Teen violence

If you're the parent of pre-teen or teenage children attending school in Kelowna, chances are they will see a valuable production this week from Green Thumb Theatre.

This touring company is in Kelowna until November 9 performing Joan MacLeod's one-woman play, "The Shape of a Girl" at local middle and high schools. The play was inspired by the harrassment and murder of Reena Virk in Victoria in 1997.

Over the course of the one hour performance, the play deals with many complicated issues that face adolescents in our schools today. The main character, Braidie, is a 15-year-old girl who has witnessed bullying amongst her peers and has remained a bystander.

This play is a realistic look into the world of bullying among girls. Relationships, ethics, speaking up, violence and agression, peer pressure and popularity are some of the issues dealt with in the play.

Social aggression in girls is taking the forefront these days after decades of researching the way boys bully one another. Girls are often more subtle - rather than getting into fistfights, bullying takes the form of exclusion, rumours and name-calling. Although it doesn't usually begin as a physical assault, this kind of bullying is very painful and can leave permanent emotional scars.

Girls tend to pick on friends rather than acquaintances. Bullies intend to harm the other and do so to make themselves feel better or to increase their power in social situations.

Also, fights among girls last longer than boys' fights do because they don't usually begin as direct physical confrontations and adults often don't notice the behaviour. Peer bystanders help the bully when they don't speak up.

Unfortunately, our society sometimes gives the idea that 'catty' behaviour from girls is normal and acceptable.

Not only is social bullying upsetting for thoe being victimized, it can lead to physical violence as well.

Between 60 and 70 per cent of children report that they have experienced social bullying of this kind at some point during the childhood and the same number say that this is an every day occurrence at their schools.

What is perhaps surprising is that the majority of the time, children who witness bullying in any form believe incorrectly that they can do nothing to stop it.

This is why shows like "The Shape of a Girl" and the recent documentary aired on CBC - "It's a Girls World" are important for both parents and children to see. We need to equip our children with tools to deal with peer violence and bullying.

Creating a no-tolerance environment concerning all forms of bullying is crucial. As is teaching our children not to be afraid of taking action by speaking with trusted adults and even intervening on behalf of other children.

These tools combined with a sense of mutual respect and dignity will help our children grow to be healthy, well-adjusted adults.

To find out if "The Shape of a Girl" is playing at your child's school, visit the Green Thumb Theatre website at www.greenthumb.bc.ca for tour information.


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