Harassment: Who should act?

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Obsse is a fourth-year medical student at Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Belgium. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

In the last few years, we have witnessed the liberation of the speech about different subjects: rape, sexual assault, street harassment, racism, school harassment, mental charge etc. Here we will focus on school bullying. Unfortunately, bullying often leads to tragic ends if it is not detected in time. With social media, bullying is no longer limited to the school. It is therefore even more imperative to intercept it. The question for reflection is “entourage or victim who should act?”

First of all, school is where it all begins! Very often, the teaching staff is a bystander to this violence, or sometimes certain members of the teaching staff will intervene on an ad hoc manner or by minimizing the facts. This lack of reactivity shows to the victim that he or she cannot find help, at least not from them. It is true that the psycho-medical-social service (PMS) exists in schools of the Brussels network but it does not seem to be equipped to anticipate harassment. Indeed, how can a child or teenager who is being bullied have the reflex to go and ask for help when they are ashamed, afraid of reprisals or any other feeling? It is rather the victim who needs to be reached out to get out of the hole? Moreover, the earlier the harassment starts, the more dangerous it is because the child will be, even more likely than the teenager, to normalize this violence.

For early detection, teachers should be trained in non-violent communication (NVC) and understanding and knowledge of bullying. The idea would be to organize weekly small group meetings, in rotation, to help young people express their feelings with trained teachers at their side. Undoubtedly in life communication is essential. An Oromo proverb says that “if the neighbor doesn’t shout, how can I know that he has a problem ? ”. By this sentence, I mean that it is essential to train young people from a very young age to communicate.

Then after a long day of classes, one comes home. Unfortunately, with the emergence of social media, the dissociation between school and home is more difficult for some. So what is the role of parents? 

The first solution is communication! At the dinner table, talking about their day with the children is essential. The second is to raise awareness from an early age about the abnormality of insults, blows or invasion of privacy! The last but not least is the use of a smartphone and access to networks. Buying a smartphone to an 8 years old child does not make sense! At such a young age, it is necessary to push the child to open up to the world and not to withdraw from it. Access to the screen is accepted but must be controlled! Without this education in the use of the smartphone and social media, it is very easy to have very bad experiences.

In conclusion, for an early detection of bullying, it would be good to be inspired by the hospital model. The system of patient care has been continuously improving. Currently in Belgium, the approach to the patient is organized according to a multidisciplinary one.

The idea would be to create a “one for all and all for one” cell with the teaching staff and the parents. The teaching staff, trained in communication and in detecting and dealing with bullying, would in turn train the parents. A minimum of one meeting per month would be required for continuous training. Team working is the key!

About the author

Obsse is a fourth-year medical student at Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Belgium. She is part of the Local Officer Board at BeMSA ULB. According to her, there is no age for wanting and being able to change society. But health issues, mental as well as physical, can be an obstacle which is why she wants to become a doctor!

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