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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