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Thursday, 14 December, 2000, 16:19 GMT
Anti-bullying: Ask Big Dave

Dave Gauder is a record-breaking strong man known as Big Dave who runs an anti-bullying campaign. Part of the presentation features him pulling a double decker bus packed with children. Big Dave was bullied at school. He joined us for a Live Chat on Thursday.


Jon Reynolds:
Dave, when I am being picked on what is the best way to deal with it as I find it hard confronting them?

Dave Gauder:
The only answer I can give is: You must, must have the confidence to do it for a start. The only reason why I wouldn't confront them was because I thought things would be getting worse. But how could things have got any worse? In my case, because I was beaten up regularly, they made me do things I didn't want to do. One of those was go and steal for them, all sorts of intimidation - physical and mental - so how could things have got any worse? It was my parents who I spoke to first and it was my parents who started the whole thing rolling for me to put a stop to it.

Katie, UK:
What would you do if you saw your bullies now?

Dave Gauder:
I get asked this at schools and I can definitely answer that about two years ago, I bumped into the bullies. Not as that frightened little boy but as the world's strongest man. The fear on their faces was enough for me not to have to physically hurt them because just for those two or three minutes that I was with them they remembered who I was. They also remembered what they did to me they were even still together. I think they were all joined at the hip. This shows that they still haven't got any confidence - even to this day.

That's why bullies bully: Firstly, because they're cowards, and secondly because they haven't got any confidence.

Diane Cavallero, Antwerp, Belgium:
I was bullied as a schoolchild, and I remember that the greatest problems occurred not in the school grounds themselves, but during bus transport to and from home. Bullies learn quickly that the school is too much trouble for their "sport", but busses and trains are open hunting grounds. What, if anything, is to be done about this type of targeting by bullies?

Dave Gauder:
This is exactly what happened to me as well. It's the fear of going home from school or going to school where a lot of the bullying does take place.

Thankfully with everything that is now happening regarding bullying and authorities things hopefully should start to be sorted out. I know that that's going to take time. But if your bullying is incessant, then my way would be to actually talk to the police if it is happening outside of school.

A lot of police forces now have school liaison officers or youth officers. When you feel that this is your last resort and you need to talk to someone then you must talk to the police.

Sian Hughes, Battle, East Sussex:
I am a prefect in my school and I have become aware of bullying amongst the younger children. The school is aware but they seem to be doing nothing about it. Is there any advice you can give me that may help the people involved?

Dave Gauder:
This is another question that comes up a lot. It's as if the school tries to turn a blind eye to what is going on and hopes that the problem goes away. We all know that the problem doesn't go away. But with all the new laws that are coming out within the community, all communities have to work together now - that includes local authorities, police, education - because these problems will not go away unless they are tackled head-on by the relevant people.

It's amazing how many schools that I have visited where the head teachers or teachers have said: "We haven't got any problems." In some cases that could be true because bullying is done in secret and the bullies are working on your fear so that you won't come forward and talk to anybody. Because all schools have to be inspected now there must be an anti-bullying project in your schools because of the Ofsted report and this will downgrade the school's markings for that report. Safety is one of the key issues.

Vivienne Newsome, Stirling, Scotland:
Do you think, as I do, that some people, including some children, are just bad and need, as my mother would say, "a good hiding" as a taste of their own medicine, before they realise that there are rules about how to treat others?

Dave Gauder:
I totally agree with that unfortunately we can't go round giving good hidings because it would be people who will be in the right who'll get into worst trouble. I totally agree with you that bullies are the lowest of the low and in my visits to the schools I make sure that that message is well and truly received by the bullies because they think it's cool to bully - but it's not.

When I'm at the schools I make sure that message really does get through and make them feel the lowest of the low.

Colin Warner, Gravenhurst, Bedford:
Other than talking to your child, would you have any special tips for ways to find out if a child of yours is being bullied, or perhaps even bullying?

Dave Gauder:
Because my school work suffered so much because I couldn't concentrate on my work so I would do anything, anything, not to go to school. I used to make up all sorts of stories how I would feign illness. I used to have illnesses that the doctors had never even heard of! I used to push my fingers down my throat to make myself physically sick. I used play truant or bunk off school so all the time I was getting further and further into trouble.

My parents knew that there was something wrong but they didn't know what it was because I wouldn't tell them. And it was not until I actually plucked up the courage and the confidence to talk to my parents that they understood. Then they knew that that was the problem. There are lots of give-aways if you think that bullying is going on.

Mark Ormerod:
Do you believe that the bullying you suffered had any positive effects?

Dave Gauder:
Yes. But unfortunately when the bullying stopped I swore it would never happen again - and because I was very quiet, small, shy - this is the reason I think why I was targeted - once the bullying had stopped I started to participate in more sports. This gave me my own group of friends and this started the confidence building in me.

It wasn't until I gained the reputation for my strength as the world's strongest man that I was able to put my road show for anti-bullying into the schools nationally. Because everything that I talk about happened to me and I can pass on all this experience with a different kind of message for building confidence.

Anna Trevitt, Rugby, England:
A number of children (including my own) are being bullied by an 11-year old 'persistent offender'. My son has, in the last 6 months, been punched, half-strangled, kicked, had fingers broken, his cat has been attacked, plus the verbal abuse has been horrendous. I have complained on numerous occasions to the Headmaster, the Chairman of Governors, and am about to complain to the LEA. The bullying is still going on. What can I do?

Dave Gauder:
We are talking about physical assaults now and I think personally if this has been going on for a long time then the police must be told of these incidents. They have got the powers now with the LEA to have restraining orders put on this particular person, so if you have been up blind alleys with education then I feel you must take the matter further as these assaults could get worse and he or she has to be stopped and stopped now.

Susan, Dunstable, Beds:
I am at present pursuing a grievance of bullying at work, and although I appreciate this is aimed at schools, it is a problem I have been suffering for over 2 years at work, from my manager. Do you feel that school bullies become workplace bullies if this is not nipped in the bud?

Dave Gauder:
Definitely yes. Not only do they persist in the bullying. In a lot of cases the bully goes on to a life of crime as well. And when I started with the roadshows I received the full backing of the trade unions and the CBI so I knew that workplace bullying went on and I would like to have a bet with you that if you sat this person down who is bullying you at work, question him or her, that they were a bully at school. They have grown up, knowing no better, you see - this is the thing!

Once again the confidence question could come into it. Although this person has reached management, I still think that he or she wouldn't have a lot of confidence maybe outwardly, but not inside, where it counts. And he or she may even fear you because they maybe thinking in the back of their minds that you might be taking their position. It's all down to the power syndrome. This is how bullies operate - children or adults. Lots of the young offenders who I meet were either bullies or have been bullied.

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