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 Bullying Continues
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