Bullying scars run deep: Victims share stories of pain and resilience

Bullying takes many forms in schools

06 Apr 2024 09:00am
A Federal Court ruling stipulated that schools have duty to protect students from bullying. - FILE PIX
A Federal Court ruling stipulated that schools have duty to protect students from bullying. - FILE PIX

SHAH ALAM – Despite its prevalence, bullying in schools remains a pressing concern that demands urgent attention.

Victims often bear deep emotional scars long after the incidents occur, highlighting the imperative of addressing this issue effectively.

Bullies operate in packs, leveraging their collective strength and instilling fear to assert dominance over their targets.

They exploit power imbalances, subjecting victims to ostracism, ridicule, and emotional trauma.

However, there is hope. With unwavering support from loved ones, most bullying victims can overcome their pain and emerge stronger.

Although the journey to healing may be arduous, a robust support system can empower victims to transcend their experiences and pursue their aspirations.

Elya Najwa Iskanda, 24, shared her experience of being bullied due to her plus-size physique during her school years.

Despite enduring taunts and hurtful nicknames, Elya found strength in her family's support and encouragement from classmates.

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Taking a stand against her bullies, she eventually succeeded in ending the harassment.

"Nevertheless, I am grateful for my family's constant moral support.

"Some of my classmates also stood by me and encouraged me to ignore them, which gave me the strength to fight back.

"Honestly, although it happened a long time ago, it's still fresh in my memory.

"Till today, I'm afraid to face them. Mentally, it has impacted me because of the fear.

"If I encounter one of the bullies, I still feel scared," she said when met recently.

She said that some of her friends were also victims of bullying, noting that one of them is frightened and frequently in tears, reluctant to attend school.

Elya said while she may forgive her bullies, the memories remain indelible.

Taking a stand, she began to retaliate, especially when one of the bullies, who was also plus-sized, targeted her.

By confronting the bully with their own insults, the harassment ceased.

“Don't remain silent; take action and fight for your rights. Don't be scared to fight back; remember that you're beautiful and perfect as you are, and speak up against body-shaming bullies.

“Thus, don't let irresponsible people mock our bodies and make us a 'punching bag' and fear them. Stand for your own right,” she added.

Similarly, Seroja Halim, 20, faced ostracism from a classmate over a trivial misunderstanding, which took a toll on her emotional well-being.

The incident stemmed from her greeting a friend disliked by the bully, causing her to become entangled in the conflict through innocuous greetings.

"My emotions were disturbed to the extent that it affected my studies and caused my academic performance to decline. I also needed friends to talk to.

"This past experience made me afraid to make new friends. If I befriended someone, it was only casual, not as close as a best friend, for fear of experiencing the same thing again,” she said.

Her parents knew about the bullies but didn't take any action against them to avoid escalating the situation.

Despite the challenges, she continued schooling there until graduation, with her parents serving as her pillars of strength, providing moral support that helped her persevere.

Her message to teenagers was to embrace openness and acceptance, urging them not to hold grudges and to befriend anyone without engaging in negativity.

Seroja stressed the significance of incorporating manners and civics into school curricula, urging educators to prioritise these subjects and offer clear guidelines to students.

Meanwhile, Sharifah Salwani, 27, recounted being bullied by a teacher and classmates during her school days.

Despite her active involvement in dance activities and representing the school in competitions, a teacher criticised her for prioritising dance over academics.

She also faced bullying from classmates who mocked her appearance and dancing abilities.

"I felt deeply embarrassed in front of my classmates and hurt by the subtle ridicule from a teacher who should have supported me.

"All I had was the support of friends who had experienced similar bullying, so we leaned on each other.

"The bully never apologised directly to me, so I chose to move forward with my life."

Another incident occurred at a different school she transferred to.

She was pressured by a teacher to participate in netball at the school level despite having no prior knowledge of the sport.

During ball practice, she missed the ball, and the teacher forcefully threw it at her face, causing pain and embarrassment.

Despite this, she chose not to report the incident and withdrew from the team.

"Thanks to my resilience, the bullying didn't change me; rather, it forged me into a stronger, more mature individual.

"For those facing adversity, remember: Get a helmet, life is tough. Fight back!" she added.

She urged victims to report incidents and gather evidence for further action, reassuring them that authorities can offer assistance.

Aqilah Nordin, 22, shared her story of being bullied, where she faced emotional and mental manipulation rather than physical harm.

She was targeted due to her different dialect, having grown up in a state with a language distinct from the one spoken in her new district.

"I felt isolated because I speak in standard language instead of the local dialect, which made me lose self-confidence and spend a lot of time with my cousin.

"Fortunately, my cousin, who was also in my class, supported me by buying food during breaks to shield me from the bullies' taunts," she said.

She struggled to make friends due to her limited ability to communicate with others in her new environment, leading to feelings of isolation.

However, unable to tolerate their mistreatment any longer, she confided in her family and decided to change schools to ensure her studies were not adversely affected.

Her parents were instrumental in fostering her resilience, advising her to disregard the bullies.

Nevertheless, her insecurity led her to become more reserved at school, and she harboured a fear of speaking to individuals with strong dialects due to the potential for ridicule.

“My message to bullying victims out there is to keep their spirits up and not lose hope, find a way out, and not stay in the same cocoon.

"Don't be afraid to fight back and have self-confidence, and don't hesitate to make any decisions,” she added.

She highlighted the positive aspect of her past experience, gaining familiarity with the dialect through her grandmother, contributing to her personal growth.

In recent developments, the Federal Court reaffirmed the duty of care owed by school personnel to supervise students and ensure their safety. This ruling highlighted the importance of maintaining safe and conducive learning environments for all students.

High-profile cases involving Nhaveen and Zulfarhan Osman Zulkarnain serve as stark reminders of the devastating consequences of unchecked bullying.

These tragedies stressed the urgency of implementing effective measures to prevent and address bullying in schools.

In Malaysia, various channels exist for reporting bullying incidents, including school authorities, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), and CyberSecurity Malaysia.

By leveraging these resources, individuals can proactively address bullying and contribute to creating safer communities for all.