Wednesday, August 3, 2011


With the bullying epidemic becoming a horrible and often deadly phenomenon, Perth author and anti-bullying advocate Lannah Sawers-Diggins is using her own experience as a victim to 'fight' back.  Lannah is offering to speak with students and community groups across Australia, to educate and raise awareness about bullying.
Published last year, Lannah's book 'BULLSEYE' is a collection of 36 case histories of victims and perpetrators of bullying.  'Doing this book was extremely therapeutic for me and for the contributors to the book,' says Lannah.  'With this in mind, I decided to take it further and with my growing little army, we are trying to make a difference in the 'fight' against bullying.'
Schools are breeding grounds  for bullying, resulting in a recent spate of youth suicide.  One of the more grim case studies featured in 'BULLSEYE' describes how a victim tried to hang himself.  He would have succeeded had the knot on his jacket not come undone.  The victim's family further suffered, with this mother mis-carrying due to emotional stress.  While his mother was involved with the school committee and was actually on the school grounds for most of the day that her child tried to take his life, she was mortified to be informed not by any of the staff, but by the daughter of a friend.  This case, says Lannah, like many others, highlights the lack of action and naivety of the victims' school staff, who commonly think that just by simply having an anti-bullying policy, bullying is being addressed and will be eliminated.
While many schools have anti-bullying policies, Lannah has little faith in their effectiveness.  'I am increasingly hearing stories about bullies almost being rewarded and the victims are the ones being penalized,' explains Lannah.  'Bullies have virtually been given a slap on the wrist with so-called punishment being 'fun tasks' - a simple distraction from class or sometimes no punishment whatsoever, as opposed to serious discipline,' she says.  In one case, Lannah tells of a victim who had problems when she began at a new school.  She was kicked by a group of girls who said they would be her friends.  When she met them, they kicked and punched her, tearing her dress.  The incident was brought to the Principal's attention where he merely asked, 'What do you want me to do about it?'
Lannah is encouraging victims to come forward and speak of their suffering in complete confidence, to prevent what many see as their only way out - suicide.  She is also reaching out to perpetrators themselves, so they can understand the consequences of their damaging behaviour.  It is this awareness that Lannah hopes will make bullies think twice and curb incidents.  She says that students are often too scared to come forward and subsequently schools cannot truly address the issue, as they only have a minority of complaints to go by.  'There is something very wrong with the system or the schools themselves.'
Lannah has also recently personally experienced cyber-bullying and can fully understand why this form could be as lethal as any other for vulnerable young people.
In her ongoing campaign to raise awareness and educate, Lannah is determined to make a difference.  'If we can stop one victim from committing or considering suicide or turn a bully's thoughts and actions around, or change the attitudes of the schools themselves and parents, then it will all be worth it,' explains Lannah.  

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