Hey Spookies! It's been the 10 year anniversary of Sophie Lancaster's attack recently, and of her passing away approaching, so I thought I'd post about the amazing work of S.O.P.H.I.E, a charity run by her mum, why the work of S.O.P.H.I.E is so important to me, and ways to help. This blog post is going to contain talk about bullying, violence, suicide, and self harm.
|Here's a little peep at a windswept emo Kiah circa 2010.|
What is S.O.P.H.I.E?
S.O.P.H.I.E stands for 'Stamp Out Prejudice, Hatred, and Intolerance Everywhere', and is also known as 'The Sophie Lancaster Foundation'. They are a charitable organisation run by Sylvia Lancaster, Sophie Lancaster's mum, and were founded to create a legacy to Sophie after her horrific murder. The charity is centred around educating people to challenge prejudices and intolerance towards those who are part of alternative subcultures, and campaigning to have 'Alternative Subcultures' or 'Lifestyle and Dress Code' added to the list of reportable Hate Crime categories. So far, their achievements have been incredible, and include meeting members of the government, and giving talks at various political events and conventions, resulting in several areas in the UK now classing 'alternative subcultures' as a strand of Hate Crime legislation. In addition to this, they give educational visits to schools, and training to professionals across various public services, including schools and prisons. All of this information and more is available on their website, which I thoroughly recommend having a look through.
The strength and dedication Sylvia has shown in the years following Sophie's murder has been absolutely phenomenal, and the work she has done and progress she has made for alternative people is nothing short of trailblazing. To campaign so tirelessly through her own pain to ensure others are protected and accepted is nothing short of heroic. I have a whole lot of love for Sylvia.
My Own Experiences
I've always enjoyed dressing 'alternative' and experimenting with style, for as long as I can remember. Be that more gothic, hippyish, emo, or scene-kid, I've tried most styles at some point in my teenage years before settling into the style I wear today, which is quite gothic. Up until I moved to a different sixth-form college at 16, I was bullied for it.
I was lucky enough to grow up in a nice area, which was very safe. That didn't mean that if I wanted to go to the park with my friends, it would all go smoothly. Groups of boys would often follow us, screaming 'mosher' and calling us plenty of unsavoury names, including 'dirty' and other things I wouldn't repeat on my blog. For the most part, alternative teenagers in my local area ended up meeting up at a different green space, causing a weird segregation between children based on their clothing style, which shouldn't ever be the case. Literally being unable to peacefully share a park with someone because you don't like their clothes is so ridiculous and judgemental.
At school, things for me were pretty grim. I was bullied fairly relentlessly, mainly for my style and music taste, and it was awful. The worst incident involved the ringleader of the situation pushing me into a corner of the classroom, and telling me 'you should sit in the corner and slit your wrists because that's what emos do', whilst her friends laughed about it. Another time, I was caught taking antibiotics and told I should 'do everyone a favour and overdose on them', or words to that effect. I tried to deal with it on my own, but eventually a friend of mine told a member of staff on my behalf to try and get me some help. Did I get help? No. I got told it was my own fault for looking the way I do and listening to the music I choose, and forced to miss parts of lessons once a week to see a mentor so I could 'deal with negativity better'. I was blamed and punished for what had happened, and the people responsible didn't even get told off. I recall a teacher actively encouraging the class to call me names like 'curtains' based on the large fringe I had at the time too, which is nothing short of disgusting behaviour from an adult. Naturally, these things have had a long-term effect on me, and definitely as a teenager had a massive effect on my self-image, which was probably the desired effect. It should never have happened and certainly should never have been condoned or encouraged by responsible adults.
If you're reading this and know the school or people I'm referring to, please do not name them publicly as I'm not here to name and shame and don't want to get into any trouble myself. If you're being bullied, I'd thoroughly recommend speaking to a responsible person that you trust (particularly a parent if you are a child).
Even now, as an adult, these things happen sometimes. I've been followed around Morrison's by young boys who felt the need to dedicate their time to popping up in every aisle I was in, shouting 'Vampire Diaries' at me, then running away. I laugh about that now, but at the time was quite worried that they'd follow Freddie and I into the nearby park. There were nearly 10 of them, but with us being adults and them being children, no matter what they did, there's no real way Freddie and I could defend ourselves without putting ourselves at risk of repercusions. Thankfully they didn't follow us out of the shop or take it any further than name calling. I've also noticed that the more gothic I look, the more people (such as cashiers) try to talk to Freddie instead of me. It doesn't bother me at all anymore, but the point is, people should not have these attitudes, and it's kind of sad that people automatically assume I'm antisocial based on my appearance (and probably quite laughable to everyone who knows how soft and friendly I am!).
S.O.P.H.I.E is an organisation so close to my heart because of the experiences I have had, and because I know other people have suffered far worse, just because of the style they love. People should be able to be wholeheartedly, openly, and unapologetically themselves without bullying, judgement, and certainly without fear of assault or murder.
How Can You Help?
If you're at school or a parent of a school-aged child, you can push for The Sophie Lancaster Foundation to give an educational visit to yours or your child's school. Alternatively, if you work in an environment that could benefit from one of their bespoke training sessions, talk to your boss about having a visit.
You can contact your local MP and let them know about the campaign and that you support 'Alternative Subcultures' being part of the strands of Hate Crime legislation, and support the message of S.O.P.H.I.E.
Most helpful, of course, would be to donate, buy S.O.P.H.I.E merchandise, or even better, to organise an event. Organising an event, be it a small bake sale or something more grand, is always brilliant, as it helps get donations and spread the message of The Sophie Lancaster Foundation simultaneously.
Illamasqua, one of my favourite makeup brands, are supporters of the S.O.P.H.I.E campaign, and are currently running a #GothUpForSophie awareness campaign, along with selling items, including makeup, music, and t-shirts, that also donate to The Sophie Lancaster Foundation. You can also purchase the Illamasqua Lip Lure in shade 'Nebulus', and proceeds will be donated to The Sophie Lancaster Foundation. Their goal is to raise £25,000, so if you're a beauty lover, this is an ideal way to support the charity.
If you've read this far, thank you for taking the time to learn about a cause incredibly close to my heart, and I really hope you support the message as much as I do. I can't thank The Sophie Lancaster Foundation enough for all of their dedicated work.