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Last Updated: Friday, 21 September 2007, 11:17 GMT 12:17 UK
Cyberbullying: A victim's story
By Kim Catcheside
Social affairs correspondent, BBC News

Keyboard
A girl was threatened: "We're going to get you tomorrow."
The government is issuing guidelines to help schools tackle the problem of cyberbullying. But how does it feel to be on the receiving end of such abuse?

"We're going to get you tomorrow, you look like an ugly slut.

"There's no point in you wearing make-up because you look like a clown.

"You slut, no-one is going to touch you because you're a lesbian. You are a slag and you look like one. You need to get some friends because you have none."

Those are the words that schoolgirl Julianne Flory found posted about her on her social networking website.

Up until then her bedroom had been the only refuge from a campaign of bullying being directed against her by a group of girls at her school.

Julianne is now 17 - and keen to talk about the A-levels she is taking this year and her ambition to study sport science.

Cruel abuse

She is an engaging and attractive girl with curly brown hair who is good at judo and teaches swimming at her local pool.

Yet she describes being the victim of the most cruel abuse from girls at her last school over several years.

It started in the ordinary way, with taunts and shoves in the corridor. But then the bullies got access to Julianne's web page on her social networking site.

"Cyberbullying is worse than face-to-face bullying because it's bolder," she says.

"If they are willing to put insults up where more people can see them, it means they are more serious.

"If they say it to you in a playground, you can forget about it, but when it's posted in front of you it's there for you to constantly see, it sinks in more and you feel more threatened."

When the bullies managed to get access to Julianne's instant messaging service, things took on an even more frightening turn.

"When the message came up I thought it was a friend," explains Julianne.

Stab threat

"The conversation started normally and then they started saying the things they'd been saying at school, calling me a slag and a slut and all those words.

"Then they started saying they were going to get me tomorrow and I was going to be stabbed and my brothers and mum and dad would be hurt."

Julianne printed the conversation and took it to her father.

"He started shaking and crying," she remembers. "Then we went to the police."

The police managed to track the bullies down and used harassment orders to keep them away from Julianne and her family.

It turns out Julianne did exactly the right thing. The government's guidance on cyberbullying published on Friday advises victims to gather evidence to show to their head teachers, or if it's more serious to the police.

With the right information cyberbullies can generally be tracked down.

But it's harder to tackle those who've taken part less directly. They may be forwarding insulting texts or humiliating videos sent to them by the bullies.

They may be gathering round a computer screen with their mates to laugh at material posted on the web.

Next week the government is launching a campaign to make young people think twice before encouraging the cyberbullies in this way. A series of films will be posted on several social networking sites.




SEE ALSO
Fight cyberbullies, schools told
21 Sep 07 |  Education
How do you stop the cyberbullies?
10 Apr 07 |  Education

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