From 15th May 2020 till 15th June 2020, EMPOWER Malaysia organised an essay competition for aspiring writers aged 13 to 23 with the theme “The Freedom to Express Myself without Fear”. This essay discussing the importance of speaking up against bullies is written by Naava Low, aged 13. Her entry was one of the Top 20 essays chosen in the competition.
That’s what it is like to feel, when everyone has turned against you. To feel like you have a huge stone pressing against your heart that you just can’t get off. It’s like falling into never ending darkness, trying to reach out but realising nobody’s there. So lonely, that you start to accept the cruel fate.
That’s what it is like to face bullying. I could only imagine the pain to be in my friend’s shoes.
It was my 6th year in primary and I had this friend that just joined our school, let’s just call her Jana. She was really nice and was extremely helpful to anyone she met. And she hung out mostly with the so-called “popular squad”. Whom most of them were girls that had a position in the school, as a class monitor or a head of something. Everything was fine until one day, Jana had the worst luck to have a feud with “the head of the gang”, Ann. And her being a newbie, Ann turned the whole gang against her using false rumours and telling them what have she done to her. Just like that, Jana fell down the endless rabbit hole of bullying.
At first it was just mild, sometimes ignoring her say in a conversation, not asking her to tag along or just forget about her existence. But then it started to get worse, they would just straight up give her dirty looks every time they pass her by and by that I meant DEATH STARE… By that time, Jana already knows that something was wrong, so like a smart girl that she was, she started to hang out with the others instead. But as you all know the story doesn’t just stop there.
One day I was coming back to my classroom after school activities, and when I walked in, all the girls from the gang were swarming and pushing me to sign this paper so I was like “ok, ok”. But when I got a closer look, it was actually a petition (or a pledge) to not befriend her/talk to her anymore. Now these girls were not playing a fool, they meant serious business, when you sign it you can’t even talk to her or even sit with her during recess. It was then I realised that Ann was actually calling upon the whole class (females) to boycott her. It was so sudden, I barely had time to read it but I remembered that my parents said to never give out your signature without meaning it. So I ended up not signing it and stayed neutral instead.
Although I stayed by her side and comforted her, I was still scared to speak out to the bullies and ask them to stop because they were big in numbers and capable of using extremely hateful words. Looking back at that, I really regretted that I did not stand up for her when she most needed it. Especially during what she was about to face during the following week and especially when she felt helpless.
One time during class, the clock chimed 11:11, which was a wishing time (I don’t know, that’s what they believed) Ann just said that “I hope she would die”. The whole class heard it, I heard it, Jana heard it, but no one chose to say a thing. Then the rumours spread to other classes, and nearly the whole year 6 tormented her. She felt so insecure and pleaded to always tag along in my close circle of friends, she was suffering from constant mental breakdowns, to the point where the toilet was the only place she felt safe.
Then she stopped coming to school. 1 day passed by, 2 days passed by, 3 days… eventually it became 1 week.
And believe me, I was worried, as I am aware of children committing suicide because of bullying. I tried calling her, where she would then reveal to me that she told her parents and they are planning to do something about it but she needed a rest from all the trauma she’d experienced.
A week later her parents arrived with the police squad, the headmaster and the discipline teacher was there. I could tell you the girls were scared shitless until they cried like babies. But sadly, they weren’t arrested. They still had to pay for what they had done and the whole gang and everyone that signed that petition got ripped from their titles and left with a permanent record. Ann even had a whole background check done on her. Serves her right.
If Jana didn’t have had the courage to speak up, the story would’ve ended way more differently. That is why bullying is the third leading cause of death amongst young people because they don’t speak up. After reading my essay, I have only one favour to ask of you, and that is to speak up.
Speak up, when someone does something to you that you just don’t like. Don’t ignore it.
Speak up, if your friends or you loved ones are facing bullying of any kind and be there for them during their darkest times.
Speak up, because we all have the right to be free from oppress, abuse and bullying and to be who we are without any fear.
And for those who are still facing this or knows a friend in need of help, don’t be afraid to be yourselves without fear and speak up if something is hurting you or just isn’t right, because what hurts the victim most, is not the cruelty of the oppressor, but the silence of the bystander.
The views, opinions and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of EMPOWER Malaysia.