The following information provides some insight into what is bullying, your rights, how bullying can affect you, and what to do if you are being bullied at school.
You have a right to feel safe and to be treated fairly and respectfully, these are basic human rights.
Bullying or harassment can be a violation of these rights. It is a serious problem with serious mental and physical impacts.
Bullying can affect you at home, school, work, in your social life and in your ability to feel happy, healthy and secure.
It is up to governments, schools, workplaces and individuals (including you) to make sure that every human right is respected.
Some of your rights that could be violated by bullying include:
- Your right to be free from mental, emotional and physical violence. Bullying is a form of violence. You have a right to be in a supportive environment (be that at school, work or online) that is respectful, safe and free from violence.
- Your right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. Bullying can cause physical injuries, depression and other health issues.
- Your right to survival and development. Bullying can have serious impact on your physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development
- Your right to work and have a fair and safe workplace. Bullying at work can lead to physical and mental stress and depression. It can stop you being able to do your job well and cause you to need increased days off work.
- Your right to leisure and play. Bullying that occurs in places you play and socialise such as at school and on social networking sites and can impact on your ability to relax and enjoy different activities
- Your right to education. Bullying at school can make you feel unsafe and unwelcome. It can impact on your concentration and your mental and physical health. This may affect how well you do at school.
- Your right to participate and have your voice heard. Bullying can make you feel unsafe and prevent you from expressing your feelings and opinions at school, home, work, and with your friends. You have the right to express your views, to have your concerns taken seriously and to participate in decisions that directly affect you.
- Your right to privacy. Bullying, in particular cyberbullying can make things that are personal public. You have a right to have your privacy respected by others.
What is bullying?
Bullying is when people repeatedly and intentionally use words or actions against someone or a group of people to cause distress and risk to their wellbeing. These actions are usually done by people who have more influence or power over someone else, or who want to make someone else feel less powerful or helpless.
The sort of repeated behaviour that can be considered bullying includes:
- Keeping someone out of a group (online or offline)
- Acting in an unpleasant way near or towards someone
- Giving nasty looks, making rude gestures, calling names, being rude and impolite, and constantly negative teasing.
- Spreading rumours or lies, or misrepresenting someone (i.e. using their Facebook account to post messages as if it were them)
- Mucking about that goes too far
- Harassing someone based on their race, sex, religion, gender or a disability
- Intentionally and repeatedly hurting someone physically
- Intentionally stalking someone
- Taking advantage of any power over someone else like a Prefect or a Student Representative.
Bullying can happen anywhere. It can be in schools, at home, at work, in online social spaces, via text messaging or via email. It can be physical, verbal, emotional, and it also includes messages, public statements and behaviour online intended to cause distress or harm (also known as cyberbullying). But no matter what form bullying takes, the results can be the same: severe distress and pain for the person being bullied.
How can bullying affect you?
Bullying affects everyone in different ways. But there are common feelings that come up when you are being bullied.
How bullying can affect individuals:
- Feeling guilty like it is your fault
- Feeling hopeless and stuck like you can’t get out of the situation
- Feeling alone, like there is no one to help you
- Feeling like you don’t fit in with the cool group
- Feeling depressed and rejected by your friends and other groups of people
- Feeling unsafe and afraid
- Feeling confused and stressed out wondering what to do and why this is happening to you
- Feeling ashamed that this is happening to you
How bullying can affect other people:
Bullying can have a negative impact on everyone – it is not just a problem for victims and bullies. If you see or know of others been bullied you may feel angry, fearful, guilty, and sad.
You may feel as bad as those who are being bullied.
You may also feel worried that the bullying could happen to you.
When bullying isn’t stopped or challenged by anyone it can create an environment where bullying is accepted and where everyone feels powerless to stop it.
Know your rights
You have a right to feel safe and to be treated fairly and respectfully. Bullying is is a serious problem with serious mental and physical impacts. Bullying can violate many of your human rights including:
- Your right to be free from mental, emotional and physical violence
- Your right to education
- Your right to a safe work environment
Is bullying illegal?
Bullying can be illegal. It is a crime if someone:
- Is physically violent to you;
- Threatens you;
- Stalks you (stalking includes following, watching, or contacting you repeatedly in a way that scares you);
- Damages or steal your stuff.
I’m being bullied at school – what can I do about it?
Bullying is not OK and you don’t have to put up with it. You have the right to feel safe. You may be able to solve the problem by just ignoring the bully. But if you feel threatened, it is important that you tell someone what is happening.
Will telling someone help?
Telling someone that you are being bullied is important. It can make you feel better because you don’t have to deal with the problem on your own. Telling somebody, even just your friends, can make you feel supported. It shares the problem, and allows you to get advice and help to stop the bullying.
Who can I tell?
- Tell your friends – they can help you tell a teacher or your parents or just make you feel better;
- Tell your parents – tell them who, what, when and where of what’s been happening;
- Tell your school – we explain more about how to do this below;
- Call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 if you can’t talk to someone face to face. They provide free phone counselling 24 hours a day/7 days a week. Sometimes there can be a delay in getting through, so we encourage you to keep trying. It’s free from all mobile phones, it doesn’t matter which provider you are with.
Telling your school about bullying.
All schools in Western Australia are required to have anti-bullying plans in place to deal with bullying and cyber-bullying.
You can ask your school about their anti-bullying plan (sometimes called Managing Student Behaviour plan) and see what the school is doing to stop bullying from happening. Your school should also make sure that students are not bullied or harassed and that it is a safe place for you to be.
Your school should teach students about bullying and create a climate where it is not attempted or tolerated. It should have a clear procedure for students to report bullying, and provide support for students who have been affected by bullying. If you are being bullied at school or outside school, tell someone about what is happening to you. Someone at your school must quickly respond to the situation.
If you’re being bullied at school, you can:
- Lodge a formal complaint with your school.
The school has a legal duty to do something about the bullying if it is happening at school. If telling someone is not enough to stop the bully’s behaviour, you can make a formal complaint to the school. Ask your parents or someone you trust to help make the complaint with you, especially if you are scared or worried about it. You can make a complaint by arranging a meeting with your school principal and your parents.
- Make a complaint to the Regional or Local Education Office of the Department of Education.
If the school doesn’t do anything after you make a complaint, you can make a complaint to the Regional or Local Education Office of Department of Education. You can find your local education office here.
Also check out this factsheet on how parents can talk to your school.
- Keep details
It’s a good idea to record as many details as possible about situations in which you are being bullied. When making a complaint you will have to provide detailed information about the incidents and show why you think your school has failed to do to make the bullying stop.
Reporting to police.
If someone has or has threatened to physically hurt you or sexually harass you, you can report this to the police. It is illegal for the bully to harass you and if your bully is over 10 years old , they could be charged with a crime.
If you have been threatened or physically harmed, you can report this to the police:
- If the bully has physically harmed you, the maximum penalty is 5 years in prison;
- If the bully has made threats to physically harm you, the maximum penalty is 3 years in prison;
- If the bully has sexually assault you, the maximum penalty is 20 years in prison.
It’s very unlikely that a person under 18 would go to jail for hurting someone, but it is possible.
If your things have been damaged or stolen, you can also report to the police:
- If the bully took away your things against your will, maximum penalty is 7 years in prison.
- If the bully demands things from you so that they can take it away, maximum penalty is 7 years in prison.
- If the bully damages your things, maximum penalty is 10 years in prison.
If you have been bullied or witnessed others been bullied and need help contact:
- Kids Help Line (1800 55 1800) is a free and confidential, telephone counselling service for 5 to 25 year olds in Australia. http://www.kidshelp.com.au
- Lifeline (13 11 14) is a free and confidential service staffed by trained telephone counsellors. http://www.lifeline.org.au
- If you are being subjected to bullying and feel you are suffering from stress or anxiety, you can access support from a psychologist. They can assist with skills such as coping strategies, calming techniques and resilience building.
Source: Human Rights Commission 2018; lawsuff – know your rights