Charlie McMartin, a young man who lives with cerebral palsy, has a message he’d like to share:

“Bullying hurts people’s feelings and lowers their self-esteem. People with disabilities are just like anyone else. We just have greater obstacles to face than most people.”

From May 28 to June 3, 2017, the Cerebral Palsy Association of BC (CPABC) launched the #JustLikeYou campaign as part of 2017 National Victims and Survivors of Crime Week in Canada.

CPABC shared thoughtful messages and highlighted resources that can be used when faced with victimization. The campaign was shared through social media, transit and print advertisements asking readers to take action by joining the conversation using the hashtags: #VictimsWeek, #StopBullying & #JustLikeYou.

Three hundred thousand people in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia were reached through targeted messaging during Victims Week 2017.

Children and youth with disabilities are especially vulnerable to being bullied by their peers, according to CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research and Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. Reports show this trend also permeates into older age groups.

While many efforts have been made to increase acceptance for people with disabilities, new media and technology have changed the landscape for bullying.

“I think people are being bullied even more today because of social media and selfies that can be widely circulated,” says an anonymous member. “It is very difficult for young people to not be affected by social media and dating sites. The situation opens up a whole new set of challenges.”

CPABC Executive Director Feri Dehdar says, “People with disabilities are already strong and resilient and overcome many challenges every day. We believe that victims need to be resilient, but so do the witnesses. It’s a matter of mobilizing our thoughts and being part of the solution, not standing silently.”

The CPABC campaign encouraged children and youth to feel socially included by building their confidence and offering peer support. Bystanders are asked to consider being a friend to someone who doesn’t have support, and lead them to resiliency by helping them cope. Talk to your friends, family and loved ones. Express your feelings non-violently and share with those who support you.

It’s a matter of mobilizing. Supporting anti-bullying sentiments are only half the battle. If we want to #StopBullying, we need to take action.

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