Think Before You Speak Not only are these words of wisdom that we should all live by, it is the motto of the National Day of Silence held on April 15, 2011 for it’s 16th year. Why be silent? A silent demonstration can be a peaceful way to bring urgent attention to an important issue. Silence as a method of organizing is much different than silence that is coerced or forced through oppressive bullying, harassment and intimidation. A silent demonstration is active, rather than passive, and causes people to pay attention.
As creator Leigh Thomsen points out, “Silence has multiple effects: Bring attention to an issue and encourage reflection on the issue; simulate the how others are silenced; focus the attention on the issue or cause and not the protester; demonstrate that the demonstrators desire peaceful resolution; and spark discussion and dialogue.
National Day of Silence is an annual event held by student groups all over the country designed to bring attention to the bullying, harassment, and name-calling of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students. In 1996, the first Day of Silence took place at the University of Virginia after a student there committed suicide after suffering constant bullying. Since then, over 8,000 middle schools, high schools, and colleges have participated in the annual event where concerned students and teachers vow a day of silence to bring attention to bullying experienced by GLBT students and their allies.
Recognizing the Day of Silence: some vow a day long silence, some for a lunch hour or a certain time during the day. However it is recognized in different communities, the Day of Silence is one that grows stronger throughout the years to reach internationally, where Australia has begun to recognize it. Anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression can take part to ‘speak out’ through their silence to end bullying and harassing.
The Day of Silence has recently gotten some extra attention, gaining even more support because of recent cases where bullying has led youths to taking their own lives. While some of these youths were not part of the GLBT community, there is no doubt that name-calling, harassment, and bullying led to their deaths.
We have all seen the news on these cases, even in here in Winnemucca. Bullying in schools, on social networks such as Myspace and Twitter, even texting has led to cases of suicide. In some cases, to the point where the target of the bullying feels suicide is the only escape from it.
So what exactly constitutes bullying? According to the Anti-Bullying Network, bullying is calling someone names, gossiping about them, leaving them out of activities, threatening them, making them uncomfortable or scared, physically harming them.
Bullying isn’t just for kids. Adults are guilty of it too. Even in our small community, Winnemucca citizens of all ages have been known to do it. Who hasn’t heard a piece of gossip here? Most of us will hear gossip and dismiss it as just that, never giving it a second thought. A bully will start it, even repeat it with no regard to the harm they may cause, perhaps embellishing to make it more interesting, thus inflicting harm to the person they are gossiping about.
Why do people bully? There can be a number of reasons regardless of their age: they want to be popular, seeking attention, they may feel jealous of the person they are bullying, they may not feel good about themselves, so they put others down or hurt them, they are trying to gain control over a situation, or they may be bullied themselves. Sometimes the bully is displaying the behavior they have learned from parents or family. This can often be the case where someone is bullied because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, even race, ethnicity, or religion.
No matter what the reason, it is never okay.
Bullying is violence and there is a cycle to violence. It is emotional and verbal abuse and should be recognized as such. No one should ever live in fear. If you know someone who is being bullied, please help them. Breaking the silence is the only way to break the cycle. Remember, if you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. AVA has provided classes and materials regarding bullying in the past, these classes have always filled quickly and the materials requested often. We are continuing to provide materials and classes, if you or your organization would like any of these free materials or to arrange a class, please contact us. For more information: www.dayofsilence.org www.antibullying.org www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org