While it can be hard to see someone being bullied, it’s even harder to be the person being bullied.
We can all do something help. We can all be upstanders.
An upstander is a person who speaks or acts in support of an individual or cause, particularly someone who intervenes on behalf of a person being attacked or bullied.
Melbourne Football Club players Nathan Jones, Neville Jetta and Aliesha Newman have come together with the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc. (VAEAI) and students from Albert Park College to send an important message about racist bullying. The message is: ‘I have your back’.
How can you have someone’s back?
There are lots of ways you can have someone’s back and be an upstander. You can:
- Distract the bully or ask the person being bullied if they want to sit with you
- Ask them if they are ok and if there’s anything you can do to help; like talking to a teacher or another trusted adult
- Decide not to laugh or smile when you see someone being bullied.
- If you feel safe, tell the person doing the bullying that their behaviour isn’t okay.
Be a friend to the person being bullied
Let the person being bullied know that you’re there for them. Let them know that you’ve noticed the bullying and you’ve got their back whenever they need it.
Shift the focus
Try to interrupt the bullying - ask the person who is being bullied for their help with something, like an upcoming assignment, or invite them to sit with you.
If you’re friends with the person doing the bullying, try to divert their attention from the person they’re bullying. Simply ask if they can help you out with a problem.
Leave the situation, and then act
Sometimes it’s best to walk away and think about what you can do to help - especially if you feel unsafe. The bullying will probably last longer if there’s an audience, even if no one is joining in directly.
The same rule applies online. Sharing or ‘liking’ bullying posts can make things worse for the person being bullied. Instead, remove yourself from the situation and say something to the person who’s doing the bullying later on. You can do this via a message if speaking face-to-face isn’t your thing.
Call the person out
Speaking up while the bullying is happening can be scary, but it can make a big difference. If you feel safe, step in and call the person out on their bullying behaviour. Be direct, calm and confident, and let them know that their behaviour isn’t okay. Try not to call them a bully but tell them that what they are saying and doing isn’t okay.
It can help to have some backup, so chat to a close friend beforehand and try to get their support.
Ask for help
Support the person who is being bullied to ask for help. Offer to go with them to ask for help, or point them towards some useful info. If the bullying is happening online, you can help them to block and report the person who is bullying them or help them to find out how to do this.
It might be time to take things further if the bullying is getting out of hand and you’re worried about the person’s safety. You may need to report the bullying to a trusted adult such as a teacher, school counsellor or parent.
Is being an upstander the same as dobbing?
No. Being an upstander isn’t the same as dobbing. Dobbing is when you deliberately try to get someone into trouble. Being an upstander, and having someone’s back, is about doing something to help someone who is being bullied even if that means telling a teacher or another trusted adult.
Why should you have someone’s back?
There are lots of good reasons why it’s good to have someone else’s back. Not only will you be supporting someone, you will be a role model to others.
Having someone’s back can make a real difference
As hard as it can be, there is evidence that shows when someone stands up to bullying behaviour, it will often stop it right away.
If you’re worried about being the first one to step in, you could talk to a trusted friend and check whether you have their support.
By taking the lead, you’ll make it easier for everyone else to be an upstander, too.
Bullying can be really harmful
For the person being bullied, the effects can include feelings of confusion, rejection, stress, fear, shame or embarrassment.
Bullying can even cause anxiety, depression or physical illness.
If you’re scared, imagine how the person being bullied feels!
It’s normal to feel scared about stepping in. But try to imagine what it’s like to be the person who’s being bullied and how much better it will be for them if you step in.
If you’re not comfortable stepping in when the bullying is happening, you could contact the person being bullied later and let them know you’ve got their back.
You’d do it for a friend
Sometimes, when we’ve got a tough job on our hands, we start making excuses. But, no matter which way we try to spin it, bullying is always wrong and never fair. If you find yourself making excuses for the bullying, try to imagine how you’d feel if your best friend was being treated that way.
Stepping in might even help a friend
Being a good friend and an upstander sometimes means pulling your friends up if they’re bullying someone else. This can be pretty tricky, but just because someone is your friend, it doesn’t mean they can bully others.
It’s also normal to be concerned about a friend who is bullying someone else. Their behaviour could be a sign that they’re not in a good place. If you’re not comfortable speaking to them about it face-to-face, send a message to let them know you’re worried about them
Need some help?
If you or someone you know needs a hand, try the Kids Helpline. It's Australia’s only free 24 hour, seven day a week phone and online counselling service for children and young people, aged 5 to 25.
Visit the Kids Helpline website or call 1800 55 1800
Be an upstander: #ihaveyourback poster competition
Do you want to help other students to be upstanders? Are you a student at a Victorian school?
Enter the Bully Stoppers state-wide poster competition!