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CONTRIBUTION · 15th June 2011
Creative Spirits
Bullying: facts & statistics
95% Percentage of young people who have witnessed lateral violence and bullying witness it at home.
95% Percentage of bullying that occurs among Aboriginal people is against themselves.

Black lateral violence and bullying.
Bullying & lateral violence victims feel depressed and alone. Violence must not be physical, subtle violence can cause just as much damage.

Lateral violence is a term that describes "a form of bullying that includes gossip, shaming and blaming others, backstabbing and attempts to socially isolate others". It is directed sideways ('lateral') meaning the aggressors are your peers, often people in powerless positions. Other terms include 'work place bullying' and 'horizontal violence'.

Lateral violence is a worldwide occurrence with all minorities and particularly Indigenous peoples. Its roots lie in colonization, oppression, intergenerational trauma and ongoing experiences of racism and discrimination, factors mainstream bullying programs do not take into account.

"[Lateral violence] comes from being colonized, invaded. It comes from being told you are worthless and treated as being worthless for a long period of time. Naturally you don't want to be at the bottom of the pecking order, so you turn on your own".—Richard J. Frankland, Aboriginal singer/songwriter, author and film maker

Effects of lateral violence and bullying include reduced (mental) health and well-being and lower self-confidence. Organizations function less and experience high staff turnover with less Aboriginal people taking positions.

An important characteristic of lateral violence is that it is your own (Aboriginal) peers who oppress you. Research suggests that as many as 95% of bullying occurred amongst Aboriginal people themselves.

With lateral violence the oppressed become the oppressors. We've internalized the pain of colonization and our oppression and we've taken it into our communities in the factionalisation and in the gossip and talk of blood quantum, "you're half-blood" etc.—Allen Benson, CEO Native Counseling Services of Alberta, Canada

Allen Benson goes on to explain that "as oppressed people, we want to say we have that little bit of power over somebody and we've just dragged ourselves down as a society instead of supporting each other in the community. As long as we internalise the pain and don't forgive people, we'll carry it with us forever."

Violence is normalised and children grow up expected to behave like everyone else and copy the bullying.

Forms of lateral violence
Frequent forms of lateral violence are:
•nonverbal innuendo (raising eyebrows, face-making),
•verbal affront (overt/covert, snide remarks, lack of openness, abrupt responses),
•undermining activities (turning away, not being available),
•withholding information,
•sabotage (deliberately setting up a negative situation),
•infighting (bickering),
•backstabbing (complaining to peers and not confronting the individual),
•failure to respect privacy,
•broken confidences.

95% of a group of young people had witnessed lateral violence at home .

Those most at risk of lateral violence in its raw physical form are family members and, in the main, the most vulnerable members of the family: old people, women and children. Especially the children. —Marcia Langton, Aboriginal writer

To tackle lateral violence Richard J. Frankland suggests that you "out it. Name it for what it is, a destroyer of Indigenous culture and life. Publicly admit it is happening and then take steps and measures to deal with it. Find ways to deal with it, end it, eradicate it from our lives and communities." .

Others suggest to apply traditional ways of resolving disputes, such as learning and healing circles and shared care.

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