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Casey Heynes Defends Himself
Should A Victim of Bullying Ever Fight Back?
By Belinda Nnoka
Over the last couple of years I have been getting pretty engrossed in the subject of bullying. I’ve listened to heart-rending accounts from the parents of bullied children who committed suicide, also known as bullyicide. I’ve read the stories of parents who have been left feeling frustrated, betrayed and hopeless when every legal attempt they have made to bring the bullies to justice for verbally or physically attacking their children has ended unsatisfactorily. More often than not the offender has been given a ‘punishment’ very similar to a slap on the wrist.
I cannot help but wonder if it is this sense of injustice which sent the YouTube video of a boy standing up to his bully viral.
Casey Heynes is an Australian teenager who has been bullied his entire life by those who feel that he is overweight. He has always been able to ignore them but one day, to use his expression, he snapped. Both Casey and the boy he retaliated against were suspended, but the video made Casey an international hero. At the last count there were four Facebook pages dedicated to him with over 200,000 fans; various video games have been created showing Casey’s character taking on a variety of ‘bad guys’. During his tour of Australia, Justin Bieber flew Casey and his family first class to meet up with him in Melbourne. In part of the conversation Justin is heard saying to Casey that he had seen the video and that "it was pretty cool."
What is it about Casey’s stance that resonated with people around the world? Normally public figures would not come out openly and say that fighting back physically is good, but this case has changed that. They are openly defending Casey and saying that what he did was right.
Self-defence is the ‘electric-pink elephant’ in the room that is usually ignored in public arenas. All of the professional anti-bullying groups that I have come across don’t mention self-defence as a viable option in the fight against bullying. But there has to be an honest platform for discussion about this. In my own personal research on this particular issue, a percentage of those who I have spoken said that the aggression they were experiencing only ceased when they took action. Some were able to stand up for themselves verbally; others were able to bring their torment to an end when they got their parents involved. But for those who were being physically assaulted (the smallest group), it only stopped when they fought back and demonstrated that they weren’t going to put up with it any longer. Casey’s story is only unusual in that the whole world knows about it, but the stance that he took, after much provocation, isn’t. It is like people have been given the right to ‘come out’ and voice their true beliefs on their views should someone attack their children.
Should physical defence in the face of physical aggression be classed as wrong or incorrect? Other alternatives in the face of prolonged and aggressive bullying may not be realistic as all of those options may have been exhausted by that point.
I hope that Casey Heynes’ story can open up a long overdue dialogue about the option of defending yourself physically if your aggressors won’t relent.
Belinda Nnoka is an OvercomeBullying.org
feature writer and author of "Don't Let Bullies Ruin Your Life." If you are an expert in a field related
to bullying in school or the workplace and would like
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