JEDDAH: Thousands of young people and adults in Saudi Arabia are continuing to fall victim to bullying despite major campaigns to stamp it out, experts claim. Schools, businesses and society in general understand the need to tackle verbal, physical and emotional aggression which can leave individuals feeling isolated, worthless, and in some cases suicidal.
The fictional character Uncle Ben once told Peter Parker, better known as Spider-Man, that “with great power, comes great responsibility.” But try telling that to a bully.
And for the victims of bullying it can be hard to ask for help.
Arab News spoke to one woman who endured five years of persecution at school. Despite overcoming her “scary” experience she still wished to remain anonymous.
“You have to go to this place every day among strangers and everyone else has friends. As a kid these things mattered. I was bullied in the usual manner, like being pushed around in a circle, having your school bag turned upside down,” she said.
It was her looks that started her torment, a common theme used against victims. She was labeled a “geek” due to her good grades and studious nature.
Dr. Taghreed Al-Saraj, founder and manager of Educate Right and a best-selling Saudi author, said there were many forms of bullying which could happen to anyone at any time in their life.
“Bullying may begin from jealousy. The bully may think this is the way they will get attention and induce fear into their victim, which makes them think they have power. Power at this point becomes very destructive because they are causing psychological damage to the other person, but it feeds into their ego.
“There are many factors responsible for the behavior of a bully. Maybe they are not being treated well at home and decide to take it out on others. They can be puppies at home, but the moment they move to an academic setting they put up an act like they aren’t someone you can mess with,” said Al-Saraj.
“The first step in raising awareness on the matter of bullying is clarifying what bullying is, as people most of the time use this word without understanding the meaning of it.
“Also, a very important part is recognizing how crucial the bullying is because sometimes it can’t be just overlooked. Sometimes school staff or parents need to intervene because the kids may need psychological help,” she added.
Bullying may begin from jealousy. The bully may think this is the way they will get attention and induce fear into their victim, which makes them think they have power.
Dr. Taghreed Al-Saraj, Founder and manager of Educate Right and a best-selling Saudi author
Understanding why someone is being bullied is also an important part of helping not only the instigator but also the victim to find ways of bringing the misery to an end.
“Sometimes the people that bully others don’t have a reason, they just think it’s cool, so there are so many situations and problems that people can’t really just propose a solution. You have to make sure that each problem is analyzed, and a solution is found accordingly,” said Al-Saraj.
According to the BBC’s Annual Bullying Survey in 2016, family issues, stress and trauma are among the reasons why people become bullies.
The study said: “Over a third of people who bully said that there were arguments at home every day, stressful experiences like a big family fallout or the death of a pet.”
The research also revealed that people who have experienced bullying “are almost twice as likely to become bullies.”
Having a higher social status or being more popular is also an incentive for bullying.
WebMD’s Salynn Boyles, an award-winning journalist, reported on a study that took place in the Netherlands in 2010, in which researchers found that “children who bullied were often motivated by a desire to increase their popularity and that they chose generally unpopular victims to avoid losing social status.”
“The coolest group of the class decided that they didn’t think I should have friends and so the whole class singled me out for years,” our source revealed, describing the time as “very dark and lonely.”
And she never thought to ask for help from her family or staff at her school. “I just endured it, and thought I wasn’t worthy of becoming friends with them. Only now do I realize that I didn’t really deserve all that. If at that time I had reached out, I would probably have had better memories tied to the school.”
Many Saudi organizations are working hard to promote awareness of the issue among children and adults in a bid to reduce cases of bullying.
The Saudi National Family Safety Program has been carrying out awareness campaigns such as “Curbing bullying or violence among peers,” for many years, and in 2012 it won the Women’s World Summit Foundation award for the project.
The campaign has been activated in schools and public places and continues to lead the Kingdom’s fight against bullying.