Bullying - Any systematic action of hurting a person from a position of relative physical, social, economic or emotional strength.

It’s not just kids' stuff:

Bullying is commonly associated with childhood and schoolyards, however, bullying can occur at any age, to people in all walks of life. A behavior is bullying is if it is:

Systematic or repeats a pattern;
Targeting an individual who is in a less-powerful position or one who cannot escape or retaliate without further consequences;
Intentionally damaging or threatening actions towards someone physically, economically, socially or emotionally;
Under the control of the person doing it; and
Unwelcome to the person on the receiving end.

Bullying is a form of abuse. It is particularly dangerous because it tends to be sustained and can therefore cause long-term damage. Shocking or “severe” cases of abuse are often dealt with swiftly through the intervention of law enforcement officials and the mental health community, however, so-called “milder” cases of abuse are sometimes left untreated, unprosecuted, ignored or undiscovered. Left unchallenged, bullying tends to be repeated and may escalate, especially if there are no negative consequences for the perpetrator. Over time, the victim may be subjected to a “death of 1000 cuts”.

Examples of Bullying:

Physical - chronic hitting, pushing, slapping.
Verbal - threats, criticism, humiliation or slander.
Sexual - inappropriate touching, sexual assault and rape.
Intimidation- destroying objects, cruelty to animals or people close to the victim.
Forced servitude - using intimidation to make a person perform inappropriate acts of service under threat of demotion, loss of job or social economic status.
Hazing - tormenting a person under the guise of a joke, rite of passage or other "playful" ritual.
Harassment by proxy -- influencing others to ‘do the dirty work’ of tormenting another person.
Cyberstalking - repeated use of electronic communications to harass or frighten someone, for example by sending threatening emails.

Many people who bully others try and keep their activities ‘under the radar’. Secrecy and control of the victim are common strategies used to maintain the status quo, and many bullies will actually back off if the threat of retribution exists.

What it feels like:

Victims of bullying often feel powerless to do anything about the abuse. Reasons for feeling powerless include:

  • The victim does not know who they can talk to and be taken seriously.
  • The victim fears that their situation is not "serious enough" to warrant the concern of others.
  • The victim is embarrassed to say anything for fear that they will be ridiculed or regarded as "over-reacting".
  • The victim fears being blamed for the conflict.
  • The victim desires friendship with the perpetrator and believes that challenging their behavior will create a permanent rift.
  • The victim fears retribution from the perpetrator if they speak up.
  • The victim feels it is the loving or “right thing to do” to “turn the other cheek” and simply endures it.
  • The victim believes that they are partly responsible for the bully's behavior.

Many victims of bullying live with a profound sense of defeat or shame, and are afraid to break the silence due to fear of future consequences. They can be as afraid of doing something as they are of doing nothing, yet the situation forces them to a painful choice of either taking the risk of speaking out, or continuing to suffer in silence. There is no easy option as neither choice is painless.

What NOT to do:

If you are feeling bullied by someone:

  • Don't blame yourself for the offensive way another person is behaving. You are responsible for your own behavior and your own reactions, not someone else's.
  • Don’t try to convince yourself: “I can handle it”, or “I can take it”. Bullying is poisonous behavior, and it will make you sick.
  • Don’t keep quiet about it. Inevitably, sooner or later, it’s all going to come out. It might as well be on your terms, when you have control, and with your dignity intact, before more serious damage is done.
  • Don’t retaliate or argue back. This rarely stops a bully, especially if getting a reaction from you is their intent.

What TO do:

  • Politely - but firmly - ask the person exhibiting the unwelcome behavior to stop. Do this once and once only.
  • Talk to a friend and have them accompany you while you say it.
  • Document any unwelcome behaviors accurately and in detail: times, dates, who said/did what.
  • Report what you have documented to anyone in a position of authority, including police, supervisors, teachers, pastors or parents.
  • Politely and assertively remove yourself (and any children) from the presence of a bully. A person can't harass you if you are not there. Depending on your situation that could mean:
    • ending a conversation;
    • leaving a room or a building;
    • exiting a relationship;
    • changing a routine;
    • getting a restraining order;
    • calling the police.
  • Cyber stalking - block email, block phone numbers through your cell phone, carrier, available technology tools
  • See Resources / Links for information on protecting yourself from bullies