - in danger of suffering damage to their bodies and their psyche.

And it is a place where everyone can be next on the shopping list, if a bully needs fresh meat to beat. Because no one cares, and bullies can do what they want, as victims obviously are not worth stepping up for.

In such a place, where victims cannot hope for any support or help, they will go through hell, as Casey did. And they may come to that point where they "snap" ...

Abused kids may "snap" and fight back by using violence against others - risking to be suspended from school, and possibly getting sued for an act of bodily harm. Being reprimanded for what they did is the one thing that will backfire on them. But they will also be losing on their cause, from the moral point of view, as they used the exact same methods of the bully, by inflicting pain and fear on another kid ... and so, the chain of bullying continues, and the victim may become a perpetrator.

Abused kids may also come to a point where they simply cannot stand the bullying any more, and they "snap" by using violence against themselves, showing auto-aggressive behaviour, and possibly, in the final consequence, by ending their lives.

Either of those two final scenarios, when a kid finally "snaps" ...



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