Bullying can have devastating effects on its targets. In recent years, our attention to and addressing of bullying has increased – and rightfully so. However, we are served with constant reminders that how we address bullying often is not enough.
The horse community is by no means immune from these issues. Instagrammer ride_above_hate sent out a call for her followers to send her the bullying comments they had received online. In only 12 hours, these are the responses she received:
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Posted by Kylie Shariff on Tuesday, June 18, 2019
Let me repeat that. These are the responses she received after 12 hours. As she points out, she likely will receive many more.
“Poor horse. Couldn’t you at least try and lose some weight.”
“Is ur face melted or what? (I was born with a facial deformity.)”
“Why were you even born? Just do us all a favor and go kill yourself.”
The video is gut-wrenching, even as someone at whom the comments were not directed. The video highlights a huge issue within our community. Instead of supporting each other and coming together over a common passion, we are hurling insults at one another that have lasting effects that go well beyond the barn.
In 2017, the School Crime Supplement (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice) indicated that, nationwide, 20% of students aged 12 -18 experienced bullying. Fifteen percent of those students reported that their bullying, or a portion of it, had taken place online. Bear in mind, these are the students who are reporting the bullying. The truth is, the actual numbers may be much higher. According to stopbullying.gov, 70.6% of young people say that they have seen bullying in their schools — over 41% of these students have witnessed it more than once a week.
Something else to note is that these statistics come from surveyed students within a specific age range. This does not account for the younger children who experience bullying. This does not account for adults and those out of school who experience bullying. This does not account for the ride_above_hate’s followers who responded to her call to submit their experiences.
Although the connection between bullying and extreme acts such as suicide or school violence is complex, there is no doubt that bullying increases feelings of isolation, rejection, exclusion, and despair. It can deepen depression and anxiety, which can contribute to dangerous behaviors.
So how do we address bullying within the horse community? The simple answer, of course, is don’t do it. But, like all issues, the answer is never simple. The first step is to follow the adage, “If you see something, say something.” According to stopbullying.gov, when people intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57% of the time. Beyond that, we all need to be conscious of our own behaviors as well as the behaviors of those around us.
Most of us are unlikely to engage in the explicit bullying that is shown in this video — or so I would hope. However, most of us partake in our share of implicit bullying that can have negative effects on those around us. This may seem like a trite question, but since we are brought together by a common passion shouldn’t we use it to unite rather than to divide?