How can I become an ally?
Standing with a friend who is being bullied doesn’t mean you have to take a punch for them.
There are many ways you can be supportive and keep yourself safe.
“Sometimes all you want to hear is 'oh shit, that sucks'.” Ashton, 17
Part of growing up is learning to trust your own judgement, so think about what is in your power to do to help. Many people are worried that if they stand up for someone, they will just become the bully’s next target. While this does sometimes happen, in many cases, instigators of bullying respond to strength – such as a stronger or bigger group of people defending someone else – by backing away. That is, after all, why Pink Shirt Day was created in the first place!
If someone tells you they are being bullied, don’t see them as a “victim”. Try to use the word “target” – it is more empowering for people, and less likely to make them feel helpless.
Some things you could do include:
- Just listen – sometimes, all you need is someone to listen to you, without judgement, and acknowledge that what you are going through is hard and painful.
- Making a plan with your friend about walking around, to and from school together.
- Make a plan with your friend about what to do if they get bullied again, eg, “If it happens again, we need to talk to a teacher or a counsellor”.
- Stopping rumours in their tracks – if people are telling lies about your friend, speak up, and tell people that it isn’t true or that talking about people like that is unacceptable.
- Make friends with a younger student who is being picked on – just being seen talking to them or walking beside them can let others know that this student isn’t alone, and has people on their team.
- Go with your friend when they tell a parent or a teacher. Asking for help can be scary, and your support might be the difference between them telling, and keep it to themselves. If they’re not yet ready to reach out, you could suggest they write a letter.
- Ask a teacher or other adult for help – especially when bullying is physical, it’s important to keep everyone safe, without putting yourself at risk. It’s not “telling” if you are keeping your friend safe.
“Tell your friend: ‘You don’t deserve this.’ When I was being bullied, I thought I must be a really bad person, that nobody liked me because I just sucked. When my friend said that to me, and kept saying it, eventually I started to believe her, and got some help.” Lucy, 19
“Just ask: ‘do you wanna talk about it?’ and be prepared to drop it if the answer’s no. Especially if the bullying is about someone’s sexuality or gender identity – they might not be ready to talk about it. Let them know you’re there when they need you, but don’t push it.” Taylor, 16
If you see cyber bullying
- Try to help the target; perhaps by offering them support. Having support will mean that the person may feel less alone.
- Help them report the bullying, this could also include taking screenshots and printing before the post or exchange is removed.
- Report the bullying anonymously if that feels safer either to a teacher/parent/whanau or to the website where it is happening.
Most cyber bullying occurs outside school hours but it affects students within the school. Schools are concerned about student wellbeing so they have a role to play and expertise in helping you sort out the cyber bullying. Other people who can help are listed below.
Visit the Helplines page for a full list of phone numbers.