Sunday, May 27, 2018

Why do People Bully?

Statistics show that 1 out of every 2 people will have experienced bullying of some kind by the time they turn 20.  That's a frightening statistic!  Unfortunately, bullying doesn't miraculously stop when a person turns 20.  Many adults are bullied by their spouse, so called 'friends' and even at their place of work.  Bullying is not limited to children's school playgrounds.  Bullying is everywhere and little is being done to stop it.  Bullies are not being held accountable for their actions.
And it starts at the top.
Which brings me to Donald Trump.  He's the epitome of a bully and it seems to be okay.  Calling people names, giving them nasty nicknames, belittling them, and posting it on social media is nothing more than cyber-bullying.  Imagine a whole generation of children using Donald Trump as their role-model and mimicking his antics on social media. 
Scary stuff, isn't it?
So why do people bully others?
Are they all just sadistic sociopaths?
Or is there an underlying reason for their behavior?
These are the ten top reasons why people bully
1.  Jealousy.  The bully could be jealous of your popularity, your relationships, something you own or wear, your intelligence, your looks - basically anything you have that they feel they don't.  Therefore, to compensate for their lack they'll put you down or make you pay.
2.  Sucky home life.  Some people feel the need to share the suckiness of their life with others.  If things aren't going so well at home, they might inadvertently create that same environment at work.  Or they might feel if their life is a misery they may as well make everyone else's life a misery.
3.  Low self-esteem.  There are those who feel that they are not good enough.  So they try and crush all those around them to make themselves look better.
4.  Power-hungry narcissists.  These are the control-freak types who are addicted to power.  There is no reason for them to bully other than the power-rush it gives them.  They just thrive on lording it over everybody.  It's all about their ego.
5.  Stress or trauma.  Some bullies start acting out after they have experienced a traumatic event in their life or are under stress.  They project negative behaviors to try and disguise what is going on in their life.
6.  Aggression.  Some people are just mean and they enjoy hurting others.  No other explanation needed.
7.  Attention-seeking.  Then you get the bullies that just want people to notice them and want to be the center of attention.  The attention junkies.  They will do anything to get a laugh or to get noticed, even if it involves putting someone else down.
8.  Victims of bullying themselves.  Many bullies were once bullied themselves.  Their parents instructed them to fight back, so bullying others is a kind of a defense mechanism to protect themselves from ever being a victim again.  Bully them first before they bully you.
9.  Acceptance.  Some bully others so they can be accepted into the popular group, or because they think it might give them a higher ranking in their clique.  This is a kind of pack-mentality.
10. Lack of empathy.  These bullies pick on people who are different in some way.  Often they don't understand how it feels to be a little different, so they will ridicule others out of ignorance.  They pick on others because they think it is funny.
Whatever the reasons behind the bullying, it must stop.  The long-term effect bullying has on a person's psyche is phenomenal.  It will impact current and future relationships.  It might even become so bad, that the bullying victim decides to seek revenge.  If you are being bullied, then you need to report it to someone.
Cindy Vine is an author and teacher who has experienced bullying in all its terrible forms.  She is the author of Not Telling, Hush Baby and Defective.  Her new YA novel, The Freedom Club, has just been released.  All her books are available on Amazon is both ebook and paperback format.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

When will School Shootings stop?

With all the hype of the Royal Wedding, it seems the latest school shooting might hide in the shadows behind photos of the royal couple.  10 People dead and the 22nd school shooting in the US in 2018!  Definitely not a statistic to feel proud of.
It's uncanny that the day The Freedom Club was released on Amazon, is the same day there's another school shooting.
Having started a school for children who struggle to cope in mainstream education, I heard many terrible stories about bullying on a daily basis.  In my over 30 years in education teaching in schools all around the world, I have heard many stories about bullying.  It seems to be an ongoing problem, despite schools saying they have zero tolerance for bullies.
My own children have been bullied.  I can vividly remember the day one of my children came home crying her heart out.  Freddie Mercury had just died and a boy in her class told her that she gave Freddie Mercury AIDS.  She was devastated, fully believing that because of her, he would never sing again!  Children can be cruel, very cruel.  They say what they want without thinking about the consequences.  Words hurt.
Teen suicides and school shootings are an alarming trend.
After the Las Vegas shooting on 1 October 2017, even though it wasn't a school shooting, I got the idea for The Freedom Club.  My thinking was, what if some high school students get tired of being victims of bullying and do something about it?
Now I am not saying that all school shootings happen because of bullying. 
Some school shooters have histories of mental instability.  For others it might be attention seeking or out of anger.  But the one thing all school shootings have in common, is that those left behind are completely traumatized.
After the Parklands school shooting there was a lot of publicity, marches, protests, walk-outs, debates.  Students were unanimous in wanting change.  They wanted to feel safe at school.  That's not a ridiculous request if you think of it.  Children go to school to get an education, not to be shot at.
But so far, nothing important has happened.  There's been no big change in legislation.  There's been a ludicrous suggestion that teachers should be armed to stop school shootings.
Many years ago, just before Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa, there was a lot of rioting, protest action and the burning down of schools.  Apartheid had not yet been dismantled.  I can remember, together with the other members of staff, being taught how to use an RN Rifle so that we could defend the school in case the protestors came to burn it down.  Thank goodness the protestors never came and we never had to defend the school.  However, I can remember feeling uncomfortable that we were expected to use a gun on the school premises if the situation called for it.  I had become a teacher to make learning fun, not to be a gun carrying educator.
The Freedom Club tells the stories of the children.  Stories that all those who have been bullied can identify with.
“We could be anybody and everybody. A group of high school stereotypes with one thing in common.  Every one of us has a story.”
Every high school has the bullies, the freaks, and the weird kids that make you feel uneasy.  Rourke High has more than their fair share.  A few months before the end of their senior year, a group of seemingly mismatched kids get together to form The Freedom Club, hoping that they can support the victims of bullying, before they graduate.  As they uncover secrets and lies they plot revenge - and discover love, friendship and truths about themselves, building up to a shocking climax that will leave you reeling.
Do you ever really know the person next to you?

(Click on this link to get your copy!) 

Cindy Vine is an author and teacher living and working in Norway.  She is the author of The Case of Billy B, Not Telling, Defective, CU@8, Hush Baby and The Freedom Club.
All her books are available on in both Ebook and Paperback formats.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Things I learned being a Mother

I was 21 when I had my first baby, turning 22 the very next day.  No matter how many books or articles you read on the subject, nothing prepares you for it.  From that first cry, you are thrown into the deep end and there is no other option but to swim.
As a single mother I learned how to be resourceful and always have a Plan B or Plan C to fall back on, because very rarely did Plan A work out.
Carrying a little life inside you for 9 months creates a bond that is unbreakable.  The love you feel for that child will always be there, even in dark times when they turn against you and say the meanest things ever, you will always be ready to forgive because you are their Mom.
When they achieve success, you watch from the sidelines and it feels as if your heart might burst from pride.  You share in their disappointments and heartaches and it feels like your heart may break.
No matter where in the world they may be, they are resident in your heart and will never face eviction.
Mother's Day memories of little feet tiptoeing around the house, plates and pans banging in the kitchen before being served breakfast in bed.  Those memories I'll forever hold dear now that I am alone and my nest is empty.  The handmade cards, smiling happy faces, family times dominate my memory bank.
A mother will sometimes have to make difficult choices, will take risks, leave her comfort zone if there's a chance it will benefit her children.  They won't always know why you did what you did and made a certain choice.  You have to remember that only you knew the big picture, and the small piece they have is seen from their perspective.
The family squabbles and laughter will ensure the house is never quiet, until they have grown up and left the nest and the silence will echo through the empty rooms.
Being a mother isn't always easy, the responsibility of shaping young lives is huge, and doing it all by yourself is even harder.  But boy is it worth it!  The little grubby hand in yours, the head against your chest, the voice saying, "I love you Momsy," all make the most precious memories to cherish for the rest of your life.
My children gave me the Gift of Love and made me who I am today.  A mother first and everything else second.
To my children, I am so proud of every single one of you.  We might hardly ever see each other, all of us in different countries, but we'll always be a family and you'll always be loved.
Thanks for the memories!
Cindy Vine is a South African living and working in Norway.  She is the author of Hush Baby, Defective, Not Telling and CU@8.  All of her books are available on Amazon in both paperback and kindle format.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Romance Scam Alert!

Most people are familiar with the TV Show Catfish, and how the hosts expose young people pretending to be something they are not and fooling some gullible person online.  People fall in love with someone who seems to be the only person in the world who understands them.  All they have is a photo or two, and a range of excuses why they can't actually meet, can't video chat, can't talk on the phone.  We see the show, know how it's done, so why do we continue to fall for these scams?
We have all been warned about the scams involving a Nigerian prince, Ghanaian politician, an heir to a fortune, all needing your help in getting the money out of their country.  People attracted to the prospect of making easy money by helping someone, find themselves with their bank accounts emptied.
The scary thing, is that some of these romance scammers are targeting elderly women, and conning them out of their life savings.  And they are repeatedly getting away with it.
You might be wondering, how does someone fall for one of these scams?  What you have to remember, is that the people they are targeting are not as technology and internet savvy as we are.  They get a message on their Facebook or Linkedin, (that one of their children probably set up for them) and they open it and have no reason not to believe the sender isn't genuine.  Picture this, a lonely widow/divorcee over the age of 70, living alone with lots of time on her hands, gets a message from a man telling her he`s attracted to her smile.  Nobody comments on her smile anymore, and she's flattered.  Right there and then she's hooked and takes the bait.  What follows is an online romance that will end in tears.
The Nigerian scammers, in particular, use a tried and tested formula.
1.  They set up a fake profile on Linkedin or Facebook, use an alias, and have a stock of photos of a real person they have stolen off the internet.  To make themselves more appealing, they will have a desirable career or profession.
2.  They trawl through Facebook and Linkedin looking for potential targets, older women who were professionals in their day, who look like they might have money in the bank.
3.  They send the woman a private message with a flattering comment.  If she replies, they follow up with more flattering prose, much of it copied and pasted off greeting card websites.  The woman can't believe her good fortune, someone is finally paying her attention again.  They send her a stolen
photo, and she is pleasantly surprised that such a good looking man is interested in her.  Photos of men in US Military uniform is quite common, but if they are not targeting someone in the US, then they tend to use the photos of Joe Cross.  Joe Cross is a health food guru in Australia.  Unfortunately, his photos have been stolen off his website and social media pages, and are being sent out to unsuspecting victims.
4.  Once the woman is hooked, they will tell her to rather do voice chats on Whatsapp.  This is better than email, they will say, and also so they can hear her beautiful voice.  Of course, this means that when they start asking for money, there will be no written trace of it.
5.  They will explain that they can't do video chats or skype because their phone doesn't have that capability.  They can't phone as they are based overseas and that would be too expensive.
6.  They will call the woman several times a day, and every night to build up that love connection and to prove that they really care.  Eventually, that poor old woman is just waiting for their phone calls.
7.  They will spin the woman a story about how it's their child's birthday and they can't afford to buy a present because all their money is tied up in a big project they are working on.  The woman will be cunningly manipulated to send money so that they can buy their child a phone for their birthday.  But they are not planning on using the money to buy a phone and there isn't a child.  This first request for money is the taster.  If the woman falls for it, then they know that they have landed themselves a winner.  If she doesn't, they dump her and move on to the next victim.
8.  They will keep on with the daily phone calls on Whatsapp, supposedly sharing intimate details of their lives while encouraging the woman to do the same.  They will tell the woman about a big project they are working on in a foreign country, like a bridge they are building, and how as soon as they have finished the project, they will come to the woman's country and marry her.  They will start referring to her as Wife.
9.  Unfortunately, they have to put the wedding on hold as they aren't able to finish the bridge as they have run out of money.  But when the bridge is finished, they will get a huge payout.  If the woman can just lend them some money to finish the bridge, they will repay it with interest when they get their payout.
10. They can't give the woman their bank account details in a message or email as they are scared of getting hacked.  So their instructions are simple.  When the woman arrives at her bank branch, she has to call her 'husband' on Whatsapp.  He then gives further instructions over the phone, including amount, bank details and account number.  He then instructs the woman to destroy the deposit slip.  By this stage, the woman is so under his spell that she no longer questions anything.  The amounts needed to complete the bridge get more and more, as does the frequency of the requests for more money.  When the money dries up, the romance is over.
The reason why I use 'they' is that this is very rarely a scammer operating on his own.  It's generally a whole syndicate of scammers working together.  The syndicate have this scam down pat.  They know just who to target and leave virtually no paper trail to follow.  You can't trace their phone number because the Whatsapp number they use is a foreign one and is not the same as the local number they are obviously operating on.  Their email address links to a fake IP address.  These guys are very clever.  Everything they do is so that they won't be found.
If you suspect you might be a victm of this romance scam, or know of someone who is, then the best bet is to report it to the police as soon as possible.  If the language in the initial emails is overly flowery, copy and paste it into Google search and if it copied from a greetng card site it will come up.  Definitely investigate further if the language used in the emails alternates between poor English with spelling and grammar mistakes and overly flowery language.  The photo they sent, you can upload into and it will tell you where else that photo has been used on the internet.
So if a man randomly contacts you on social media, telling you how beautiful you are and he's in love with your smile, be warned.  If he's a Portuguese or Italian living in London but building a bridge in Jakarta be very afraid.  If he says his name is Gibson Wayne, or he uses a photo of Joe Cross like the one on this post, start running!
Cindy Vine is a South African currently living and working in Norway.  She is the author of the novels Hush Baby, Defective and Not Telling.  All her books are available on Amazon in both paperback and kindle formats.