The "bully slam" video that shows an Australian teenager body-slamming his bully has gone viral, causing family experts to be concerned that the victim's aggressive response is attracting the wrong kind of attention and will only promote violence among children.
The schoolyard confrontation, lasting only a few seconds, shows 15-year-old Casey Heynes grabbing on to his bully, 12-year-old Ritchard Gale, and smashing him to the floor while injuring one of his feet.
That single act of retaliation has become an internet and cultural phenomena, with many people applauding Heynes for standing up for himself. Fans of Heynes from around the world have taken the video and remade his underdog story in countless ways: a South Korean animation shows the so-called victim transforming into the Hulk while another video offers a Street Fighter remix of the scenario.
On Facebook, fan pages of the bully encounter have garnered up to 200,000 friends. The video has been seen over half a million times on YouTube.
While support for the 15-year-old grows, one Christian psychologist said she is afraid that the public’s backing of Heynes defiant stance against bullies might misinform future victims and encourage violence.
"Unfortunately what happens is that when bullying continues like this it makes people do more impulsive and aggressive things which isn't the right reaction for sure," said Dr. Julianna Slattery, co-host of Focus on the Family's daily radio broadcast, to The Christian Post.
"It needs to be dealt with on a step by step basis instead of just letting [things] get overwhelming like this.”
Slattery added that the immediate reaction from Heynes represented a point of rebellion that was caused by extreme bullying. In this case, school authorities and the boy’s families were able to stop the fight before it got worse but Slattery pointed out that other bully cases that "continue over a period of months has a very damaging impact on kids."
In an interview with A Current Affair (ACA) Australia, Heynes said that he was bullied for many years, up to a point where he contemplated suicide over it.
Families have recently pushed for more aggressive anti-bullying legislation in light of the bully video. On Wednesday, students and families from across Oklahoma backed a bill that would allow law enforcement officials to play a role in crafting a school’s anti-bullying laws. The bill has already passed the state House with a vote of 74 to 23.
While Heynes received support from millions of people, his aggressor, 12-year-old Ritchard Gale has received little support but rather hate messages online.
Gale, a victim of bullying himself while growing up, acknowledges that what he did is wrong but said in an interview he does not feel sorry for what he did because it was Heynes who started the fight.
It is normal and almost predictable that victims of bullies become the bullies, said Slattery.
"Sometimes one way they will cope with bullying is if they beat up someone younger than themselves," she explained. "So if you have a kid that all of the sudden is being aggressive to a younger sibling or just snapping even at their parents, then there might be something in school that might be causing that."
She added that parents need to continue on the conversation with their children on a daily basis. If a parent suspects there is a bully in their child’s life, it’s best to not use the word “bully” when asking their child about potential bullying.
“Sometimes if you use the word bully they won’t respond but if you ask an open ended [question] then they are more likely to give you clues into what's happening,” the psychologist advised.