The Purpose of IPF's Anti-Bully Policy
Every IPF member has
the right to be respected and feel valued in the community. IPF members write to
people across a broad range of cultures. They may find that their pen
friends have very different experiences to their own; they may have
different educational backgrounds; different economic situations; different
levels of language skills; different religions and different lifestyles. While the vast
majority of pen friend writing results in an abundance of friendship, there
can be times when misunderstanding and/or conflict arises, as can happen in
any relationship. Bullying is not a
behaviour that IPF tolerates. The aim of our policy is to be proactive with
regards to bullying, in an effort to help make the pen friend experience a
positive one - for all of our members. IPF also recognises
the complex nature of bullying and the impact it can have on people. IPF's
policy should be seen as a general guideline only. The policy is not
designed to be exhaustive, or to replace professional assistance.
What is Bullying?
In short, bullying can
be described as behaviour that is designed to intentionally hurt another
person. It can take many forms,
including verbal or written abuse, name calling, threats, social aggression,
trying to argue someone into submission, gossip - including false gossip,
rumors and making fun of people.
How to Avoid
Being a Bully
Before you send a
letter, ask yourself, 'How would I feel if I received this letter?'. Does the letter show
kindness and respect to the person, their situation and their feelings? You should be
confident and able to say, 'Yes, I would like to receive this letter if my
pen friend sent it to me. The intent of the letter is friendly and not to
cause harm or hurt to the reader.'
What to do if you
Receive a Bully Letter
There are many forms
of bullying, one example is name calling and sweeping allegations. Letters
could contain statements such as:
'You have total
disregard for children.'
'You have no respect
for the elderly.'
'People like you are
responsible for world wars, and all the mess the world is in.' etc, etc.
It can be quite
confronting. The person who sends the letter may have never met you; know
very little about you, or nothing about you, and all of a sudden you find
yourself with a letter that contains judgement and abuse that is totally
inappropriate. Basically, if someone
sends you a bully letter, the first thing is to ask yourself, 'Why?'.
Did you actually write
words in your letter to them that could logically provoke such an attack?
Did the person
read something 'between the lines' in your letter? That is, you didn't write
words that would have offended them, but they
may have interrpreted your letter the wrong way.
Remember, people have
a vast range of backgrounds. They may think you are insinuating something,
even if you didn't write it. Some people also have
anger management issues. They want to lash out at people and hurt them. They
could have difficult circumstances at home, or perhaps they are treated in
the same way and don't know any better. Anger verus anger is
not a recommended solution. Evaluate the situation.
There really is no
excuse for writing a bully letter. People should be able
to communicate with you in a responsible and respectful manner. Even if they
disagree with something you said or did, there are appropriate ways for them
to communicate with you.
In dealing with the
situation, you may feel best by explaining to the person that everyone has
the right to be treated with respect and you don't feel you have received
the respect you are entitled to and you would like to end the communication.
Alternatively, if you
would like to see if you can resolve the matter with the person and try to
continue communicating with them, ask the person to please explain why they
are name calling, judging you, accusing you of things, or whatever they have
done, and see if you can work it out in a friendly way. It could be an
innocent misunderstanding that has triggered a bad childhood experience, or
something else that you would have had no way of knowing. Sometimes
relationships don't work; whether they be pen friend relationships, or any
other kind of relationship. In such instances, it is just better to move on. Not everyone is nasty
and hurtful and the vast majority of pen friends inspire friendship. It is
best to focus on the positive friendships and put your energy into making
those friendships work and grow.
What to do if
IPF does not recommend
shutting people out of your life in a hurtful way, but in the context of
bullying, if you have asked someone not to contact you again, they should
respect that request. You can also report
the matter to IPF so that the matter can be evaluated. Offenders may be
reported to authories, given a warning or expelled, depending on the
circumstances. Don't let your life be
ruined by bullies. IPF strongly recommends that you seek professional help
through the assistance of councellors or other experts if bullying is having
a negative impact on your life. Expect respect. Be
proud of your contribution to the pen friend experience through kindness,
caring and understanding.
International Pen Friends