Tag Archives: aggression

How to read a social-science study


Photo by Flickr user Sociology at Work.

News outlets are chock-full of articles reporting some new study and what it says about health or climate change or violent video games. Reading these articles can sometimes be a little like playing that childhood game of telephone. By the time the message reaches you, it’s probably at least a little different from what the original person said. I’ve written for Poynter about how journalists can improve their coverage of research. Today I want to give everyday folks some pointers for reading and interpreting actual studies.

1. Get the actual study.
Articles usually mention the researchers involved, and the university, if there was one. Sometimes studies are locked away behind academic-journal paywalls, but if you do enough hunting you can find “author proofs” — non-final drafts — on the researchers’ web sites. Google is your friend, and you can’t assess a study if you don’t read it. I’m going to base this post off of one such proof, Christopher Ferguson and Cheryl Olson’s Video Game Violence Use Among ‘‘Vulnerable’’ Populations. Load it up and read along.

2. Consider whether the study is linked to any recent events.
Most of the studies I look at here are about kids and violent video games. Although they may not be explicit, it’s notable that these studies picked up in frequency after events like the Columbine High School massacre and attempts to blame video games like Doom. Be suspicious when the sensationalism comes first and the studies follow. Among other things, this gives researchers an agenda, whether they say so or not. One of the reasons I like Ferguson and Olson in general is that they come right out and say it:

Existing societal concerns about video games have intensified after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre (Ferguson 2013) and other well-publicized school shootings. The tragic 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School murders in Newtown, Connecticut resurrected these debates amid reports that the 20-year-old shooter was an avid gamer (e.g., Henderson 2012). … Given … the recurring media focus on video games, researchers need to do more to answer the questions of greatest public concern regarding video games and any potential harm to youth.

3. Look at the demographics of the sample.
The sample means the group that is included in the study; demographics refers to their characteristics. Since Ferguson and Olson have said this is meant to apply to the question of whether violent video games harm youth, especially with respect to school shootings, you’d want the sample to resemble school shooters demographically; age 13 to 17, usually male, usually white, usually suburban. Often, the sample is full of college kids who are over 18. That’s less than ideal to begin with.

In Ferguson and Olson’s study here, we have a pretty good range of kids: 377 youth with a mean age of 13 (which means they were a variety of ages in that range). 182 had ADD symptoms, while 284 had symptoms of depression (yes, that means 89 of them had symptoms of both). The sample included 140 boys and 234 girls, as well as 3 who did not declare a gender. There were urban and suburban kids, though it doesn’t say how many. The kids were mostly white, but a significant number of the kids from the urban school were black.

4. Look at the size of the sample.
This one’s pretty easy. Bigger is always better. The more subjects you have, the more you’re getting away from anecdotal information and the more you’re getting into actual data. Now, a larger sample of extremely similar kids is only useful if they resemble the outside-world kids you’re trying to represent. More ideal is a larger sample of different kinds of kids. 377, the number in this study, isn’t a ton, but it’s more than the 100-200 many such studies have.

5. Look at the methodology.
Most sociological experiments are highly synthetic constructs, which are meant to single out and test one particular aspect of everyday life. In this case, Ferguson and Olson opted to put the kids through a survey or a questionnaire, which can be tricky because the results are only as good as the honesty of the kids. I personally think kids are reasonably reliable at answering certain kinds of questions (like how often they play certain kinds of video games, which was asked here) and not necessarily others (things they might not want adults to know, like sexual or drug experimentation). Still, it’s worth taking most self-report studies with a grain of salt, unless they’re corroborated with other data from the subjects’s lives.

(I’d also like to point out a detail from their survey that is relevant to this blog: Of all the kids they surveyed, only 6.1 percent had played no video games in the prior 6 months, and only 11 percent had played no violent video games. These are kids with a mean age of 13. In other words, most kids are playing them. Where’s the giant surge of violence and aggression?)

6. Look at what they say about the results.
This is especially true if you’re comparing your own read of a study to what was reported in the news. Here are the results from this study, truncated:

With the sample of children with clinically elevated depressive symptoms and regarding delinquent criminality as an outcome only stress and trait aggression were predictive of delinquent criminality. Neither exposure to video game violence nor the interaction between trait aggression and exposure to video game violence were predictive of delinquent outcomes.

In other words, among the kids with symptoms of depression, mood issues alone didn’t correlate with delinquency. Only if they were under stress and were aggressive did they have a tendency to be delinquent. Video games didn’t seem to play a role.

They go through other trait combinations and look at bullying as well as delinquency. Here’s one interesting angle to the study, which is one a lot of news outlets focused on:

Finally, with the sample once again of children with clinically elevated attention deficit symptoms and with regards to bullying behavior only trait aggression was predictive of bullying behaviors along with the interaction between trait aggression and exposure to violent games did approach significance suggesting that highly trait aggressive children who also played violent video games were less likely to engage in bullying behaviors. Exposure to video game violence was not a significant predictor of bullying behaviors.

Note that that result, while interesting, only “approached significance” mathematically, and they immediately point out that none of the findings in this section was statistically significant. In other words, it’s inconclusive.

7. Read the “discussion” section carefully.
This is where the researchers explain their findings and discuss how they think they should be interpreted. While journalists often overemphasize certain things (which makes for a more compelling news story), researchers usually de-emphasize. Here’s what they say about the above result:

[After saying they didn’t find video games were a factor n kids’ violent behavior.] The only exception was our finding that, for children with elevated attention deficit symptoms, trait aggression and video game violence interacted in such a way as to predict reduced bullying. This could be considered some small correlational evidence for a cathartic type effect, although we note it was for only one of four outcomes and small in effect size. Thus we caution against overinterpretation of this result.

8. Read the “limitations” section even more carefully.
This is where researchers will tell you the shortcomings of the methods they used, as well as the extent to which their findings are useful. They’ll usually suggest how future research can build upon what they’ve found, should anyone care to follow up with a larger or at least related study. This study’s limitations section is accompanied by a “word of caution” section, both of which are worth reading in full.

9. Check for bias.
Look at the researchers’ websites. Look at the titles of their papers, and see if you notice a trend. If they keep finding the same things over and over, there’s a chance they’re suffering from researcher bias. There’s a lot of this in the violent-video-game research world, which is one reason you see the same names popping up again and again (and finding the same things again and again).

10. Follow the money.
If research was conducted by an academic, chances are good that the money came from the university where they work. That could include public or private dollars. Unfortunately, researchers are pretty mum about where that money comes from or how much a given study cost. But at least sniff around and see what you can learn.

If you’re tired of reading about video games, this is a great breakdown of how the myth that eating breakfast helps you lose weight became so pervasive, and why it’s wrong. It also discusses the difference between association (correlation) and causation, which is important to understand when reading any sociological study, as well as how even the “gold standard” methods for research can be wrong, especially when they aren’t backed by further research.

So there you go. Now you know how to read a social-science study. Go read some more and have fun! Commenters: can you think of anything I’ve left out that you’d like to add?

Can’t we make up our minds about video games?


Video games are bad for kids. No, wait, they’re not. Who’s right? Photo by Flickr user sean dreilinger.

It’s 2012, and video games have been with us for almost 40 years. Kids of all ages have been playing them for that entire time. If video games were going to cause massive changes in the behavior or psychology of young gamers, we’d know about it by now.

And yet there are large chunks of society that cling tightly to the idea that video games — violent video games in particular — are bad for kids. Take, for example, a recent article on Wired.com that asks, “Do Violent Video Games Make Kids More Violent?” In it, GeekMom writer Andrea Schwalm writes about appearing on Al Jazeera’s The Stream on the topic of kids and gaming. The show focused, specifically, on Call of Duty: Black Ops II, of which she writes:

While my teenaged sons do play some M-rated games (currently, Halo 4 and Dishonored are in heavy weekend rotation), I wasn’t familiar with the Call of Duty franchise. After watching some YouTube clips of the game online, I wondered, “Is this how foreign countries think American children spend all of their free time?”

And yet, as the host of The Stream pointed out, the truth is, the game sold $500 million in its’ first 24 hours, was a trending topic on Twitter, and is played by children. If you look at the incarceration rates in America, it seems a legitimate question: does the ubiquity of video game violence beget real-life violence?

This is the kind of ridiculous logic that sends so many people down the wrong rabbit hole. The main problem here is, she doesn’t explain who is being incarcerated — if she took a look, she would realize it isn’t kids. America’s hefty incarceration rate, in large part, is due to the massive “War on Drugs” as well as the disproportionate number of minorities being jailed; it isn’t gamer teens winding up behind bars.

Fortunately, she turns to Doug Gentile. Now, I haven’t agreed with Gentile much on this site, but there are moments where I think he’s on the right track, moments where he puts his findings in broader context, and I’m glad to see at least one mom listening:

The only way that anyone does something seriously violent is if they have multiple risk factors and limited protective factors for violent behavior, and thankfully most of our children have a great many protective factors, can consume a lot of violent video games, and still never do anything violent.

Slightly more logical is a recent Kotaku piece from Phil Owen, which asks, “Do Video Games Make Depression Worse?” Owen also turns to Gentile who, after conducting a study on just that topic — and finding evidence that video games were indeed somehow making his test subjects’ depression worse — actually argued that it’s more complex than his results would suggest:

“I don’t really think [the depression] is following. I think it’s truly comorbid. … As you get more depressed you retreat more into games, which doesn’t help, because it doesn’t actually solve the problem. It doesn’t help your depression, so your depression gets worse, so you play more games, so your depression gets worse, etc. It becomes a negative spiral.”

Still, we can’t listen to the All-Doug-Gentile-All-The-Time Channel, can we? Thankfully, we also have the International Society for Research on Aggression releasing studies that show exposure to violent media increases the risk of aggressive behavior. (Oh, wait, Gentile is on the commission.)

This is one of those times when researchers look at the existing research and cobble it together to come up with some kind of meta-finding. The problem is, most of the research to date has been slanted in the negative direction — that is, it finds some relationship between violent video games and youth aggression, but that’s because it’s what society and researchers wanted to find, and because the research showing no such links — or showing violent games’ upsides — is just beginning to catch up.

IRSA chair Craig Anderson said, “Having such a clear statement by an unbiased, international scientific group should be very helpful to a number of child advocacy groups.” But any group that includes Anderson and Gentile — whose work overwhelmingly supports the violent-game/aggression theory — can’t be called “unbiased.” Sorry, guys.

So why is all this attention focused on video games? Has the sexuality and violence vanished from blockbuster movies, television shows, or young-adult fiction? Hardly. But for some reason, there’s little to no research — or public furor — focused on those old-hat forms of entertainment. Dan Houser, cofounder of Rockstar Games (home of the Grand Theft Auto franchise, among others), recently took note of video games’ pariah status in a recent Guardian interview highlighted on Kotaku:

“We never felt that we were being attacked for the content, we were being attacked for the medium, which felt a little unfair. If all of this stuff had been put into a book or a movie, people wouldn’t have blinked an eye.”

But it isn’t all doom and gloom. Plenty of people see the good in violent video games, or at least the harmlessness.

If violent video games — first-person shooters, say — are such lousy influences, then how are they capable of engendering sympathy? Jens Stober, a game designer and PhD student in Germany, is developing a video game in which players can assume the roles of Australian border guards or foreign refugees. Stober has written other border-centered games, such as “1378,” in which players can assume the roles of border guards or refugees fleeing East German communists. In that game, the guards can shoot fugitives, which earned Stober death threats.

But, as with many games, it’s all in the eye of the beholder:

[Stober] claims [the games] actually penalise players for shooting, and that the main aim is to educate people about political issues using game mechanics.

“You can have a gun, you can use it, but if you use it you will lose points and lose the game,” he says.

The players who are refugees must cooperate to evade the border guards while the guards try to arrest them. Along the way, the game dishes out educational factoids designed to provoke deeper thought about the issues.

Another recent article, by Brian Hampel for Kansas State University’s The Collegian, makes quite a different case for violent video games and society as a whole: he argues that our media is so violent because, well, we just like violence: “Popular culture isn’t a thermostat that dictates our tastes and trends; it’s a thermometer that shows us tastes and trends that already exist in the cultural zeitgeist,” he writes.

But his conclusions come quite close to things I’ve said at Backward Messages before, so I’d like to close with them:

It turns out that the real [culprits] behind youth violence are depression, delinquent peer association and negative relationships with adults. Who would have guessed?

You wouldn’t know it from watching news networks’ coverage of school shootings, but it’s true. Not only is violence not caused by the media, but it’s also in decline. I guess it’s easy to get the impression that we’re violent by watching the news, which could very well be the most violent medium of all.

Do video games make teens aggressive, or do aggressive teens like aggressive games?


A new study finds that teens who play violent video games are more aggressive than those who don’t. Or does it? Photo by Flickr User soleface23.

A new longitudinal study of 1,492 teens at eight high schools in Canada looks at those who play violent video games regularly, and those who don’t, and asks them questions about their behavior. Here’s what Brock University researchers Teena Willoughby, Paul Adachi, and Marie Good say they found:

Sustained violent video game play was significantly related to steeper increases in adolescents’ trajectory of aggressive behavior over time. Moreover, greater violent video game play predicted higher levels of aggression over time, after controlling for previous levels of aggression, supporting the socialization hypothesis. In contrast, no support was found for the selection hypothesis. Nonviolent video game play also did not predict higher levels of aggressive behavior over time.

Right now, there’s no way to access the full study without paying for it, and the writeups in the Telegraph and Kotaku don’t shed a lot of light on the study’s details. Importantly, though, Kotaku did ask:

However, the study leaves open the distinction between correlation and causation. Publicly available materials leave unclear in which direction the link might actually go: do the games cause teenagers to act aggressively, or are teenagers with aggressive dispositions more likely also to play violent games?

(In that light, it’s important to note that the Telegraph’s headline, “Violent video games make teenagers more aggressive, study finds/Teenagers who play violent video games over a number of years become more aggressive towards other people as a result, a new study has found” is misleading.)

At any rate, I do wonder how this study went down, and that’s partly because I’m familiar with the work of Jonathan Freeman. In his book Media Violence and Its Effect on Aggression: Assessing the Scientific Evidence, he points out that when study subjects are given permission to be more aggressive, they are more likely to be. (If you click through to that link, you can see some examples of what he’s talking about.)

Now, not all the kids in the Brock study were aggressive. The researchers found that only the teens playing violent video games became more aggressive; the ones playing nonviolent games weren’t aggressive. But here’s the thing: did the kids know what was being studied? Do they know, by now, that many people think violent video games make you violent? If so, wouldn’t that seem like a kind of permission, at least to a teenager? At the very least, maybe they are unconsciously living up to some kind of expectation.

It’s also a concern that kids are self-reporting their actions, without any objective measure to back up what they’re saying. Maybe those who play violent games are more comfortable with aggressive behavior, and with reporting it. Or maybe they think it’s cool, so they brag about little incidents, or exaggerate and say they were aggressive when they weren’t. Teens are trustworthy plenty of the time, but there could be enough in a study like this, who may not take it seriously, to skew the results.

Or, as Kotaku points out, it may simply be that kids who are more aggressive in general are also drawn to video games where aggression is okay. Which brings us to another question: How much more aggressive are aggressive kids who don’t play violent video games? That’s worth studying, too.

By the way, Backward Messages may be taking a little vacation over the next couple of weeks. I’ll post if I can, but things may not be back to normal until early November.

Spector: “stop loving the ultra-violence” in games


Are video games “too violent?” Or are violence critics forgetting who we are?

Another E3 has come and gone, giving the gaming press a taste of video games to come. Since then, a number of folks have come come out against the violence in the next wave of games, claiming it’s just too much.

One of those critics is game designer Warren Spector, who left Eidos in 2004 after being disturbed by some of the plans for Hitman. He also drew a line between the violence in games he’s worked on, such as Deus Ex, and the video games he saw at this year’s E3. Here’s what he said:

“The ultra-violence has to stop. We have to stop loving it. I just don’t believe in the effects argument at all, but I do believe that we are fetishizing violence, and now in some cases actually combining it with an adolescent approach to sexuality. I just think it’s in bad taste.”

Spector says the violence in Deus Ex was meant to disturb the player, rather than pleasure them. “The carnage induced on in-game beings disappearing along with the body, erases the aftermath of said carnage from the gamer’s thoughts,” he said.

Everyone has the right to judge for him- or herself how much violence in a game is “too much.” Spector’s tolerances are obviously different than others, and that’s fine. The problem comes when he attempts to tell the rest of the industry what it should produce, and when he tells gamers what they should like. I find the phrase, “We have to stop loving [ultra-violence]” really disturbing. It’s like telling people they should stop loving bacon, or beer, or babies.

Human beings were once relatively wild. We still have that animal side in us. Aggression is part of who we are. Games don’t make us aggressive. Being human makes us aggressive. And we all let it out in different ways: going on long runs, playing hockey, starting bar fights, kneading bread, trolling on the Internet, or playing violent video games are some examples. Anyone who forgets why people (including kids) might enjoy violent games can be reminded by reading Gerard Jones’ Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence. Children aren’t the only ones who need it. Adults need it, too. We don’t need to stop “loving it.”

Look at the comments on the Spector article. Gamers know their limits, and if something’s too violent, they won’t play it. This is true of kids, too. We can trust them. Taking away games or reducing the violence in order to protect the tiny minority of mentally unbalanced people who might claim video-game violence as a jumping-off point for real-life acts would likely make the rest of society more violent — an outcome none of us wants.

Are video games becoming more violent? They’re certainly becoming more realistic — and that can heighten the sense that they’re more gory and brutal as well. Why would gamers want this? Even through violent crime is dropping, the existing violent crime is getting more airtime, and in some cases, it’s just getting weirder. We need ways to process what’s going on. And video games are one of the safest ways going.

British teachers say children’s play is more violent than ever. So what’s wrong with that?


British teachers say video games cause kids to play more aggressively. What are they missing? Photo by Flickr user wsilver.

The battle for children’s well-being is never-ending. While American Congresspeople consider a warning label on virtually all video games, a group of British teachers has issued new warnings blaming violent video games for aggressive behavior among their students.

Late last month, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers claimed that such games were damaging the “tender young minds” of children. Then, in a speech to the union’s annual conference last week, former ATL president said violent video games (she called them “horrific”) were responsible for an increase in schoolyard aggression.

Let’s look a little more closely at what they’re saying:

ATL general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “I think what we are talking about, first of all, is the amount of time children spend locked in their room. The fact that children spend hours locked in their rooms playing computer games, which means they’re not interacting, they’re not playing and not taking exercise.”

Okay. So it sounds like she’s concerned that kids aren’t getting outside to play and roam around. Right?

Mrs. Sherratt, a teacher at Riddlesden St Mary’s CofE Primary School in Keighley, West Yorkshire, says her class of four and five-year-olds was seen in the playground “throwing themselves out of the window of the play car in slow motion and acting out blood spurting from their bodies” to mimic scenes from violent games.

She adds: “I began to reflect on what children have been playing over the last few years and realised we have noticed a marked increase in the aggression in general.

“We all expect to see rough and tumble but I have seen little ones acting out quite graphic scenes in the playground and there is a lot more hitting, hurting, thumping etc. in the classroom for no particular reason.”

Hmm. So is the problem that they aren’t getting out and playing? Or is the problem that, when they are getting out and playing, they’re being rougher than the teachers expect? Is the problem that they’re not interacting with other kids, or is the problem that, when they are interacting, they’re doing so in a way that the teachers don’t understand?

There is certainly latitude for teachers to recognize when certain types of behavior — bullying, for example — is hurting a child. However, there’s plenty of latitude as well for kids to play, consensually, in ways that look pretty aggressive to outsiders.

To me, that first description of their play — “throwing themselves out of the window of the play car in slow motion and acting out blood spurting from their bodies” — sounds kind of fun. It sounds like kids, playing and interacting consensually with each other.

Gerard Jones addressed this issue in his wonderful book, Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence:

The benefits of rough-and-tumble play are well documented. It can be annoying for parents, it can get out of hand and lead to head bumps, but most authorities agree that it’s normal, healthy, and generally conducive to more confident kids. Profiles of violent adolescents don’t generally show any exorbitant amount of aggressive play early in life and, in fact, often show the opposite: violent teenagers often had trouble bonding with peers in normal childhood play.

Certainly video games — along with television, film, and books — spark the imagination and inform the kind of playing that kids will engage in. But what these teachers aren’t proving, to any degree, is that this kind of aggressive play is hurting anybody.

It may very well be that these teachers, either disturbed by the kids’ enjoyment of these games or unable to curtail it, are grasping at ways to control what they don’t understand. Until they can show that what they’re seeing is truly harmful, I’d suggest not giving their “warnings” too much credence. From what I can tell, these kids are having a good time — and learning in the process.

Study: it’s probably not the violent video games making your kid aggressive


A new Swedish study finds no reason to blame video games for kids’ anger and aggression. Photo by Flickr user mdanys.

Those Swedes sure do things differently, what with the neutrality and the guaranteed school placement for young kids and the crappy science top-ranked science programs.

Maybe that explains how they looked at the same research that led American scientists to believe video games are harmful to kids, and come out with the completely opposite conclusion.

Here’s what happened: the Swedish Media Council looked at more than 100 studies of kids, violent video games, and aggression published between 2000 and 2011. At first blush, their findings look the same: they found a statistically significant link between violent gaming and aggressive behavior.

However, they don’t think the games have anything to do with the behavior:

Many of the studies use different methods to measure aggression, many of which lack a clear connection to violent behaviour.

In addition, a great deal of the research exploring causal links between violent computer games and aggressive behaviour “suffer from serious methodological deficiencies” and don’t provide sufficient evidence to establish a causal relationship.

The few studies that have attempted to examine other causes of aggression found that factors, such as poor physical health or family problems, can explain both violent behaviour and a propensity to play violent computer games.

(Emphasis mine.)

According to a statement from the council, “there is no evidence that violent computer games cause aggressive behaviour … If research can’t provide any simple answers about how games make children aggressive, perhaps we adults should stop judging the games children play based on whether they are violent or not.”

Those wacky Swedes. Who’s going to believe that, right?

I’d love to do a more detailed analysis of the study (PDF) and its methodology, but unfortunately, I don’t speak Swedish. And, admittedly, I am skeptical of studies-of-other-studies because I feel as though they can replicate the same biases of the original studies. In this case, that doesn’t seem to have happened.

So, who is the Swedish Media Council, then? In America, a group like that would be an independent firm, maybe something like Common Sense Media (which, by the way, has come out against violent video games for kids.) “The Swedish Media Council is a center for information on children and young people’s use of media such as the Internet, computer games, film, and TV. The Media Council is part of the Swedish Government’s Ministry of Culture and located in Stockholm.”

So they’re a government-funded agency. And they’re saying violent video games don’t hurt kids. And the folks saying this come from a country that puts some of the biggest emphasis on science, research, and innovation in the world.

I dunno. Should we believe them?

If you dress goth, are you asking for trouble?


Melody McDermott was brutally attacked on a tram in Manchester because she is a goth. She’s now recovering from a broken eye socket.

Four years ago, 20-year-old Sophie Lancaster was walking through a Lancashire park at night with her boyfriend when they were beset upon by a group of teenage boys. The teens assaulted Robert Maltby first, then turned on Sophie when she tried to protect him. Robert recovered, but Sophie died of her injuries.

This was no isolated incident. Goths throughout the UK and America face bullying and assault on a regular basis, mostly because of their appearance. In greater Manchester, it happened again last month.

Melody McDermott was riding a tram with a male friend on Oct. 5 when a group of males began shouting at her. Without warning, they pushed her to the ground and one or more began stomping on her face. She was left with a broken eye socket, but is recovering. Her friend suffered a black eye.

After Lancaster’s death, many in the goth community rallied in favor of calling such attacks hate crimes — until then, a “hate crime” only included an attack based on race or sexual orientation. According to Wikipedia, In May 2009 the Justice Minister Jack Straw said while he could not change the law, he could amend the sentencing guidelines to require judges to treat an attack on a member of a subculture as an aggravating factor.

Although the Columbine High School shootings mistakenly convinced many that goths are aggressive, most are actually so pacifistic that they will not fight back when assaulted. Their combination of unusual appearance and unwillingness to hurt people unfortunately makes them vulnerable.

Since the attack on Melody, goths from all over the world have come forward to talk about members of the subculture as recurring targets for violence. “When is this hate and bullying going to end?” asked one woman. “My 9 year old gets picked on just ’cause she had brain cancer and me and her dad are goth.”

“This shows how important it is to class sub-culture to the list of hate crimes,” said another. “If they had beaten her for being gay/black/muslim they would get jail time for sure, but because she’s just a girl in black clothing, they will get off with a fine/community service. I am so sick of this.”

Unfortunately, such attacks leave others frightened: “Every time there’s a hate crime, I’m a bit more scared to go out. It’s shocking just how far some people will go. I’m scared to walk alone and I’m 20.”

But others championed Melody and wished her strength: “I hope Melody comes through this even stronger than before, and that she realises that they only hate because they don’t have the guts to express themselves like she has.”

What’s the solution here? Can we teach people not to bully and assault others just because they’re different? Should goths “tone it down” to make themselves less vulnerable?