Is someone you know being bullied?
Bullying might be difficult to recognize, as it can happen when the person is alone. People who experience bullying might be scared to talk about it, or they might feel ashamed about being bullied. This could lead to them trying to hide what is going on. If you haven’t been present when a person is being hassled, some indications that he or she is being bullied are:
- Lack of motivation
- Vagueness (especially when he or she is talking about certain topics)
- Unusual behavior
- Physical injuries
Take care that you don’t immediately assume that the problem is bullying. These signs might be visible for a variety of reasons, and not only because a person is being bullied. People can show these signs because of their personalities or because they’re dealing with other issues.
What to Do If You Think Someone Is Being Bullied
Talk to that person. It’s a good idea to talk to the person you think is being bullied to find out more about the situation. Try to remember that the person you are talking with could be very sensitive about the situation and could be scared to talk about it.
Let that person know you care. Help boost this person’s self-confidence. If a person is being bullied, it could affect their confidence. It can help to let this person know that you are a friend and that you care. It can also help to point out all the great things they have to offer others to boost their self-esteem.
Include the person into your group. Making a special effort to include the person into your group could help raise the person’s confidence.
Stick up for him or her. If you see someone is being bullied, it might be helpful to say something. Take care to ensure that in trying to stick up for the person being bullied, you don’t make the situation worse or put yourself in danger.
Speak to someone. Letting someone else know about the situation can help you solve the problem. A teacher, counselor or another adult could be helpful. It might also be helpful to involve the person experiencing the bullying in the discussion. Together, you can go and talk to someone about the situation.
A Bystander's Role In Bullying
A bystander is mainly someone that is outside of the actual bullying, aware that it’s happening, and making a decision to not become involved. Whereas those bullying and being bullied are directly involved, bystanders observe the bullying happen and choose not to act. There are several things a person does, or does not do, that can make them a bystander. Some of those things include:
- Purposefully ignoring the event entirely
- Witnessing the event and choosing not to take the appropriate actions
- Witnessing the event thinking something along the lines of, “at least that person wasn’t me.”
What's wrong with being a bystander?
Research on bullying has often concluded that it occurs most frequently in the presence of bystanders who choose to merely watch the events unfold instead of doing something. By being there, you may give bullies more incentive to embarrass and threaten their victims because they will have an audience.
Unfortunately, many people believe that being a bystander is the best option to take. Some reasons people may not intervene:
- Believing it’s “none of their business,” and therefore they choose not to take sides because it seems too nosy
- Feeling as though stepping in will make them the new target for the bully
- Thinking intervening will only make things worse
- Fearful that telling a teacher or other adult will make them a “snitch” or “tattletale”.
- Feeling it won’t doing anything or change the circumstances (this is especially true in students who have approached teachers before regarding bullying, only to find that no action was taken)
If you are in a bystander situation, how do you intervene?
Bystanders need to realize that bullying is a serious problem, and that a lack of action on their part will only give bullies more opportunities to torment their victims. Some argue that close to 50% of all bullying events stop when a bystander decides to intervene, which just further shows the importance of intervening. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when you witness bullying:
Don’t assume that this is a private matter between the bully and the victim. Incidents of bullying, especially those that are frequent, are often not because of personal reasons.
Don’t combat violence with violence. It takes a lot of courage for someone to step up on behalf of a bullied person. However, don’t use insults or physical violence to defend the victim. Now is not the time to show off. You will most likely only make it harder for the victim.
Do not get discouraged if you have already talked to the teachers and nothing happened. Keep trying. Teachers and other school authorities will respond if they find out that the bullying is becoming a recurrent problem. Try talking to other teachers and counselors so that you can get more people involved in trying to stop the situation.
If you feel that this is none of your business, put yourself in the victim’s shoes. Bullying can cause severe anxiety, depression, anger, and frustration in a person, and can turn their life into a nightmare. You wouldn’t want to feel that way.
Is stepping in yourself the only way? What if the bullies might try and attack you?
You should never step in to protect a bullied victim if it might also put your own safety at risk. If this is the case, you should talk to a teacher, counselor, or even the school principal if the problem keeps happening. Be sure to ask if you can speak to them in private, in case you are afraid of being the next target for bullies. Even if you are not directly stopping the bullying, by taking action and going to seek outside help, you are taking steps away from being a bystander.
For those of you who have intervened when you saw someone being bullied, how did you handle it? Share in the comments below! (Please be mindful of triggers and use content warnings!)
Information for this article was provided by:
Dr. Debra Pepler: “Bullying Interventions: A Binocular Perspective.”