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Teen tired of bullies

15-year-old starts anti-violence group

Christine Kay
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Aug 05/02) - Imagine being in high school and being the one the bully picks a fight with. Imagine always being that person.

Imagine being in back of the school and hearing someone yell, 'Hey, there's a fight' and knowing you'll be the one absorbing the punches.

Imagine a crowd appears suddenly, but no one will help you. The people in the crowd are only there to watch. It happens often in Iqaluit and in schools all across Canada.

"No one really thinks of stopping the fight," said Samantha Cooper, a 15-year-old student going into Grade 10 at Inuksuk high school.

Making a change

Cooper, however, is trying to reverse that. On July 19, she held a meeting at the Youth Centre to discuss ways of ending teen violence.

"I hope to get a group of devoted teens together to build up awareness," she said.

Although a name has not yet been decided for the group, they are determined to meet their goals.

"We're going to try to hold a conference in December with teens from across the North and the south. We'll also invite government officials and people like Doug Sage," said Cooper.

Sage is the director of health and social services for the government. He believes this group will be a powerful tool to stop violence in schools.

At the meeting, he listened and brought up certain issues, but held back from being the leader. He insists young people like Cooper can demystify violent behaviour and victimization.

"Up here, it's got nothing to do with stereotyping. People just don't know why they are bullied," said Cooper. And that's what the group wants to find out.

Happy to be heard

The teens present at the meeting were glad to have some sympathetic ears. They described many situations where students have felt threatened in the past.

Some teens only felt safe at school when a teacher walked them to their next classrooms.

Others described having to ask a friend to get them a pop from the canteen because they were too scared to do it themselves.

One boy said he felt horrible the day he was forced to fight back. He said most times he just lets the bullies punch him in the head. Eventually they go away.

For Sage, this is where the victims of bullying need help. He said as soon as the victims change their daily routines because of a bully, they are in trouble. He said the big reason for these changes is feeling ashamed and scared.

"You're talking about feeling helpless and feeling helpless is the state of mind of a victim. What are you going to do to stop feeling helpless?" asked Sage at the meeting.

The first step for Cooper and the others in the group is to talk about it.

"I think it's always been a problem, but I don't think anyone talked about it," said Cooper.

And not talking about it is one of the reasons bullying works as a behaviour explained Sage.

The peer group comes into play here by giving victims a voice. This is why people like Sage and Cooper believe it will be so successful. "Sometimes, it's easier to talk to another teen if the person doesn't want to talk to a counsellor or something," said Cooper.

Although she would like the group to be made up of teenagers, Cooper would like to work with a group of adults as well.

Another meeting will be held before school starts up again in September. The group's plan of action will be discussed at that time.

Cooper hopes this will give victims the courage to stand up for themselves in a non-violent way. She wants everyone to feel safe.