Speak up

You have a voice – use it. Speak up…

Unfortunately, it is very easy to end up letting things happen when you are with your mates. What is worse, you can often end up doing things that you know are wrong or that you would ordinarily feel uncomfortable with.  We all want to fit in and be liked, and no one likes to lose face or be the one that makes a fuss or doesn’t go along with everyone else.

Remember it takes real courage to stand up for what you know is right – especially when your friends are involved.

There was a case in Steubenville – America recently (and there have been a number of similar cases elsewhere) where a 16 year old girl who was very drunk at a party was sexually assaulted and humiliated whilst people watched and all of it was recorded on social media sites.

This horrible thing happened to someone who could easily be one of your friends, but it wasn’t done by monsters, it was done by normal teenagers. The worst part is that her friends were there too, lots of people were there and no one stepped in – no one said ‘hey that’s not cool’. They let it happen.

You are going to know people, and may be even be friends with people, who think it’s ok to talk about people or treat people in an abusive way – and that includes using sex to abuse people. You may hear people say things like ‘that’s gay’ – or ‘she’s a slag’ or see someone behave like this…

Watch this…a film from our sister site UrDecision, made with the help of young people.

This is where you need to step in.

All you have to do is say something like, “that’s not cool” or something that lets the person behaving badly know that it’s not ok.

Now I know that sounds scary, but remember that everyone wants to fit in. If you say something, they’ll more than likely stop so they don’t look like a muppet. It only takes one person to make the first move to let other people know they can speak up too – trouble is, often nothing happens as we are all waiting for someone else to lead the way and step in.

That is what happened in Steubenville. No one stepped in and a girl who was in no fit state to say ‘no’ was hurt and humiliated.

Now admittedly there will be occasions when it isn’t always safe to say something – but that doesn’t mean that you do nothing – leave and get help.

It doesn’t even make a difference if you like the person – abuse is abuse and it is always wrong. Even if the person has been rude, or isn’t cool or you’ve been told they’ve done something you think is disgusting… it doesn’t matter…  If you step in, when it’s done you can go back to not liking them – but if you do nothing, you are letting it happen – so how are you different from the abuser?

Speak up and make a difference. You know what is right.

Look after your friends – but also look out for those that have less power than you.

© Going off the Rails 2014. Adapted from ‘Playing Downstairs’ by Jonny Hunt

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