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Your Words Can Kill, Be an Upstander
Friday, 28 July, 2017 | 10:00 WIB
Your Words Can Kill, Be an Upstander

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta,

Written byRaihana Safira Wardani (Student of Journalism – Binus International University)

In the year of 2015, a research related to bullying by Plan International and International Center for Research on Women (IRCW) found that Indonesia scored 84% of students being bullied in school. To a 22 years old JN, bullying is a killer. He feels that words can hurt people and that it can drive people to do irrational acts. Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior involving real or perceived power imbalance. Bullied throughout his time in elementary school to high school, JN has gone through one of the most painful and scaring experiences.

“It started off as a joke. They would say things like 'aren’t you like banci? You hang out too much with girls'. I took it as a joke and told them that there is nothing wrong with being around girls so often,” began JN. “Well, maybe they thought that I was hanging out too much with girls because I have four sisters and my mother. My dad was rarely around. I also have four maids,” explained JN. He felt that he is more feminine than most guys in his class.

10% of students quit or move school to avoid bullying (Sudah Dong Indonesia, 2017). JN decided to move to a different middle school for a fresh new start. JN loves the art of dancing. He would watch dance videos in the middle of the class and those acts triggered his bullies to think that he was different. “Why are you such a girl? You are not supposed to be like that. Dasar banci!” said JN as he recalled what his bullies said to him. Those words stayed with him and got him thinking that there is something wrong with him.

He felt lost and had no one to turn to. His family especially his father forced him to be masculine and in school, he was pressured to be a “man”. He fell into a brink of stress. Terrified of being alone and bullied again, JN decided to change himself. “It got better because I was more masculine. I had more friends and people started accepting me and I got to fit in. However, I felt that this wasn’t me. I felt fake,” he muffled to himself.

He got through middle school being the person that other people expect him to be. In the beginning of high school, everything was working well for him. It all changed when he started joining the dance team. People in his school started talking about him and history repeated itself. “Banci banget sih! (You're so gay!) Why are you dancing? Dance is for girls!” screamed students from his social class to him during physical education (PE) class.  

He had a friend from middle school who went to the same high school. They were close and JN thought this one friend would accept him as he is. He told this one friend that he liked a guy from his class. With just a few days, everyone in school found out that he was gay and that the only friend he trusted turned against him. It fueled the students to do as they wish to JN. “I got so stressed. No one wanted to be near me. Even the students from science class who used to not say anything, avoided being close to me. No one wanted to even eat with me. I felt so alone,” uttered JN. It was more heart breaking to learn that some of the students left a note on his table with a bible verse and “Dasar homo! Bakal masuk neraka!” (You're gay! You'll go to hell!) written on it. He often went to the rooftop during break time and cried alone.

“It made me very suicidal,” admitted JN. One night JN found himself sitting alone in the middle of his room with a kitchen knife in hand. “Everyone in my family is pretty ignorant and the bullying had gotten worse. I wanted to die so much and I was bawling my eyes out. My body was shivering. But I decided not to do it,” confessed JN with teary eyes. JN found his own will to not take his own life. However, not all victims find the will. The Ministry of Social in Indonesia, Khofifah Indar Parawansa, stated that there are over 40% of students who committed suicide because of bullying (Liputan 6, 2015).

Bullying Sees No Gender

Raihani Safira Wardani, or better known as Hani, has been highly involved in volunteering for many anti-bullying movements. She believes that every human being should be treated with respect and bullying is never tolerable in any given situation. Born in the big city of Jakarta, 21 years old Hani along with her twin sister, Raihana Safira Wardani were bullied in elementary to middle school. “I wasn’t sure why they bullied us. They started calling us hurtful ‘names’ behind our backs,” expressed Hani. Sitting in 6th grade, Hani was surprised on how the students in her batch learned such degrading words. She went on with her days ignoring the fact that people talked behind her back.

She started missing classes and came only during exams. School became a scary place for her. She would get her heart pumping fast just by walking around the corridors. With the growth of technology, bullying has found new sad ways to infiltrate victims’ life. “Friendster used to be a trend. I had an account. What I found was terrifying,” said Hani with a cracked voice. As Hani was browsing through her account, she found a group suggestion called, “Jablay (a word equivalent to a prostitute) Eighteeners Haters”. She clicked on the group and found pictures of herself and her twin sister all over the group with captions such as, “Incest”, “Jablay” and “Lesbian”.

The worst came when Hani went online on her eBuddy account. “They put both my sister and I into an online group chat and just started calling us ‘names’. But, if we responded, they would get mad at us,” uttered Hani. Her bullies would take turns in chatting in the group. The online group chat was filled with hateful comments from her friends. Reading mean comments given by her friends, Hani could only weep in her room.

“My mom found out. She wanted to go to the police. But I couldn’t handle having to prove myself as being bullied in front of judges. It may even be more painful,” explained Hani. Hani and her twin sister decided to move school. Having to start fresh in a different school, she thought her bullies would stop. Sadly, they did not. Hani, her twin sister, and their new friends went to hang out at one of Jakarta’s malls. As they were walking around the mall, she could see her bullies from afar. Startled by who she saw, she lowered her head and wished they would not do anything. “They passed us by and started shouting those ‘names’ at us,” said Hani. “It reduced my confidence. It reduced my self-esteem as well as my self-image. Bullying ruined my childhood,” confessed Hani. 

Sudah Dong – A Movement Against Bullying 

Based on Sudah Dong website, 90% students in 4th to 8th grade reported to have been bullied in school and 71% of students admitted that bullying is a part of a problem in their schools. Sudah Dong is an anti-bullying movement founded by Kathyana Wardhana and a group of young Indonesians. Established in June 2014, currently, Sudah Dong has over 928 online volunteers and 13 hands-on volunteers. “Awareness towards the issue of bullying has to start from the smallest environment including family. There is no acceptable reason to any acts of bullying,” said Yori, one of the volunteers in Sudah Dong.  

Katyana Wardhana started the movement against bullying back when she was only 17 years old. She was inspired to create Sudah Dong when she met a young girl during a school project on women empowerment. The young girl had to quit school because she could not stand the bullying and since her family came has a low income, they could not afford to move her into another school. Sudah Dong aims to educate and to raise awareness regarding the issue of bullying and its danger to our society.

Sudah Dong provides three programs, which are Sudah Dong goes to School, 'Berbagi Buku' (book sharing)and collaborationThey conduct workshops and presentations in schools around Jabodetabek. Berbagi Buku encourages people to spread the Anti Bullying Manual Book from Sudah Dong in our community. More than 7,485 books have been spread all over Indonesia. Sudah Dong along with five youth communities under the collaboration of Youth Network on Violence Against Children (VAC), will visit three cities in Indonesia to spread the knowledge about the danger of VAC, especially bullying. 

Time To Be An Upstander!

There are ways people can help to reduce bullying in the society. Being an upstander is the simplest way you can help the bullied. An upstander is someone who helps, say something and do something to stand against bullying. Hani suggested it could start from one person to another. Being kind is free and that way people can change the act of bullying. It needs to start from each individual. She believes that people within our society need to start respecting differences and one another. Hani claims that respect and kindness are the keys to a peaceful environment. Bullying is real. It may be common but it has never been okay.

Getting involved in communities against bullying or creating your own community can also be a way to fight bullying. “I have passions for dancing and theater. So, I along with my twin sister have created dance and theatrical productions against bullying. It really meant a lot to me. Both my twin sister and I cried during these shows. We can show our true feelings,” expressed Hani. Raising awareness to the issue of bullying can be done in many ways. Hani chose art as a way to raise public’s awareness to the danger of bullying. Sudah Dong is always open for volunteers.

Finally, it is important for victims to always speak up and seek help. They are not alone. There are others who are willing to give a helping hand and that even one person could bring light to those people who see darkness. “Let’s continue the fight against bullying! If we don’t start, then who will? Right now is the time! Stop bullying! Sudah Dong!” Yori chanted.

For more information visit http://www.sudahdong.com/ and you can download the Anti Bullying Manual Book from Sudah Dong at http://www.sudahdong.com/bukupanduan/.

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