Here at The Diana Award, we define bullying behaviour as ‘repeated, negative behaviour that is intended to make others feel upset, uncomfortable or unsafe’.
According to The Big Assembly, Back2School and Anti-Bullying Week polls conducted by The Diana Award in 2021,‘appearance’ was the most common topic for bullying behaviour. 40% of young people that had experienced bullying behaviour reported that it was linked to their appearance.
What is a visible difference?
Changing Faces, a UK charity that supports and campaigns for those with visible differences, describes a visible difference as: ‘a scar, mark or condition on your face or body that makes you look different.’
There are lots of visible differences and some may be more immediately noticeable than others. The way people preferto describe their difference can vary e.g. some people, but not all, use the medical name of their specific condition. It is important to respect how everyone chooses to self-describe.
Here are a few examples of visible differences:
· Cleft Lip/Palate
· Limb Differences
· Scars and Burns
· Skin Conditions e.g. Vitiligo or Psoriasis
It is also important to note that people who have visible differences are protected from discrimination by the Equality Act 2010 under the protected characteristic of disability. Discrimination is when someone is targeted or treated unfairly for being who they are. Therefore, if someone is being targeted with bullying behaviour related to their visible difference, they are being illegally discriminated against and the behaviour must be reported to a trusted adult. If you’d like to learn more about discrimination, click here.
To learn more about visible differences, click here.
What is the link between bullying behaviour and visible difference?
At The Diana Award, we categorise different bullying behaviours into 3 types: Verbal, Indirect and Physical. Below are some examples of verbal, indirect and physical bullying behaviours related to visible difference:
- Being called unkind names, words or slurs related to their visible difference
- Being threatened with physical violence
- Being targeted online with unkind posts or messages
- Having a photo taken without the person’s consent or knowledge
- Being the subject of rumours because of their visible difference
- People making mocking faces or staring
- Being targeted with physical actions e.g. punching, kicking, spitting, or being tripped up
- Having objects thrown at them
According to research conducted by Changing Faces and ComRes, 36% of people say they have experienced hostile behaviour because of their visible difference, and 58% have experienced hostile behaviour from strangers.
Experiencing bullying behaviour can affect everyone in different ways – they might feel upset, uncomfortable, or unsafe, and they might feel worried about coming to school. No one should have to feel like this. This is why it’s so important that we all try our best to be kind to others and include everybody. Remember that everyone is unique and that’s what makes us, us!
If you would like to understand more about how bullying behaviour affects young people with visible differences, we recommend watching this video from Changing Faces: Anti-Bullying Week 2020: Young people with visible differences share their stories
Top tips for anyone who has seen or experienced bullying behaviour linked to visible difference
- Stay calm – try to remain positive and address the behaviour in a way that you feel comfortable. Try not to react in an angry or aggressive way towards the perpetrator, as this could escalate the situation.
- Tell a trusted adult – this could be a teacher, staff member, or parent/guardian/carer. (You could also speak to an Anti-Bullying Ambassador, who can help you report the behaviour to an adult.) Let them know what you have seen/experienced, and that it is also discrimination.
- Support the target – if you have seen or know about bullying behaviour happening to someone else, reach out to them and ask if theyare ok. Let them know that you are there for them and ask if there is anything that you can do to help them feel comfortable.
- Screenshot, report, and block – if the bullying behaviour is happening online, use the tools available on the website/platform to report and remove the content, and block the perpetrator. We also recommend taking a screenshot of the bullying behaviour so that you have evidence of the behaviour when reporting it to a trusted adult.
How can Anti-Bullying Ambassadors address bullying behaviour related to visible difference in their campaigns?
Diversity Day: Talk about it! Plan a day filled with fun, educational activities to raise awareness of visible differences and diversity and get your whole school involved! This is a chance for everyone to have fun, get creative and learn while they do. Check out our helpful guides on educating your peers about diversity and inclusive activities.
My True Selfie activity: Ask everyone to draw a picture of themselves and write words around it that they would use to describe their true self. These could be describing their personality, likes and dislikes, or favourite hobbies, to create their True Selfie!
Reporting Tools: Find creative ways to make it easier for students to report bullying behaviour when it happens – you could place a ‘Worry Box’ in every classroom or create a reporting app on school computers.
Compliment Day: Encourage everyone (including staff!) to give compliments to others about their personality, behaviour and skills to show appreciation for who they are. You could find creative ways to do this – for example, make some origami paper hearts and give everyone a few to hand out, or encourage people to write compliments in the notes section of each other's school diaries.
Host a charity fundraiser: Raise money for a charity that supports and campaigns for people with visible differences by hosting a fundraiser activity of your choice. For example, you could host a ‘Be Yourself Day’ where you invite students to have a non-uniform day, and everyone contributes a small amount towards this, with all proceeds going to charity.
Diversify your school library: Ensure your school library has a diverse selection of books and literature available. Checkout our resource on Books Related to Bullying Behaviour (for primary schools) which includes a diverse and inclusive reading list. You could also set up a monthly lunchtime book club and choose a different book each month for everyone to read and discuss!
Resources and Further Support
- Changing Faces - www.changingfaces.org.uk
- YP Face It - www.ypfaceit.co.uk
- The Katie Piper Foundation - katiepiperfoundation.org.uk
- Alopecia UK - www.alopecia.org.uk
- Cleft Lip and Palate Association - www.clapa.com
- The Mix - www.themix.org.uk
The Diana Award Advice Messenger provides free, 24/7 support across the UK. If you are a young person in crisis, you can text DA to 85258. Trained volunteers will listen to how you’re feeling and help you think through the next step towards feeling better. Texts are free from EE, O2,Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.