Bullies and their victims . . .

Posted: February 4, 2011 in Children's Rights
Tags: , , , , ,

As you may know, bullying has been a hot topic lately.  Most schools have included the topic in their curriculum and it has been a big headline in the news.  The View did an interview with a boy and his family that had been recently bullied.  I did a search on Google for bullying and suicide related news.  The list of news articles about kids that had committed suicide due to being bullied was endless.  Take a look at a few of the articles.  The stories are pretty much the same over and over again.

Teen bullying victim tells ‘The View’ why he thinks he was attacked

Family: Bullying Cause Of Slippery Rock Teen’s Suicide – News

Bullying -> Depression -> Suicide -> Jared’s Story

Teen suicide after bullying – Quincy, MA – The Patriot Ledger

Lance Lundsten, Tiffani Maxwell Commit Suicide After Reported Bullying

Teen Bullying Leads to Suicide – CBS News Video

Truth Wins Out – Another Bullying-Related Suicide in Minnesota

I really don’t understand why this has become a hot topic.  It is true that the suicides are an awful event, but bullying is not a new phenomenon.  It has been going on for ages, and it has been ignored for ages.  The link between bullying and school violence has increased attention since the 1999 rampage at Colorado’s Columbine High School.  The sad thing about most of these stories is that other people (students and teachers) knew about the bullying situation and knew of a change in behavior of the kids that were being bullied.

So I ask myself why do people bully, and here are some of the reasons I came up with:

  • The bullying incidents are not reported or observed.  Therefore no one can take action on the incident.
  • Many times victims will not admit bullying occurred because they fear retaliation which would make the situation worse.
  • Sometimes victims will not report incidents because they are ashamed.  It is not easy to admit that you are weaker.
  • Sometimes bullying continues with witnesses, but the bystanders are uncertain about how to intervene.
  • Other students don’t report the event because they fear the bullying will turn to themselves and then they too will become a victim.
  • Probably the worst situation is when students continue to bully because they know that an adult observed the bullying incident and didn’t do anything about it.
  • The bully has not paid for any consequence for his behavior.

While I was reading some of the news articles about real life events of children being bullied, there was one characteristic that was common.  The bullying was not a one time event.  It appears that once bullying starts, it continues to recur.  Take a look at some of these articles:

Bullying lawsuits Florida: Parents go to court to stop bullying

Bullied student case heads to Ohio Supreme Court – morningjournal.com

Mom says Springfield boy, 11, who committed suicide was repeatedly

Parents tell Hellgate board bullying of special needs students

So I ask my self why is bullying an offense that occurs over and over again to the same victim.  Here are some of the reasons that I could come up with to explain this situation:

  • The bullying incidents are not reported or observed.  Therefore no one can take action on the incident.
  • Many times victims will not admit bullying occurred because they fear retaliation which would make the situation worse.
  • Sometimes victims will not report incidents because they are ashamed.  It is not easy to admit that you are weaker.
  • Sometimes bullying continues with witnesses, but the bystanders are uncertain about how to intervene.
  • Other students don’t report the event because they fear the bullying will turn to themselves and then they too will become a victim.
  • Probably the worst situation is when students continue to bully because they know that an adult observed the bullying incident and didn’t do anything about it.
  • The bully has not paid for any consequence for his behavior.
I don’t think bullying is a big secret.  I can, to this day, name the people who I went to school with or rode the bus with who were bullies and who were victims to bullies.  The bus was a notorious place for bullies to pull their stunts.  It occurred day after day, and usually the bus driver was aware of it, and did nothing about it.  The only time the bus driver intervened is if it became a physical fight.
 
I can remember an incident that occurred, probably when I was in the 7th grade and it occurred on the bus.  This bus had kids from all age groups, including elementary kids and high school kids.  There was a group of individuals on the bus that “ruled” the bus, and every day you prayed that they didn’t notice you.  You never knew what would happen if you were in the spotlight of these bullies.  They could bully you over the littlest thing or for nothing.  It was known that once you were bullied you would always be bullied, or at least until the bullies graduated from school or dropped out.
 

The one incident that sticks out in my mind was between several highschool kids and another high school boy.  The group consisted of  bullies that were both girls and boys.  The only difference was the girls bullying consisted of taunts, and the boys would taunt along with physical annoyances.  This will sound ridiculous, but the reason that this kid was bullied was because he wore a flat-top hair cut.  This was in the late 60s and early 70s which was a time way past the days of flat-tops.  Every day this poor kid put up with the taunting.  He usually stayed to himself and was very quiet.  One day one of the highschool boys put gum in his hair.  This was the last straw, and the taunting turned into some pushing and shouting.  Finally the bus reached the kids stop, and as he was getting off the bus he said to one of the other high school boys, “I’d call you a prick, but a prick is a man, and you are no man.”  I was kind of proud of him.  A little too dramatic but he stood up to them.  Unfortunately the sad thing was he never rode the bus again.  I have no idea what happened to the kid with the flat top.  I think the bullies had won.

The internet is full of statistics, but none of them are consistent.  The percent of individuals that report they have had involvement in bullying ranges from 80% to 30%.  Based on studies boys are more likely to conduct physical bullying, and girls are most likely involved with social bullying, such as exclusion.  The studies also say the bullies typically have a quality in themselves that is lacking, such as behavioral, emotional or learning problems.  It is also common that their parents used physical discipline.  On the contrary, the victim of bullying experience higher rates of loneliness, depression, school avoidance and thoughts of suicide. 

 So what do we do about it? I understand we have to address the bullies, but we also need to put some focus on the victims.

To be continued . . .

Source: 

Olweus, D. (2001). Peer harassment: A critical analysis and some important issues. In J. Juvonen & S. Graham (Eds.), Peer harassment in schools: The plight of the vulnerable and the victimized. New York: The Guilford Press.

Related posts:

Teasing . . . another form of bullying

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