Is there a certain event in your past that became a catalyst that sparked the idea for Bullies Keep Out (BKO)?
DJ: There are many events in my past that could have possibly led up to this. However, I can’t pinpoint or say it was just one in particular, but rather a culmination of occurrences throughout my life to this point. We all have a past where things have happened to us both related to bullying/hate and unrelated. I believe we have all encountered it in some form or fashion. I happen to advocate and support for many causes through BKO besides bullying and hate that I incorporate into the movement/campaign such as suicide awareness, LGBT, Equality, Domestic Violence/Abuse, Addiction, Depression, and so on. They might have different official names; however, they are in the same family. Some of it is also self-bullying, which I will touch more on later, but we do not recognize that enough as we are so used to discussing bullying when it comes to someone else doing to another. Truth is, regardless of my past, I have always had a huge heart for philanthropy, humanitarianism, charities, and causes. I always felt I was here to make a difference of some kind through my career choices. I say choices because I wear many hats and do many different things in various arenas. Being a humanitarian/activist is a passion of mine and a highly important part of my life. I will say that after my grandmother passed away, (who always had a huge impact on me in every way throughout my entire life), is when this came to mind. I was losing hope and just lost. I felt numb and like I was wondering around aimlessly with no clue what to do. She was a big piece of my heart, and it just broke after she was gone. I always say out of something bad or negative there is something beautiful we do not often see. Bullies Keep Out was mine. I think I also just got to a point that donating, spreading the word through social media, doing good deeds or spreading kindness and volunteering was not enough anymore. So, I was lying there in the dark one night wide awake trying to sleep and my mind just began to spin with ideas. It came to me like a tidal wave. I woke up with an entire layout/blueprint of what I wanted for BKO. It was as if I saw the vision from present to future in my head and just had to put it on a website and build. When I woke up the next day, I began my journey with BKO and the rest is history.
What are your hopes for BKO’s future?
DJ: Wow, that is a loaded question [laughs]. I have so many ideas and plans for BKO. My mind is constantly on the go, as it always has been with everything I choose to do in my life. If I had it my way, I would have my own talk show and a BKO office in every state by now [laughs]. I would be a mix between Ellen and Oprah. I want to do too much; that is the issue, but I am both excited and hopeful that I will reach every one of my goals. I feel that for only being around for such a short time that I have made huge strides and connections. I have a great and loyal following. That is important. The people and them getting involved is how you grow. My celebrity and other special feature supporters are truly amazing. Some have been with me from the beginning and are there for whatever I need to do. All I have to do is ask. There is not enough appreciation and gratitude I could possibly show. Moving forward I have some things in the works I can’t mention at this moment, but gaining media attention/publicity key to exposure and growing, gaining more support each day and getting people involved to create REAL change, expanding my team, I have big partnerships/collaborations with other organization/companies in the works, public speaking, and so much more. The possibilities are endless. I work online and offline, but this year I am looking to do more offline. I spent much of my first year with BKO building the name and brand. I am even thinking of doing a play or musical down the road and planning some BKO events in the near future. Finding sponsorships is a big thing for me as well as I would like to tour and be able to make BKO my full-time gig. It isn’t about becoming popular or well known. I am about reaching out to thousands and knocking down barriers. This is an epidemic, and it is one I plan on trying to conquer with help and support of the people. The more that participate and get involved, the bigger we become and the more impact we can make. Our voices get louder with each person that joins the movement. I am a huge supporter of several campaigns and organizations out there…not just my own. Many of them are listed on my website. I am one of those people that wants to be everywhere doing whatever I can and contribute as much as possible…either through BKO or personally.
Bullying seems to be exceedingly prevalent in today’s society. Why do you think that is?
DJ: I used to say the same thing, then in doing some interviews and listening to my BKO advocates, I realized I don’t think it is more prevalent but rather being brought to the surface. It was as if it was a hidden underground epidemic that just was not getting enough attention. It was probably being blown off or shrugged off as not being as serious as it is in today’s society. That is one thing I will say. It is so harsh and there are even more avenues of bullying than there ever were before with the internet and social media. Cyber bullying is completely out of control as I have worked with cyber bullying cases with BKO. Of course I can’t say names, but they were intense. You wouldn’t think human beings can be so horrific to each other. I am not exaggerating either. I have seen the worst things being said. It can be friends, family, or strangers. The fact that it is someone you know or do not know does not matter at all. I think people feel if you are a stranger, it is somehow okay to attack and lash out. It is extremely hard to have an opinion or discussion without this happening. There are so many outlets taking over and creating fabrications or people taking sides just to take sides without knowing facts or details. Gangs of bullies ganging up on innocent people for liking something they don’t. It is all a vicious cycle. Social media is the worst, but at the same time, beautiful. Social media is a place we connect with new people, make new friends, help others, change lives, reach out, find jobs, and the list goes on. This is what it should be used for. A big topic is celebrities attacking other celebrities publicly or getting attacked by fans, and many look up to these individuals as idols and for guidance. That being said, we all have a responsibility for our actions and what we choose to put out there. We are all human beings and that doesn’t change because someone might be famous or high profile. We all come from someplace, we all love with our hearts, we all cry the same hurtful tears, we all feel the same emotions during tragedies and tribulations in life. My point is, we can’t hold people responsible for our own actions. We have a choice… We can have an opinion when done respectfully and with kindness and compassion. But we all must be setting an example no matter who we are and what we do. We can’t just blame high profile people for acting out, because they get attacked just as much. I might have went off on a bit of a rant, but I am very passionate about what I do, and I also talk a lot [laughs]. In getting a bit back on track, we need to think before we speak and type. Words can be so much worse – believe it or not. There are people on the other side of the screens, and when you do it in schools, the workplace, or out of work, it is no different. People can’t accept what they do not understand or people that are different. It all comes from a place of fear, jealousy, or needing attention. Bullies are usually victims of something as well, so we must not only consider punishment, but helping them change as well. We all need someone to catch us when we fall. Sadly, not everybody has that circle of support. A strong support system is key to just about anything that we go through in life. It is easier to be angry and take it out on others than to deal with our issues and face them head on. We must embrace them. Once we learn how to get through the storm rather than just surviving it, there will be less of this taking place. It is hard to live authentically and own our emotions, so without thinking, we act out.
Do you think the entertainment industry can help stem this negativity and violent behavior? If so, how?
DJ: I absolutely think it is necessary. People look to people in the industry for guidance and help. They want to see it from their personal point of view, which is why it is important to have their support with campaigns, organizations, and projects. I have incredible entertainment industry people as I have mentioned more than once in this interview. I adore them all. I get an immensely strong response from their stories, interviews, and PSA’s. Some come from nothing and worked their way up, some were bullied or dealt with it in some way, some go through it now, and the public knowing they are not alone and celebrities can relate to them means more to them than I think anybody gives them credit for. If the entertainment industry continues to get involved in these movements, causes, and charities, they will get more people involved and gain more supporters. They will also be doing something good with their position. Being famous is more than just about autographs or public appearances. So many of them do amazing things and speak out on various causes, it truly makes your heart flutter at times to see how humble and giving they truly are. People don’t always see that part. I have had friends in the business for years, and you do see a different side than people see on social media. You only see 140 characters or a post on a fan page, but when they let people in by doing advocacy work they are letting you into their world in a more personal way, that truly is appreciated by the fans. I see it everyday. I absolutely love it. They are adored for more than just being on our television or in the movies. Their roles and strong performances have changed or saved lives as well, which is a feat I think all aim for in that business. When you can really touch lives through being an artist, you have hit gold. I do believe bringing more attention to these issues through television and film is a must as we continue in and out of tougher times. Just because something might not be a front burner issue at the moment does not mean we can’t stay on top of that issue by talking about it or creating art.
Should social media get involved? How could they?
DJ: I will say this over and over again…social media sites need to be a bit more structured in this capacity. I have heard many complain that nothing is being done when reporting issues or it takes too long. The other side of this is that there is only so much they can do until legal measures have to be taken as it is far too easy to just create another profile or a fake profile. This is a common way to bully. You also have a society full of hackers and tech savvy individuals that know how to maneuver around the technology to get away with so much before anything is done. It is not as easy as people think to keep track of millions of people on these social media sites. You really need an entire department dedicated to just this type of behavior and to deal with these issues, not a few people when a report comes in. I know it is frustrating for many when the response is just block and ignore, but that is the first piece of advice I always provide to people who come to me. That is the best way to beat them…and with kindness. If you ignore them, most of the time they will move on. If it gets out of control, that is when other measures have to be taken such as contacting the social media site or the authorities as cyber bullying, harassment, and stalking is illegal. The more you engage and try to defend yourself or respond, the more fuel gets added to the fire for them to keep going. Trust me when I tell you, they are there to be a nuisance and get under your skin. That is the goal. When they see they are accomplishing this, they just get more confident and over zealous to see how far they can go and for how long.
What can we do in our daily lives to dissuade bullying?
DJ: Some of this I described in my above answer, but there are so many actions we can be taking both on and offline. Do not stay silent when you see something happening. The more we speak out for ourselves and others, the more the bully will see they have no power or control. Bullying is also about having power and control over another because they lack that in their own lives in some arena. Always be ready to stand up and speak out. The more we walk by and pretend we do not see something happening, the more bullying and hateful acts will take place. Get involved in campaigns/movements and see what you can do. If you have a positive or negative story to tell, tell it. We need to hear all sides. I think people sometimes feel we only need the heartbreaking stories, but we need the victorious ones as well. We need to hear that when someone came out as gay or got bullied that they overcame or had a pleasant experience. We can’t just focus on the negative aspects of the issue, as there are positive ones too. Always be reaching out to friends, family, and even strangers. Spread kindness, compassion, and love when and where you can in your daily life. When people see this, it becomes contagious and they are eager to pay it forward. Make sure you are always asking questions, as it is sometimes the ones who always are smiling or laughing the most that are suffering the most. Some are very good at masking their feelings through making others happy. “Fine” is not an acceptable answer most of the time. That is a big indicator that everything is not fine. I can’t tell you how many times I told people I was fine when I was far from fine. We have to communicate with each other, and not just texting, emails, or social media. Start talking to each other. Pay attention to the people around you in your lives. When our heads are not looking at our phones or computers, there is so much going on in the world around us that we rarely see until we look up. Before you know it, we hit a wall.
I did a quick Google search and there were 3.48 million results for anti-bullying campaigns. What makes BKO unique?Well that is a good question, and one that I get asked a great deal. My response is simple. I am unique. We all have our own way of being unique. It is like identifiers. It is not the organization or campaign/movement that is unique as much as it is the person or people running it. I took everything I wanted to do with BKO and made a plan. It wasn’t and still isn’t about competition. I encourage people to get involved and participate in as many causes as they can. You can search several causes or campaigns and find hundreds or thousands. Some are big and some are small. They all contribute in some way and do their part. The more that exist, the greater we are bringing the fight. I collaborate and work with other campaigns, organizations, or companies that do the same thing, because you help each other grow, and that in turn helps those out there needing it. I will say I do work with ALL ages. It is not dedicated to a specific age or group. I love kids and working with them, but adults need the guidance, support, and help as well. There are no age limits on being a bully or a victim of it. It probably is more adult-oriented as that is just where BKO has gone, but I have and do plan on working with youth more and getting involved with schools in some capacity if I can. I offer many services, and I try to do it all. I use every method I can to fight for the causes I believe in. I am an activist, so I am always thinking of new and innovative ways to reach people. Some do photo campaigns or create wonderful shorts or movies, some just focus online, some focus more offline, and this is what makes them all unique. We all have our own way of making a difference. I haven’t found one that is the same as another…as of yet. We all have our own special way in how we approach the subject and use our movements to combat bullying and hate. I use an abundance of avenues, as anybody will see on my site. I don’t feel the need to go through the list, but I try to do just about everything with BKO whether it be a photo campaign, art, public speaking, PSAs, or even just a quote that makes even one person smile. I plan on using more and just increasing my existence worldwide as much as I can or already have. I want BKO to be highly successful for the people, not myself. I have said this more than once, but unfortunately you will have those out there for the wrong reasons. I feel bad saying it, but it is the truth.
Do you think there will ever be a time without bullying?
DJ: I have to be honest in answering this question. I hope one day we will live in a bully-free world, but I do not think that will be the case as there will always be new cases, especially as we grow in technology and social media, and even in the schools. Somebody will always have something mean or harsh to say. There will always be different and unique people in this world. We are a world of diversity that people are all not willing to accept as of yet. The main reason for my response is that there will always be someone who is a victim of something who chooses to take a negative path and react out of hurt and anger. Life is full of trials and tribulations on a daily basis, and bad choices will always be made. I will say I think we can make it better, have more structure, lessen the occurrences and suicide rates, and have more services and support systems available to deal with the situation in a quick manner. To do that, we must keep working towards that goal and fighting to make this happen. The second we take a break or give up, that is when the progress will stop. We can, without a doubt, make progress to the point where there is more love and kindness. That much I can definitely say.
Is a particular message you want to tell today’s youth?
DJ: Wow, there is so much to say. I can’t say it all in one question, as your interview will be more like a very long short story than it already is [laughs]. Never give up. Never lose hope. Always continue to reach out to those around you and love you. Tell somebody and always tell your parents. Don’t be embarrassed. You did nothing wrong, and it isn’t your problem or fault that someone chooses to bully or pass judgment or hate. It is their problem. Side note: Parents are just as responsible for asking questions and supporting their children. People say it is just the schools’ responsibility, but that is far from the truth. I am also a firm believer in if you are going to let your children be on social media, you should be closely monitoring what they do and what they say. I really do not think a child needs to be on social media until a certain age. That is just a personal opinion. If so, again, be responsible about it. I want to tell kids out there, do not give your parents slack for caring about you and wanting to know what you are doing and who you are hanging out with or speaking to. This is their job as a parent. When you get older, you will appreciate how much they loved you and wanted to protect you. That is all they are trying to do. When they ask questions or you feel they are violating your privacy, remember that when you have kids you will do the same as we are built to make sure we know what our kids are doing. This is how we make sure these things do not happen and our parents just want to teach us right from wrong so we make as little mistakes as possible. We do learn from mistakes, but that doesn’t mean we should do make them on purpose. Appreciate and be grateful that you have parents who love and care about you. Everybody needs to come together and work as one. They can’t do this unless you speak out and stand up for yourself. Believe you are worthy of not being bullied, because you are every bit as worthy as the next person. Each and every one of you are beautiful and special, and you do not deserve to be bullied or subject to hate if you are white, black, gay, or straight. It is NEVER acceptable and okay to bully or hate another. Don’t let anybody tell you they are better than you or that you can’t do something. You are capable of more than you realize you are. We will have people in our lives that might tell us otherwise, but we can choose to believe them and let them have that power or we can look in the mirror and say: “I AM PROUD OF WHO I AM”, “I LOVE WHO I AM”, “I AM WORTHY”, “I AM STRONG”, “I AM ME”. Never change who you are for someone else’s benefit. If you change, change because you want to change for YOU. You write your own story. You have the power to change your story. Never give someone else the pen to write your next chapter. You are the author. Never doubt that when you fall, you can’t pick yourself up or that someone won’t be there to help you. Sometimes we just have to put our hand out. So many times we do not realize how many people do care and love us for who we are. Surround yourself with these people. Positive people and good, loyal friends. Don’t let people tell you to just shake it off or get over it. It is not something you just get over. Make your voice heard. Make it loud. You will not only help yourself, but others by doing so. Always spread kindness, love, and compassion. This is one way to defeat a bully. There are times when a bully wants to change or is willing to when they see that they can’t break you down. They might need that that love, kindness, and compassion to break free of whatever has a hold of them. You might just end up changing a life and in turn provide a bully with the greatest gift…a friend. I can go on and on, but I think I made my point. I also want people to remember that not all situations are the same. There will always be exceptional cases, so when I say certain things, it does not pertain to every person’s situation. It is more generalized to the subject.
How can we put an end to bullying?
DJ: As I stated in a previous question, I am not sure we can ever put a complete end to it. The reason I say this is because bullies are victims, and in life there will always be victims of something. The issue to tackle is helping those victims to not become bullies. We would have to become a world of no hate, which is what we all want. I think the goal is not to try to defeat the impossible, but continue on and only grow in numbers. We just have to keep going without stopping…maybe, just maybe. There is always hope, and my grandmother always told me to never give up. That is my mantra. The second we give up, is the moment we stop believing. When we stop believing, we give up that hope of finding that end.
Do you feel there are misconceptions about what bullying is and isn’t? What are they? How can we change these facts?
DJ: Of course. Some throw the word bully around like nothing. A person is not a bully because you had a disagreement or argument. Discussions can get heated. Friends will argue and even not talk to each other for awhile. Personal battles is not bullying. I have had people come to me far too many times to fight a personal battle that had nothing to do with bullying. This is why I have made posts and even put on my site that I am not here to mentor or coach or take on any case of bullying that is related to a personal situation that should be taken offline and mediated. I always recommend everything be taken offline for both bullying and personal battles. This is what makes the situation worse. We tend to defend ourselves to no end and want to tell each other off for days on end online. There is no purpose to this. You are not solving anything by publicly airing your business for all of social media to see. Most issues are easily resolved offline when people can calm down and others are not getting involved. That is a biggie. You get others involved, people gang up on each other, they want to defend, and in doing so people get called bullies and it gets out of hand. This creates unwarranted and pointless back an forth banter. People usually do not even know how it started or what was behind the entire fight. Nobody wants to see negative timelines on a daily basis. People get angry and lash out and it is over. This is not bullying. I have heard people claim on a regular basis that they get bullied, and you begin to wonder if every person they know is a bully. This might be a person who misunderstands what bullying truly is. There is also a difference between teasing, bullying, harassment, and stalking. They are all different levels that lead to another level. You can find definitions on my site, but in a nutshell bullying is consistent, regular behavior that is emotional, physical, psychological, and mental. The behavior is repetitive and used to intimidate and show a power imbalance. There are different forms of bullying, such as social bullying or cyber bullying. Harassment is taking it a step further, and stalking is a step even further than that. I think people do not know when one is which because the definitions are somewhat similar in description, but each level gets more serious. They might all be forms of bullying, but the consequences can be very different. Nothing is just a one-time occurrence if you are a victim of any of it. You can be bullied by anybody and there are no age limits. It is not okay because you are an adult. It is not okay if it is a sibling because they are family, and yes, siblings can be bullies just as parents can. We can change these misconceptions by educating, sharing knowledge, and knowing the facts. The more we have discussions, the more people will understand the differences. Educate, educate, educate…that is the best advice I can give. Knowing the facts before action is a must. You never want to make accusations that are incorrect or ruin someone’s reputation or possibly even have someone accuse you of defamation of character. You definitely want to have all your facts in order and always keep records. I can’t stress this enough. Save EVERYTHING – such as emails, posts, screenshots, texts, voicemails, or whatever you can. As small as you think it might be, it can put an entire case together of any form of bullying. A few more myths are things such as: bullying only happens inside the schools, bullies are usually those who have few social skills or come from poor or bad neighborhoods, bullying is only physical, or bullying is just kids being kids.
As we close, do you have anything else you’d like to add?
DJ: I want to thank you very much for this interview. Any and all support and media is greatly appreciated. I am truly blessed and grateful. Please always continue getting involved and reaching out. Follow BKO onTwitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and of course there is the website. BKO is all over social media in other places as well. You can also follow my personal account on Twitter as well: @DanaJacoviello. I also want to give a shout out to my celeb and special feature supporters/advocates. They all know who they are. I just want to say thank you. I do not want to list people because there are several, and I do not want to miss anybody. There are so many services BKO offers and ways to get involved and make a difference. I can’t stress enough that this is about making BKO grow and expand to extraordinary heights to speak out and stand up for those that can’t or need extra support. This is still going on everyday, and lives are lost too soon. We have a great deal of work to continue doing. If we slow down and not stay consistent, we might lose the steps forward we are taking. It is not something that is just going to end or go away. I need everybody’s help to do it. It is not about one person, but all of us together. If you are interested in getting involved with BKO you can check out the site and email me at DanaJ@bullieskeepout.com. Be kind…and LOVE BIG!
Again, thank you so much for joining us, Dana! Good luck with BKO. Have a great 2015!
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