[ By Prasanna Nara ]
Ugly. Useless. Retarded.
These are words that we have all heard before. They may seem like harmless adjectives, but how funny is it when someone starts repeatedly telling you that you are worthless to the rest of the world? Many people do not realise where to draw the line between joking around and verbal abuse.
INKED is a project initiated under the Taylor’s Talent Management Program aiming to raise awareness about verbal bullying. “Verbal bullying is usually unnoticed because the victims don’t bear any visible scars,” says Elisha Yeo, the INKED Marketing and Communications Manager. “We came up with the name ‘INKED’ for our campaign because most people associate the term ‘getting inked’ with getting a tattoo; something that is permanent and mostly hidden. Similarly, victims of verbal bullying develop emotional scars from being mentally tormented.”
The campaign, which started early April, sees many students spray painting insults that they have been called before onto a blank canvas to raise awareness among their peers.
“While it is important to raise awareness in high schools, verbal abuse can still occur in a university environment or at the workplace. Our aim is to assure victims that they are not alone in this battle and we are doing our best to help them escape their helpless state,” says Elisha. She also mentions that they hope they can urge others to speak up when they witness someone being verbally bullied.
Elisha believes the only thing more important than empowering the victims is encouraging people to speak up when they see someone falling prey to verbal abuse. Bystanders rarely intervene when they see someone being berated because they think that it is none of their business and are afraid of becoming a victim themselves. Elisha also thinks that verbal abuse among Asians is seen as less of an issue in public because many a time it happens behind closed doors.
“In an Asian environment, everyone thinks that by speaking harshly to someone they are giving them ‘tough love’ and the latter should toughen up and handle it instead of changing the way they communicate.”
Elisha has been really pleased with the progress of their awareness campaign so far. “We’re meeting our objectives so quickly we may have to make new ones!” she says with a smile. “We have also managed to get many students to sign up and participate in our final event in May.”
On 8 May, the INKED team, along with victims of verbal bullying and other supporters will gather around the Amphitheater in Taylor’s University Lakeside Campus to witness the campaign’s grand finale. Participants will be given bright-coloured paint to splash on the spray-painted, insult-filled canvas. This is meant to help them splash away their negative feelings.
“We’re really excited that our project has taken off so well,” says Elisha. “When we were first given this task, we decided that we should do something that has a long lasting effect on people. We hope we have given victims of verbal abuse a platform to voice out their experiences and know that they are not alone in this.”
The INKED campaign will be running every Monday, Wednesday and Friday until 29 April. Drop by their booth to lend your much appreciated support or contribute to their canvas if you would like to express a painful experience of verbal bullying to raise awareness.
Also visit their Facebook page at INKED for more information about their final event.