Bullying isn’t just name-calling and it’s not something you have to accept. That’s the message from Hampshire Constabulary at the start of National Anti-Bullying Week (Monday, November 14).
Police officers from across the force work with schools, colleges and education authorities on an ongoing basis to encourage young people to report bullying.
Inspector Julie Fry is the head of Hampshire Constabulary’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Group.
“We’ve all heard the adage sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me,” she said. “Well all the information, all the research that’s coming out in education and outside of education in our world is that words can hurt.
“We know that that continual drip feed of negativity to a young person or adult can massively affect their lives.”
With many young people using phones and computers to communicate, much of the bullying is happening online and in cyberspace.
Inspector Fry continued: “A significant reason why young people don’t come forward and report, either to their teachers or the police, is because they’re worried their primary form of communication and their primary hobby is going to be removed.
“It might be that we have to examine a phone or computer, but if it absolutely has to be removed, make sure the officers know it’s important so that we can return it and get it back as quickly as possible.”
On October 14 this year, Inspector Fry and several colleagues were at the Anti-Bullying Conference, organised by Hampshire County Council in Winchester. They used their expertise as
Lesbian and Gay Liaison Officers (LAGLOs) to talk to young people about homophobic and transphobic bullying.
She continued: “I’m sure we’ve all heard of the terms ‘It’s so gay’ ‘You’re so gay.’ I do understand that a lot of young people using this terminology don’t get the history of this language. But when a group of people are using it in such a negative fashion, some will then look at themselves and say ‘I don’t understand this, I feel very negative about myself, is this really what I’m about?’
“I think the children did understand that message and that if you want to describe something that’s bad, then other words are available.”
Is bullying a criminal offence?
So why do the police get involved with incidents of bullying? “Because if it’s happening in schools, it’s happening out of schools,” Inspector Fry replied, “and it’s all about a joined up approach.
“We as the police have a strong awareness of the issues of hate crime, bullying, harassment, homophobia and transphobia which we can share with our professional partners in schools.
We’re working together to nip it in the bud, to eradicate it early days so young people can enjoy their school years.
“If it’s frequent and the content is so horrendous and horrific that it’s insulting, then bullying can be a criminal offence.
“In the worst case, people are being physically attacked and damage caused to their homes or property. That is just not acceptable and it’s a place for the police to get involved.”
Here to help
If you are being bullied or harassed, either in or out of school, help is available. If you want to speak to the police, you can contact us on confidence on 101 or 999 in an emergency.
You can also follow Hampshire Constabulary on Facebook and on Twitter where you’ll also find our LAGLOs @HantsPoliceLGBT
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