On the Bullying of Jolene Doherty
17 Thursday Jan 2013
A video is doing the rounds at the moment, showing a schoolgirl verbally abusing, then punching a taller schoolboy who looks slightly older, in the face. The video was recorded it would seem by one of her friends, who calls her “Jolene” in the video urging her to hurry up and hit the boy, because she needed to get home. The boy, although upset and shaken does not retaliate as she attacks him. The girl in the video has been named as “Jolene Doherty” on social media sites, although several posts suggest that this may not in fact be her real name – while the location has been identified as Wishaw.
The video starts with a standoff between the children, while the person holding the camera urges “Jolene” to “hurry up and hit the boy” as she needed to get home. ”Jolene” appears then to psyche herself up, calling the boy “a spastic” while the boy watches her warily – his glasses in his hand before the attack begins after an inaudible mutter is taken by “Jolene” as being “cheeky”. Several punches later, during which the boy announces that he “doesn’t hit lassies”, Jolene walks off.
The video itself is quite shocking, although anyone who casts their mind back to their schooldays will remember some similar incident of violence between children. It is certainly not good, but neither is it an unusual occurrence Children are frequently attacked verbally and physically by their peers and the routes to and from school are the most common places for these to happen in the liminal spaces between school and parental authority.
My first thought on seeing the video was that I wanted a whole lot more context before starting to judge a single snippet. It is a long time since I was in High School, but none the less I still remember disputes being settled by challenges to fight and it seemed to me very much like that was what had happened in this case. The set up of the confrontation, the prior removal of his glasses and the assumption on the part of her friend that “Jolene” was planning to hit the boy suggested to me that this was a confrontation by prior arrangement. There was directed anger in “Jolene’s” voice – this was no random or opportunist attack. But why this confrontation was happening was unexplained by the short video footage.
The video went viral and the mainstream press picked up on the issue. A report in the Sun, quoted another parent in the school expressing fears for her own disabled child, and it became a social media truth that the boy who was attacked was also disabled – possibly prompted by “Jolene’s” use of the word “spastic” – a common term of abuse for people with learning difficulties. Whether that is actually the case is unclear.
It was also reported that the boy who had been attacked was 12 years old and that an 11 year old and a 15 year old had been reported to the police and that a referral had been made to the childrens’ panel. As indeed is appropriate when one child is violently attacked by another. Its certainly not right, but children fight and as fights between pre-teens go, I’ve seen far worse attacks on far more physically vulnerable children than the that shown in that video.
As the video made its way round various social media sites a hate campaign for “Jolene” began.
The first site to be set up “Jolene Doherty is a Coward” quickly became a magnet for bullies. The admin of the site who had set it up to use this to promote awareness of bullying found themselves quickly inundated with comments leaving threats directed at “Jolene”. Inadvertantly they had found themselves the conduit for bullying at a whole new level where violent threats and insults abounded,.
The next page to be established “Jolene Doherty is a Cow” started the quick descent. While still claiming to be an anti-bullying page, and with a cover picture which stated “stop bullying”, it was not only the comments, but also the contents of admins posts which were insulting and violent.
Following that, the next page, Hatred of Jolene Doherty was more explicit in its bullying intent, although still with a cover photo demanding that people stop bullying, its tagline urged people to find the “bitch”
Then it came to the full on bullying as “Jolene Doherty Haters Only” was established. With a picture which was proported to be Jolene herself, its tag line advocated gun violence towards her, and ridiculed her clothes – a common feature of teen bullying.
Just some of the insults and threats from those pages are below….
horrible wee girl, disgusting wee lassy, wee boot, wee skanky cow, wee tramp, wee skanky chav, dirty wee midden, little evil witch, shes two foot tall, a face like a well scelped arse, [she has] facial Down syndrome, horrible wee bastard, pathetic wee nasty lassie, dirty wee cow bagggg hairy lookin for tramps arse, little bitch, wee skank, mutant, skelly eye, mad wee reprobate, pure vile wee creature, she-troll, little madam, skinny little bitch, Nasty horrible wee bitch, Nasty disgusting peice of work, Little scummy rat, sick twisted little loser, little inbred mutant, nasty dispicable horrid little child, vile rat, dirty wee skank, wee feanin bastard, wee cow slut, sick twisted skank, wee fuckin shite, wee black hoor eh a dug, Feral scum, fuked up mongo
People like this should be stoned to death, She should apologise then kill herself, I will hunt her down and destroy her, Hope you get run over by a double decker, punch her in the face….mabye with a chair, head kicked in, ripped her face off, roundhouse her upwards right in her cunt, woulda made her chew the kerb, KNOCK THE LIVING DAY LIGHT OUT OF HER, punched her fucking head in, break her legs, deserves a cactus rammed up hur holes, kick up the hole, get that wee belters fanny smelt, i would give a good kicking, kick in the cunt, swift kik tae the fanny, batter her until she is black n blue n cripple, whoever leathers her gonny film it, she fuckin takes it up the arse, SEARCH AND DESTROY HER FACE, knock this bitch out, strike her right in the fucking jaw, Ca wait ti see the news one day saying that she’s been murderd or she’s took the easy way oot the wee bitch.., jolene should be shot, hope somebody pours petrol on her and sets her alight, skud her wae a hammer,
It is notable how many of the insults refer to disabilities by people seemingly outraged at violence directed towards a disabled child; the gendered nature of both the insults and the threats also comes through. I doubt, somehow, if this attack would have garnered the attention that it did, had the aggressor been a boy, and a taller boy to boot. It would have been seen as regrettable, but normal fisticuffs, of the kind that gets overlooked everyday. A boy being hit by a girl on the other hand is deeply transgressive.
Rumours also circulate on those pages. Rumours that her father has been attacked, that the windows of the family home have been broken and that she did not attend school today. The latter I can well believe. As the video shows, children can be cruel to one another …but adults can be far crueller.
The victim of the videoed attack is the only one of this whole sorry piece that comes out of it with any shred of dignity. I am still no wiser to the backstory which led to the videoed confrontation. It may well be that there is indeed no backstory, that this is simply the targeting of a vulnerable boy and she is simply a bully – I still don’t know.
What I do know is that she is far from being the only one.