Hey, Stop that Bully!

Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. They rob the dignity of those they target. They murder self-esteem, and destroy lives.  Few people can stand by and watch a bully hurt someone and not be hurt by it themselves.  Lately, there’s been a lot of discussion on the topic, and people are fed up.  It’s time do something “Real”.

On February 8th, our school celebrated P.S. I Love You Day, by wearing the color purple. According to Brooke DiPalma, the founder of P.S. I Love You Day, “wearing purple will not only show that you’re standing up against bullying, but you will see everyone around you wearing purple, and know that you are never alone. P.S. I Love You.”

For the victims of bullying, standing up is not as simple as wearing purple for a day, it’s a daily weekly, monthly battle that can last for years, and campaigns like P.S. I love you  not only aim to raise awareness but to actively fight against bullying and to provide concrete assistance to its victims.

The targets of bullying need our help, not just our sympathy. If it was a simple matter of trying to get along, giving the bully what he or he or she wants, or just fighting back, we wouldn’t be faced with such a widespread epidemic. Before we can effectively take a stand, a few things need to be clear.

Recognize

First, people need to recognize bullying for what it is.  Bullying should never be mistaken for personality conflict, and it should not be confused with a disagreement between individuals. Bullying involves repeated mistreatement. Webster’s dictionary defines a bully as a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker. When we see a bully push a kid on the playground or take away his lunch money, we have no problem identifying the behavior as bullying. But when the bully uses emotional abuse instead of physical abuse, or when both the bully and the target are adults, it’s much harder to peg. From studies of workplace abuse, Blase & Blase (2006) derived a list of non-verbal emotionally abusive behaviors, which include staring, dirty looks, snubbing. ignoring, violations of physical space, finger pointing, and slamming  or throwing objects (p. 124).  Blase & Blase also site examples of abusive verbal behaviors, including angry outbursts, yelling and screaming, put downs, lying, public humiliation, threats of job loss, name calling, excessive or unfounded criticism of work abilities or personal life, unreasonable job demands, blaming, exclusion or isolation, initiating malicious rumors and gossip, withholding resources or obstructing opportunities, favoritism, dismissing an individuals feelings or thoughts, not returning phone calls, and behavior that implies a master-servant relationship (p.124-125). Whether the bully is in the schoolyard, at home or on the job, he or she will use tactics of  intimidation, harassment, isolation and shaming. These are classic signs. Even if the bully is not using these tactics on everyone around, as long there’s at least one target, then it’s bullying.

Validate

Second, targets need to know that they have not done anything to deserve the treatment they are receiving from the bully. There is no justification for it. They must be reminded that they are not worthless, like their tormentors would have them believe. The voices of victims need to be heard. If advocates would listen to their stories, and bear them up, instead of hiding their heads in the sand, or worse, asking the target to join them in doing so, then change will come. We feel outraged when we hear the story of a mother who lets her children suffer at the hands of an abusive father and denies that it is happening, but we treat the targets of bullying in similar fashion. It seems like it’s human nature to choose the path of least resistance. The problem of bullying will never be resolved if it is rationalized or ignored.

Act

Real change, requires real action. Laws, codes of conduct and consequences that make it difficult for bullies to to torment their targets indiscriminately are crucial factors in the fight to eradicate bullying. Legislation must be updated to address the latest forms of bullying that have arisen from our growing use of the internet as a social networking tool. Cyberbullying has become a huge problem today, and the laws for addressing it have not been firmly established. Bullying in the workplace has also been overlooked as far as legislation goes. We need our leaders, and local politicians , to acknowledge that there is a crisis, and to take the necessary measures to fix it. Recently, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed into law new rules designed to protect children against cyberbullying.  The law, which takes effect next year, will require school officials to investigate complaints of bullying that happen online and to respond in ways to prevent acts of bullying from recurring. In addition, Jamie Isaacs, founder of the Jamie Issacs Foundation for Anti-Bullying, Inc., has worked with New York State Senator Jeffrey Klein to help pass a criminal component of currently existing New York State harassment legislation. New York is not alone in its actions to combat cyberbullying. Anti-bullying legislation is cropping up all over the nation.  If bullies are forced to answer for their behaviors, and if they find that the consequences for bullying outweigh the pleasure they derive from hurting others, they will be forced to find other, less destructive ways of dealing with people.  Perhaps, the thought of being fined, fired, reprimanded, or prosecuted might give them pause. And if it doesn’t, maybe the new laws and measures will furnish the targets with a sense of empowerment, and give anyone who wishes to “stand  up against bullying,” the legs to stand on.

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2 comments on “Hey, Stop that Bully!

  • BBC Health News, April 17, 2014:
    Child bullying victims still suffering at 50 – study

    Children who are bullied can still experience negative effects on their physical and mental health more than 40 years later, say researchers from King’s College London[…]

    Individuals were tested for psychological distress and general health at the ages of 23 and 50, for psychiatric problems at 45 and cognitive functioning, social relationships and well-being at 50.

    The study found that those who were bullied in childhood were more likely to have poorer physical and mental health and cognitive functioning at 50.

    Those who were bullied frequently were more likely to be depressed and have suicidal thoughts[…]

  • Thank you for sharing that information. I’m not surprised at all by the results of that study. Researchers have determined that the effects of bullying are comparable with experiences of those suffering from PTSD. That’s pretty serious. That’s why we need to get more determined about stamping out bullying wherever we see it, but more importantly, we need to provide support and early intervention for the victims. As a teacher, I have had the privilege of being in a place where I can help people who have been bullied, while they are still young. First I try to help build their self esteem, then I let them know that I take their plight very seriously (because I’ve been there enough times), and I encourage them to take it seriously too, and to view it as something that is unwarranted, unjustified, and plain unacceptable. I discuss some strategies they can use to discourage the bully, and I let them know that I will intervene if they need me to. I also let them know that the pain they’ve experienced can be channeled in positive ways. This empowers them and I am pretty sure these kids who overcome, like I did, will be strong advocates in the future. I see my role as helping others to fight back and to overcome, to see their scars as battle scars from a war they fought and won, rather than viewing them as wounds that will never heal. When I was a kid I had my share of depression and suicidal thought, but I don’t have those issues today because I recognize my own personal strength and acknowledge the crucible in which it was formed, and I know my suffering has shaped me so that I can be a help to others in ways that that would be difficult for people who have never experienced what I have.

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