Five Fast Facts: Act Against Bullying

Five Fast Facts: Act Against Bullying


Act Against Bullying is a set of monologues I researched in 2000 and first published in 2002. It was the reason for me setting up Act Against Bullying as a charity. They’ve been used in schools as a means of discussing the awkward situations which can lead on to serious bullying.  Recently I’ve updated them to include cyberbullying, sexting and parental abuse. I’ve researched, written broadcast on bullying for a range of media as listed on my site.

During school years, bullying is one of the most common expressions of violence in the peer context. The common definition is  ‘aggressive, intentional acts carried out by a group or an individual repeatedly and over time against a victim who cannot easily defend him- or herself’. The relevant criteria are (1) repetition (2) intentionality and (3) an imbalance of power. Or systematic abuse of power by peers.  Imbalance of power can be derived from physical strength, social status in the group, or from group size (e.g. a group targeting a single person). Or knowing and exploiting a person’s vulnerabilities (e.g. appearance, learning problem, family situation) to harm him or her. It is recognised globally as a complex and serious problem which is why I wrote the Act Against Bullying monologues.

Friendships are either unilateral (one-sided )or reciprocal or somewhere in between the two categories. Recent studies show loneliness increases as friendship quality decreases. (i.e the adolescent received a friendship nomination but did not reciprocate that nomination) and/or a lower quality of best friendship. These findings (a) indicate that loneliness is negatively related to the number of friends adolescents have, as perceived by themselves and their peers and (b) suggest that, once a friendship is established, lonely adolescents may interpret the friendship quality less positively compared to their friends.  In Act Against Bullying, many of the monologues centre on that feeling of loneliness and this is often related to peer-based group bullying.

Before I wrote Act Against Bullying, I did my own research. I mostly spoke with children aged between 7 and 13. Bullying peaks during middle school years (i.e. 12–15 years), and tends to decrease by the end of high school. Boys and girls bully in different ways. Between boys, it is more likely to be physical. Bullying among girls is more relational, such as manipulating friendships and extending feuds.

Bullying research started more than forty years ago when it was recognised as a major problem. The focus on anti-bullying interventions is significant and shows  programmes are often effective, reaching an average decrease of 20–23% for bullying others and of 17–20% for being bullied. It seems peer witnesses’ responses are crucial to either inhibit or fuel bullying. So some of the highly effective programmes are focused on enhancing bystanders’ awareness, empathy and self-efficacy to support victimised peers, instead of reinforcing the bullies’ behaviour. This is where programmes using the Act Against Bullying monologues are so useful.

The Machiavellian Genius of Dark Femininity

The Machiavellian Genius of Dark Femininity

When I set up Act Against Bullying in 2000, it was commonly believed that women didn’t bully. That was a boy’s thing. Research into the motivations of girl gangs and female criminology only began in the 1980s as women’s social behaviour changed. Chicken or egg? Who knows? Add to that the female fascination with the internet (women are the Facebook stalkers) and you are opening up a whole new world of intrigue which was once taboo. Hence the fascination for the crop of psychological thrillers by female authors.

Books like Gone Girl and Girl On a Train led a surge in this blockbuster psycho drama. Crime readers, who are statistically predominantly women, are now locked into the idea of a female author delivering the suspense package. So much so those male writers have been adopting gender neutral pen names to publish books and appeal to them.The author of Final Girls  Riley Sager is a male known as Todd Ritter. And Steve Watson goes under the initials of S. J. Watson. Daniel Mallory is A. J. Finn. Why the turnaround?

But there is nothing politically correct in this new literary drive–quite the opposite. The pro-feminist push was male delivered, surely. Hollywood’s foray into female led action movies with the female Rambo figure always seemed forced. Women punching men out in a single blow was ridiculous. But the new trend for noir has an altogether different feel. Plots today are not so much guns and espionage, but more emotional blackmail and manipulation to murder. It’s for real.

The new wave of female led psychological thrillers is exposing the Machiavellian genius of dark femininity. It fascinates women and terrifies men. The bad girl next door is no longer taboo. If crime readers are women, then they want to immerse themselves in the type of corruption that is relatable to them. Maybe it’s about time.

Readers often say they can tell the difference between a male and a female writer. Narratives are different between the sexes.  And it is not just the fact that women speak 12000 words a day to men’s 4000, according to Louann Brizendine. That’s just the surface matter. It’s the motivation behind it that intrigues.

Oh, did I say I was writing a thriller? Female led, of course. More details to come.


Moderating Feminism: The Past The Now and What Comes Next

Has feminism produced the goods for women or not? Do the Men’s Rights Movement, who now also claim discrimination, have a point? Why do feminists not agree among themselves on abortion, pornography, or the burka?

I’ve been delving into this subject for years, and now you can read my own account of how I think feminism has to update.

In this Ebook Moderating Feminism, I started with a look from the beginning, so the first section is a broad-based history from Elizabethan times to today’s feminist events. A hundred years ago women’s rights were mostly concerned with girls education, votes and work opportunities. Today Western feminism is more inclined towards identity and the blame culture than anything else.

This is my account of how that change came about and why.

In it I’ve also covered many of the contradictions from why liberated women still shop for shoes to the aggressive tone of radicals advocating women as peace lovers. In her work The Feminine Mystique Betty Friedan called out the boredom of suburbia, but today we have University educated girls slipping back to the past by wanting to become subservient Jihadi brides.

Then there’s the relevance debate. There is little sympathy for radical feminists pushing an anti-male agenda. It’s viewed as lopsided, hypocritical and unrealistic.Today tens of millions of professional women occupy top jobs. So much so that birth rates have plummeted and single living by choice is the norm. But the success stories are only a fraction of the complete picture, with most women leading and wanting more modest traditional lives. The challenges waiting in the wings too are many, from imposing Sharia law and its implications on modern women to the girl alone in the street more at risk than ever in an increasingly violent modern society.

So is it possible to moderate feminism? This is what this book is about. At the end, I’ve outlined my philosophy. If you enjoy my blog Common Sense Feminism, you may well agree with some of my suggestions.  Read Five Fast Facts 


Why Feminism Must Not Forget The Other Side

Why Feminism Must Not Forget The Other Side

Feminism has achieved a lot a good things for girls. It’s gone far beyond just getting the vote and property rights. Women now outnumber men in the UK almost two-thirds of degree subjects, and, according to university admissions service UCAS, the gender gap in British universities has almost doubled in size since 2007.

There are more women in formal paid work today than at any point in history, making up 40% of the global formal labour force. While wage parity is still an issue, it is nothing like what it used to be.

Equality and feminism has meant more awareness and sympathy for the difficulties of just being female. Issues like FGM are up on the radar, along with patriarchal injustices such as child marriage and honour killing.

But why did we want all this in the first place? Just to earn more money, to be independent or get acknowledgement for the part we have played and will play in scientific research? No. We wanted it because we believed that women possess a compassionate, conflicting-avoiding nature which serves as a strong counterbalance for the “yang” male energies. We needed feminism because of human decency, and the belief that raising women from a position of inequality to one of equality with men would allow a fresh evaluation of what is right and proper between the genders.

So what about boys? While sexual harassment of women receives media validation, when it is against men it is often not taken that seriously. The same applies to domestic violence. While self esteem issues like anorexia and bulimia are now being addressed, less is known about male eating disorders.

The rate of male suicides in the UK has increased in 2013, with the level among males its highest since 2001. Suicide remains the leading cause of death for men between 20 and 34 in England and Wales, representing 24% of all deaths in 2013, and for men aged 35-49, at 13% of deaths.

Where girls suffer from body image anxiety and expectations of perfection, so do boys agonise over late physical development, and the need to be accepted by their peer group or into their chosen “community”. When they don’t make the cut, buck the system or complain, they too get marginalised. If boys are not macho enough (football, rugby, sales, knock-on bullying) then they feel there is no one to turn to.

Prof Louis Appleby, the chair of the National Suicide Prevention Advisory Group in England, said: “Men are more at risk of suicide because they are more likely to drink heavily, use self-harm methods that are more often fatal and are reluctant to seek help.”

If we are talking about equality between the sexes then surely we have to acknowledge our responsibility to vulnerable males as well as females. The recent high profile cases such as the suicide of political activist  Elliott Johnson  and the four young people from  Deepcut Army Barracks  in the 1990s are examples of how much pressure both boys and girls  are under when they are fresh out of school or university. As someone who set up an anti-bullying charity sixteen years ago I have had sufficient experience to know the following: Girls get bullied by other girls, and harassed and intimidated by boys, but boys too get bullied by other boys and harassed and intimidated by the opposite sex.

Has the feminism movement now become so focused on the victimisation of women that we cannot conceive of needing to take positive action to secure some h

‘Shocked and appalled’ – Campaigner Louise Burfitt Dons defends a father facing prosecution for confronting bullies

‘Shocked and appalled’ – Campaigner Louise Burfitt Dons defends a father facing prosecution for confronting bullies


Humanitarian Louise Burfitt Dons insists she is ‘shocked and appalled’ at the prospect of a father facing prosecution for confronting bullies who tormented his children.

In a heart rendering Facebook post, shared more than 200,000 times, Christopher Cooper describes how his two youngest children, Millie, 11, and Braiden, aged nine, were verbally and physically abused daily by school bullies.

Cooper, a midwife, felt he was left with ‘no other option’ than to take matters into his own hands as North Walney Primary School and police claimed nothing could be done as it was ‘outside school grounds’.

“Braiden had his arm broken and underwent surgery,” Cooper said. “On another occasion he was held in a crucifix position with his arms stretched out to the side, so another child could repeatedly punch him in the stomach.

“It was left to me to challenge him [the bully]. I told him straight to leave my kids alone or there would be consequences. I didn’t touch him, I certainly didn’t threaten him, although trust me how I didn’t do either I don’t know. The result – I am now under investigation by the police, and at risk of losing my career. What an absolute joke.”

Burfitt Dons, founder of the Act Against Bullying, explains she was left stunned when reading about Cooper’s case.

“It’s like we’ve got our values back to front,” she told talkRADIO “There are so many different terms for bullying, yet when you look for punishments there is nothing there.

“Yes, we all have learn to deal with the fact here will be some people who don’t like us but this is just thuggery.

“Unfortunately, there are many cases out there like this one.

“But the best thing that can happen to a case like this is for it to end up in the press, being debated and talked about; exactly like we’re doing today.”

This epidemic of sexual bullying needs to be stopped

First published on Conservative Home on May 2nd 2016

In September last year, it was revealed that there were 5,500 sexual offences recorded in UK schools between 2011 and 2014. Within these figures, there were 4,000 alleged physical sexual assaults and more than 600 reported rapes. So, last week, the Women and Equalities Select Committee, chaired by Maria Miller, launched an enquiry – and about time too. To hear of a child being raped by anther pupil in school grounds is horrific. But to counter this criminal activity with more sex education for young children, as proposed by the Labour Party, is not just a cop-out but deliberate obfuscation of a school bullying problem which has obviously got way out of control.


Many new forms of bullying have been developed over the last hundred years, particularly since the widespread use of the internet

If you google “bullying”, you will access gigabytes worth of definitions of what constitutes it, how it is comes about, and which minority group is more prone to it. Some examples are: gay, cyber, military, legal, disability, prison, trans-gender, workplace, emotional. These categories have been added to, year on year, since the mid-1970s when Dan Olweus, a Swedish-born research professor of psychology, first made the subject of school harassment and its effects on children newsworthy enough to be taken seriously at all.

The recent epidemic of sexual harassment is just the latest classification. It is also the result of our inability to come up with effective punishments for bullying behaviour that will not only stem the tide, but also sit comfortably within the uber-liberal ideals of modern society. Despite circle groups, buddy clubs and thousands of leaflets informing teachers, parents and students on the latest “acceptable language” to counter it, the same problem keeps emerging like the many-headed hydra, reinventing itself in more graphic and insidious forms.  How do we stop it? And if we can’t, how do we control the excesses?

Simply put, bullying is not about tittle-tattle, kids falling in and out of friendships or the odd sideways glance. Neither is it about the natural conflict that occurs when humans are brought together and obliged to interact. I had an e-mail from someone the other day who suggested that being called a “cissy” should be deemed harassment. But should it?  Don’t we run the risk of over-obsessing with verbal offence, such as the radical feminist lobby trying to outlaw the use of  “don’t be a girl” as provocative, sexist and dismissive. At what point do we leave speech alone?

Bullying is abuse of power, domination and intentional harm.  Physical bullying is clear to spot because there are usually the tell-tale bruises, cuts and torn clothes. So, too, is mobbing, which is when an unfortunate victim is singled out in a school hallway, playground or bus, mostly because this sort of stuff tends to end up going viral on You Tube.  However, the majority of cases are far less obvious.

At school, “power” usually means numbers or rank of popularity.  When a group of five friends in a “cool” group organise situations specifically to deliberately ignore or “blank” someone either physically or emotionally, you have the typical case of school bullying, particularly where girls are concerned.  It starts that way, and then, because of how human beings usually react to that group rejection, the victim soon begins to self-exclude.  By the time the matter is out of hand enough to be reported to any authority figure, the trail leading back from the victim to the perpetrator is as obscure as that leading from a  tax avoider to his offshore bank accounts.  This bullying “evidence” can also involve the convolutions of the internet – fake accounts, mobile phones, texting and the dark web.  So it is unsurprising that children today have to be as savvy about exposure and its consequences as a top-rated celebrity PR.

Sexual bullying is just the latest addition to this complex, developing bullying scenario.  With changes in society, highly sexualised behaviour among pupils is now a norm.  It is not even considered anti-social. Attributed labels that would have shocked and caused pain some years ago, such as “slag” or “slut”, take on different connotations today, as they are used as popular banter on Facebook.

Harder still to grapple with is the sexting phenomenon.  Circulation of explicit photos either round schools or on the net is definitely on the rise. It is indeed a serious problem. Posting nude pics has already resulted in several suicides and depression. However, with teenage girls photographing themselves in their underwear and using sex selfies as their Facebook Profile it is hard to begin to unravel who is responsible when it all goes wrong. I personally know of one case in which – although entirely self-imposed – the bullying, ridicule and scorn arising from embarrassing pictures online led one victim to take her own life.

However, rape and assault is in another category altogether. The clue to this is in the terminology. A questionnaire by BBC Panorama aimed at young people aged 11 to 19 in schools and youth clubs found that 10 per cent of the 273 respondents had been “forced” to do something sexual, and just as many again had been intimidated by seeing it happening to somebody else. This is clearly bullying activity.

Parents have been complaining to me for the past 16 years that the real problem is exploitation by hardened bullies of the lax punishments meted out to offenders.  But while no-one wants to neither see a return to corporal punishment, nor can we allow innocent children to be exposed to sexual harassment and rape within our schools walls, and just turn a blind eye.