Q: Please tell us a little about yourself, your occupation, and what a day at work looks like for you?
A: My name is Elliot. I am a university student and also a sexual violence prevention activist. I have founded and progressed initiatives aimed at sexual violence prevention within both my previous school community and at a state level. I have collaborated on these projects with the ACT Education Directorate, a senior ACT DPP barrister in the field, University of California executives, and other sexual violence prevention NGOs. I am passionate about the safety and support of women, especially in schools, and believe in respect, empowerment, and diversity as crucial values of the workplace, schools, and everyday life. My day-to-day is currently focusing on studying and working as a casual associate at PwC.

Q: Before working in your field, what preconceived ideas did you have surrounding bullying?
A: I think there can sometimes be a preconceived notion that bullying is aggressive and sometimes violent in nature. In the past, for me, I have been surprised at how pervasive bullying can be in non-physical ways, such as repeatedly leaving people out, gossiping, or talking about someone behind their back in ways that can embarrass and humiliate people. As a child, it never seemed like a pervasive or hugely problematic issue because I always felt comfortable standing up to bullies. I think it's important to recognise that bullying affects every person in a different way, and different responses are needed in different situations - this will largely be influenced by the victim and their needs.

Q: How have your thoughts changed?
A: Bullying now seems to me as something that stems from the bully wanting to ‘fit in’ or as a possible example of them taking out their inability to communicate and empathise properly with others. I believe people are a product of their environment and I think this would play into bullying as well. If people are bullied, they may learn these behaviours and perpetuate them against others, regardless of whether they know it's wrong. I think there is also something to be said about technology and its impact on young people being able to learn to communicate and interact in positive ways, while also possibly perpetuating stereotypes that directly or indirectly support bullying behaviours. However, bullying was around before technology became such a prominent part of people's lives, so this could be considered more of a facilitating factor.

Doing work in sexual violence prevention highlighted how not all sexual violence is aggressively physical in nature - sexual harassment can be hugely impactful without a perpetrator ever laying a hand on the victim/survivor, and social media and other technology has provided platforms for online sexual abuse. Bullying seems to me to sometimes reflect this. Further, with both issues, it is incredibly important the bystanders are able to recognise when things are wrong and be comfortable knowing what to do, whether it is giving the victim support, reporting the issue, or stepping in if they feel safe to do so.

Q: In your opinion, what connects schoolyard bullying to adulthood? What are the consequences to that connection?
A: When people are unable to understand and reflect on their negative behaviour, there is a chance that these dispositions will continue to affect them into adulthood, and they could pass those practices on to their children and others around them. I also think it’s important to acknowledge that victims of bullying are more likely to develop mental health conditions such as depression, in comparison to those who don’t experience bullying.

Q: What would you say to your younger self if she was being bullied?
A: You are so much cooler than they are! They don’t know better - they are using you to make themselves feel better. They’ve got stuff going on and they are taking it out on you. There are others who love you and appreciate you, and you should surround yourself with people like that instead. Also, in future, you and your brother are best friends - how whacky is that!


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