Sign up for our weekly newsletter
TRCH - Caitlin Moran

BelieveMe is Aiming to Create a Safe Space for Victims of Bullying in Nottingham

24 August 20 words: Emilie Mendham
illustrations: Kate Sharp

Being forced into lockdown has seen Notts’ creative cohorts turn their hands to all sorts of projects, from live-streaming music to socially-distanced filmmaking. But for seventeen-year-old Alice Lynn, lockdown provided the opportunity to create something personal. We caught up with her to find out more about BelieveMe, the new project aimed at creating a safe space for victims of bullying...

In 2017, while walking home with her boyfriend after a day at school, Alice Lynn was assaulted by a group of girls. They were fellow students of her school, who had been tormenting her for months. The girls grabbed Alice’s hair in a violent attack, pushing and pulling her in a circle for what felt like hours. She knew that if she retaliated, her side of the story might be discounted. After a passerby eventually offered help, she thought the worst of it was over and, after finally getting home that evening, she gave the police a statement and stayed home from school for a few days. Shaken and physically injured, she couldn’t face going back.

But for Alice, that was to be the extent of the support she received. Although she was promised that her attackers wouldn’t be there when she returned to school, they were there. Struggling with panic attacks and constant anxiety, the school never supported Alice beyond offering a counselling service. 

Ignored and feeling increasingly alone, the school prioritised burying the incident in order to move on, rather than giving Alice the opportunity to share her experiences. Rather than dealing with the perpetrators, they even suggested that it might be better for her to move schools. 

After leaving school at sixteen, Alice felt a distinct lack of closure from the incident. Still feeling ignored, she shared a heart-wrenching post on Facebook, revealing the details of the attack, and explaining how she felt the school had failed to protect her. And, to her surprise, comments from people far and wide started to flood in. Stories of being attacked. Stories of being ignored. Stories of victim-blaming. There were countless people who had shared similarly awful experiences. 

The response inspired Alice to establish BelieveMe, an organisation aimed at giving a platform to those who had been victims both of similar attacks, and the subsequent lack of support. She soon began sharing anonymous stories from all over, using the hashtag #notyourfault, with the goal of taking power away from the bullies and unresponsive schools across the UK, and giving it back to the victims. 

The girls grabbed Alice’s hair in a violent attack, pushing and pulling her in a circle for what felt like hours

Early on in our conversation, Alice tells me how she prefers not to use the word ‘bullying’, but rather speak on what actually happened. The term, she feels, removes the severity of the situation, making it into something more juvenile and, by proxy, less important. As an attack like the one she suffered wouldn’t be tolerated in a workplace, or by a stranger in the street, nor should it be tolerated when it’s a school peer. Shaking hands and making up after a violent assault is seemingly a remedy reserved exclusively for schools. But, regardless of the age or situation, victims of assault deserve respect, understanding and effort toward resolution. 

“Bullying is too focused on the bully, and not the victim,” Alice explains, “that’s not what BelieveMe is about. We’re here just to help the victim.” She goes on to explain how the people she’s spoken to, some of which are well into their adult lives, still carry the trauma from their own unresolved incidents, and rarely were their attackers ever brought to justice. But a crime is still a crime, even if both victim and perpetrator are students. 

BelieveMe isn’t about sharing the personal information of bullies in an attempt to dox or shame them, in fact, it’s purely about the victim telling their story and expressing their feelings. It’s an open space to be heard without worrying whether or not you will be believed, and without the risk of being dismissed or ignored. And a look at the comments section under each post are a reflection of just that. It’s a time for the victims to be prioritised. 

Alice shares her plans about BelieveMe, and the hopes that she has of working with Nottinghamshire schools in order to change the way they deal with incidents of bullying. “The posters that say ‘Stop Bullying’ don’t really help, because no one ever thinks that they’re a bully,” she says, “ The only people that know it are the victims.” 

Eliminating bullying altogether isn’t the solution either, as Alice explains that it’s an “inevitable” part of growing up. But what can change is the response. It isn’t inevitable that the young victims of attacks similar to hers all over the UK will be heard. 

Want to share your story and get involved with Believe Me? Follow their Facebook and Instagram or get in touch via email

@believemenottingham

We have a favour to ask…

LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?

Support LeftLion now

You might like this too...

The Arc Cinema

You might like this too...