Standing up to bullies

One of the priorities for every civilised society is to prevent abuse of power in interpersonal relations. One of the most common types of abuse is bullying, which can occur in a huge variety of situations and contexts and which can have horrific consequences for the victims. Every so often the pressures created by bullying get too much. An unfortunately not unique example of this was the recent death of 13 year-old schoolboy Brendon Flynn in England, who had been the victim of serious bullying to the point where he was scared to leave the house.

All of this is only too familiar across many countries. It is a particular issue in schools. One American expert describes it like this:

‘Each day hundreds of thousands of children dread going to school and facing the taunts, jeers, and humiliation wrought by bullies. When we think of bullying, the easily identifiable physical and verbal harassment comes to mind, including teasing, taunting, threatening, and hitting. Relational bullying is more difficult for adults to observe and identify. Children who bully through relational means socially isolate their victims by intentionally excluding them or spreading rumors about them. Bullying, then, refers to physical or psychological intimidation that occurs repeatedly, is intended to inflict injury or discomfort on the victim, and creates an ongoing pattern of harassment and abuse.’

Where bullying is visible, it is something we all have a duty to confront. One of the typical features of bullying is a sense of loneliness and helplessness on the part of the victim. Nobody should be left to face this kind of anguish alone.

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3 Comments on “Standing up to bullies”

  1. Mary B Says:

    It is also a myth that victims of bullying are ‘victims’ in the sense of being losers – usually it’s the other way around and the bullies are the losers, which is why they target successful and talented people. A few months ago I was asked by a colleague who’s a journalist on the Scotsman to comment on the case of Tom Daley, the young Olympic diving medallist, who had to leave his school because of bullying, which was not only mentally but physically injuring him – because as the bullies put it he was ‘golden boy’. What my colleague found was that frequently schools were attempting to smooth over the problem by suggesting that the bullies ‘had problems’ but ignoring the fact that they were still targeting their victim. anti-bullying ‘policies’ were sadly often window dressing. The answer (and I speak from the heart on this one) is to make a very big fuss if it’s your kid, including if need be removing them from the school, as Tom Daley’s parents quite rightly did, IMO. If parents vote with their feet, schools will have to address the problem. It’s NOT about harmless teasing – it’s about training to become a violent and dangerous person if left unchecked. Sadly, one assumes that junior bullies are witnessing this sort of behaviour within the family, so solving the problem is not easy. But if adults won’t take responsibility for confronting it we have no chance. Sorry but this issue really makes my hackles rise :o(

  2. Dan Says:

    Mary B, surely every parent’s nightmare…hope if you had personal experience of this with a child, that everything worked out ok

    • Mary B Says:

      Yes it did – said offspring is *relatively* normal (given the genes!) and working on outside broadcasting for ‘the’ wedding. But this problem is so widespread – it happened to me in one job I did, and interestingly if I talk about this experience with my Human Resource Management students, there will always be one who will approach me afterwards and say ‘I’m glad you spoke about it as that happened to me..’ The sad thing is that you are always on your guard afterwards in case it happens again – in my case it’s involved a change to no more Ms Nice Guy. But I understand that it’s become more of a problem in HE now that the sector is more competitive and driven. The ‘Margot Feelbetter’ column in the Times Higher regularly features bullying in HE problems – although I’m not always convinced by the advice given there!


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