In a book published in August 2015, "Bullying at school, victims & perpetrators, what can we do ?", Hélène Romano, a doctor of psychopathology, analyses the various aspects of this important phenomenon, and suggests courses of action for parents and teachers. By Amicie Rabourdin.
How did you become interested in bullying ?
Hélène Romano : As a practitioner I have supported an increasing number of children who are either being bullied, or who are bullies. Also, when I was called in as an expert in educational institutions, I found there was a lack of benchmarks for teachers and parents to address this issue with young people. As in my previous books, I wanted to link my clinical practice to the critical state of research and knowledge, and specific options for adults.
One in ten students is a victim of bullying...
This figure, based on studies on the subject by Éric Debarbieux, taken from statements of those involved, is probably an underestimate, as many children do not complain. They are too afraid of reprisals.
How do we tackle harassment ?
Bullying is intentional, repeated violence. A slap in a moment of anger is not bullying. Unlike extortion, this kind of violence is also gratuitous. Among bullies, some teen profiles take real pleasure in hurting someone, others follow the group, and others were bullied and are now repeating the cycle. We must first understand what makes a child or teen establish this type of relationship with someone. Then recognise the signs that indicate a child is being bullied.
What are these signs ?
Damage to school kit – damaged school bag, clothes and school belongings are the most specific, but surprisingly hardly mentioned. Psychological suffering is harder to prove as other things such as grief or romantic break-ups can cause it. By cross-referencing different elements exhibited by the child on his body or in relation to school, we can make assumptions. For example, for a child who is failing at school, the school run can be a time for fun, not so for the bullied child. The severity of damage to school kit is not proportional to the suffering related to it: an ink stain can symbolise an hour of hell because it reminds the child of the whole scenario of threats, insults, humiliation and blackmail he experienced. Finally these signs do not leave immediate traces. The bullied child endures bullying and fear until he finally cracks.
What can adults do ?
First, make yourself available to the child, tell him: ‘I believe you’, and show him you are able to understand even unbearable things. Children need to see that their parents are doing their utmost to protect them. Being a parent of a bullied child is complicated as we are in a situation of powerlessness. The institution whose help is sought often refers back to your responsibility. This is why parents should not keep this to themselves, but approach the doctor or a family friend.
- Harcèlement en milieu scolaire, victimes, auteurs : que faire ? Hélène Romano, Éd. Dunod
- Je suis victime, l’incroyable exploitation du trauma, ouvrage collectif, Éd. Philippe Duval
- Site du Ministère de l'Education nationale : Agir contre le harcèlement à l'école